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Friday Insights (7 Jun)

Caitlin Ross, 07/06/19

You may have noticed that Friday insights took a break for a couple week. This week it’s back with three things that caught Caitlin‘s attention this week while was playing catch up after two weeks holiday!

She says:

The first was the release of The Challenge‘s social integration report. Did you know that nearly half of Brits (44%) don’t have a single friend of a different ethnic background than themselves? That really made my jaw drop.

EdSurge also released its report on how educators are changing practice to meet the needs of all learners, and Wired has some choice words about how high net worth individuals should (or shouldn’t) spend their philanthropic funds.

The state of social mixing in the UK

Big Change alum The Challenge released its social mixing report this week – the good news is that “a majority of Britons have networks that include people from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds to them”. This kind of mixing is important because it has positive effects on empathy – “people with diversity in their social networks are more likely to express positive attitudes or sympathy towards people of a different background to themselves”.

However, the report also reveals that we still have work to do – a significant portion of Britons (44%) are still living in segregated social situations, preventing them from getting to know people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds or socioeconomic backgrounds from themselves. We think social integration, and the increased empathy and understanding that it generates, is an important part of creating a world where young people can thrive. We’re proud to support the work that The Challenge has done and continues to do.

Creating an education system that meets all learner needs

A recent report from EdSurge compiles the results of interviews with 60 educators across the US, trying to figure out how different educators are reaching learners on their terms – how do they think about whole child education? To what extent has social and emotional learning changed how they teach? How are educators using research and evidence? 
The examples provided by educator stories covered four thematic areas: reaching all learners, building character and skills, evidence of growth, and from research to practice. 

You can request the full report here but I’ve also included some key themes from the report really resonate with us, particularly after having interviewed pioneers in education all around the world as part of our Reimagining Education Together report, and having completed research for our Teacher and Leader Agency and Inclusion funding streams:

  • It’s crucial to adapt practices to meet the needs of your most vulnerable students – in the report, examples such as free daycare on site for teen mothers, to working with students’ parents outside of the school day showed promising impact
  • Students voice matters – educators in the report used home visits, new kinds of assessments to understand student wellbeing, among other methods to better understand their students to ultimately serve them best
  • Small efforts matter – even something as seemingly simple as scheduling one to one time with students can make a difference
  • Relationships are key – educators interviewed found that supporting students to build lasting relationships was important to set them up to thrive
  • There’s more to measure than reading, writing and math – educator stories include examples of playful assessments to understand all the ways in which students are intelligent
  • It’s important for teachers to be able to experiment using the latest research – stories from educators included examples of teachers experimenting with the latest practice in metacognition, which had benefits for lesson planning and revision

Philanthropy for a complex and changing world

This week saw an incredible announcement from Mackenzie Bezos, who has vowed to give away at least half of her net worth ($35 billion) to philanthropic causes. Wired Magazine reminds us that philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and Warren Buffet have oft remarked that it can feel easier to accumulate wealth than to give it away, which inspired them to jot down and share some choice ‘don’ts’ when it comes to philanthropic giving. You can read the full article here, or check out some of the thoughts that align with Big Change based on our own research and practices:

  • There is a need for humility in philanthropy. Those of us backing people, ideas and projects in the charity and purpose-driven sector must be deeply aware of the complexity of the problems that we are trying to help solve – and what may have allowed us to ‘win’ in the finite games we often play in business may not serve us in the infinite game of striving for equity and designing for systemic change. This means that:
    • There are no quick fixes or silver bullets – looking for these is not a helpful use of our time and resources
    • The way we define success needs to account for this complexity – the usual suspects such as ROI or profit will prove insufficient for our purposes
    • We need to inclusive in the way we understand the problem – this requires seeking the opinions of a diverse group of experts, including sector workers and those with lived experience, not just other philanthropists
    • We have to keep learning – both from what has worked, and from what hasn’t
    • No one can go it alone, not even the biggest philanthropists – as donors, we need to act collaboratively, because the most complex problems require an ecosystem of support

Mackenzie Bezos has stated that she intends for her approach to philanthropy to be ‘thoughtful’ – we look forward to learning more about which direction her thinking takes her and the causes she will choose to support.