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7 Characteristics of Successful Change: Unifying Mission

Tom Kenyon, 13/05/19

Big Change released the Reimagining Education Together report in May. A key part of that report is a framework for leading transformative projects. After speaking to pioneers of educational change projects around the world, we identified seven attributes of change that they all shared, whether they were leading change at school, region or national level. In this blog series Tom Kenyon takes a deep dive into each step.

Unifying mission:

“A vision of change or call to action that is bigger than any single organisation, but which allows space for each to make its own.”

One thing we saw in almost all the projects that we spoke to is that education change is complex and can’t happen in isolation. To initiate a change project, the pioneers had to articulate a vision that could bring a diverse group along for the ride – whether that was parents and students, teaching staff, politicians or local stakeholders. To inspire collective action you need an inspiring mission.

One of the key insights highlighted was the importance of having a ‘North Star’ goal.

logan together, reimagining education, unifying mission

Among the case studies we drew on was Logan Together. When research showed that the wellbeing of children in the city of Logan hadn’t improved for over 40 years, Matthew Cox saw that a collaborative new approach was needed.

“Because if you say ‘what goes into developing healthy kids and bringing them up well’ the answer is just lots and lots of different things. It’s health things, health system, early learning, schools, housing services and providers, the community itself, etc. You’ve got to engage with all of those different inputs.”

Matthew built a coalition of over a hundred organisations by developing a ‘galvanising goal’ – an uncompromisable goal that unites multiple groups. The galvanising goal that guides the Logan Together team and their partners through everything they do is ‘Every child should have a shot in life’.

Matthew Cox, Logan Together, Unifying Mission, Reimagining Education
Matthew Cox, Logan Together Director

Matthew advises “Develop your goal with one eye to what will build the coalition and build the coalition with one eye to how to deliver your goal. It’s a pretty iterative process.”

We saw several successful pioneers that had identified a simple, memorable goal, broad enough for groups of people with different priorities to identify with their mission, and specific enough to hold their work to account.

Team Doncaster committed to be ‘the most child-friendly borough in the country’, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser of Networks of Inquiry and Indigenous Education identified three key goals: ‘Every learner will cross the stage with dignity, purpose and options. Every learner will leave more curious than when they arrive. Every learner will develop an understanding of, and respect for, Indigenous ways of knowing.’

These visions are the North Star that everyone in a project navigates by, regardless of the routes they take.