Connect with Power

Friday, 07 January 2011 03:29

By: Dr. Gary Phillips

I established Learning Unlimited, an alternative school-within-a-school, in Indianapolis in 1972, and it is still running successfully. A school of 500 students in a school of 4500, it provides a Walkabout program in a democratic environment that enables every student to develop a unique educational experience. Their programs may involve regular courses or e-courses, fieldwork in the community, self-directed projects, and travel, often to foreign countries.

The key to establishing and sustaining Learning Unlimited was strategic linking with sources of power, sources that would influence decision-makers, parents, and students. We linked with the Lilly Foundation through a leader who was interested in experiential learning. Then The Kettering Research Foundation--IDEA--became interested in researching our results, and we connected with them.

Influence Those with Influence

We invited students from grades 9 to 12 to take part who were the children of influential parents, such as members of the school board, local politicians, and business leaders. We trained our students to deal with the media, which they did very successfully, for example, when they did community service projects and were covered by the papers and TV. Early successes were important and we arranged them. For example, we found achievements for every student and reported them to parents, many of whom had never before received a positive call from the school.

All change is political. Begin by lining up your connections with power. Create an advisory board, for instance, and get the most influential people you can to serve on it. Develop a support base by providing the best information you can to everyone who can influence the success of your program. Select attractive students to participate, students who will attract others. Then make them your ambassadors. All of this assumes that you have a dynamic program to offer that will make a difference in people's lives, so that the influential people and groups that you attract will feel enhanced to connect with you.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 10:07