above: the assembled faculty. staff, parents, alumni, and parents of alumni who gathered for the March Design, Dream Do! work session
Work on Gordon's strategic vision formally began in November 2018 with an invitation to the entire adult community: parents, faculty, staff, former faculty, and alumni and their parents.
In the months that followed, a process unfolded that allowed hundreds of voices to engage in a variety of styles: anonymously and in person, in writing and in meetings, online and on paper.
The work was driven by a strength-based, participatory approach known as appreciative inquiry that drew on two basic postulates:
(1) What we look for, we find; and what we pay attention to grows. The more positive and affirmative (solution-seeking) the conversations are, the more positive and productive the follow-through and action will be.
(2) People commit to what they help to create. The more involved people are in planning the changes needed, the more committed they will be in seeing them through to success.
above: scenes from the first Design Team meeting, December 2018
In the fall of 2018, a Sprint Team made up of Assistant Head of School Lynn Bowman, then Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Amanda Riegel, trustee Betsy Stubblefield Loucks, and Head of School Noni Thomas López began meeting with Jen Hetzel Silbert of Spartina Consulting to plan the process.
This Sprint Team issued an open call for nominations to a larger Design Team that began meeting in December. This group included:
Emily Abedon, parent and faculty member
Ignacio Aguirre, parent
Robinson Alston, Jr., parent
Aja Blanc, parent
Kate Bramson, parent
Thomas Brendler, parent
Lisa Carcieri, parent
Esteban Cardemil, parent
Sarah Cashore, parent
Angela Flynn, parent and faculty member
Christopher Moore, parent
Besenia Rodriguez, parent
Linda Shumate, grandparent, alumni parent and former trustee
Deb Salem Smith, parent
Stephen Szermer, parent
Caroline Walsh, alumni parent and faculty member
Joshua Wynn, parent
This team organized a series of data collection initiatives that began in January. An online "Listening Tour" was launched to gather reflections electronically from the thousands of members of the extended Gordon community. Design Team members visited faculty meetings and parent events to lead small group conversations and compile more information. Board committee agendas included time to contribute to the process, and students, faculty and parents were able to share their ideas with one another through "What If...?" cards posted in the Commons throughout the month.
above: dozens of What If...? cards were posted in the Commons by faculty, parents and students
Early in the design process, it became clear that sustainability and stewardship would become guiding themes for the strategic vision. A working committee of parents, alumni parents, administrators and faculty came together to shape a statement of sustainability that serves as a central component of the resulting vision. This committee, facilitated by Julie Parsons, included Eva Amanda Agudelo, Lynn Bowman, Katie Cahoon, Rebecca Garfield Jennifer Grantham, Sheri Griffin, Marlon Henry, Michael Isenberg, Jacqui Ketner, Eric Kravitz, Noni Thomas López and Clay Rockefeller.
The first round of data was presented to the Board of Trustees at a retreat in late January. That retreat was a working session where the trustees and the school's Leadership Team used the data produced a framework for the strategic vision and four goal areas.
The resulting goals and framework were presented, once again, to the larger Gordon community for feedback through in meetings and another online Listening Tour. Then, on April 9th, over ninety faculty, staff, alumni, parents, alumni parents, grandparents, and friends of Gordon responded to an open invitation to a milestone Design, Dream, Do! event. At this working meeting, these individuals came together to imagine how the goals in the strategic vision would become a reality.
above: the video that kicked off the March 2019 Design, Dream, Do! event.
The evening opened with a video that demonstrated how, over the past 109 years, Gordon had consistently achieved the visionary goals it had set. Then, everyone present dug into the work of planning how the community would bring its next set of dreams to life.
Design, Dream, Do! produced a wealth of ideas that led to the strategies outlined in each goal area of the strategic vision. Over the summer of 2019, Gordon's leadership team further refined and shaped this work into the document that was shared, online and in print, as A More Just and Sustainable World.
The result is a vision that is bold and imaginative, while remaining grounded in the mission and history of the school. A More Just and Sustainable World was formally introduced September 28th at a schoolwide celebration in downtown Providence, in the middle of a lighting of the immersive WaterFire installation, as part of an evening dedicated to educational excellence that included programming from Brown University, the National Science Foundation and CERN.
The implementation of the vision promises to be as hands-on and inclusive as the design process was; in the fall and winter of 2019, Gordon community members will learn about multiple opportunities to be involved in this work.