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  • benjaminnewman01

Mod. 3.2 - Teach for All

Engage with peers to explore Teach for All’s self-management journey, reflected by Marwa and colleagues Hadija Bakhtiar and Jeremy Downing.

  • What are your take-aways from Teach for All’s self management journey?

  • How might this transformation affect the organization’s impact?

  • How does this case influence your thinking about your own work?


What are your take-aways from Teach for All’s self management journey?

My biggest takeaways from Teach for All’s self management journey were first, the importance of being extremely intentional in how your organization designs, plans, and executes the shift to self management. Second, the importance of establishing and giving space to explore and determine what the company’s shared values are. Third, as part of creating the space for exploration, providing the resources, especially of time, for people to genuinely acknowledge their own inherited values that may or may not be serving them, and how to propose and apply new values in the workplace. And fourthly, the thing that ties all of these together is the need to slow down, which is closely tied to the principle of deep listening. There’s no way that a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, ages, cultural experiences, sexual identities, and socio-economic upbringings will be able to find any kind of alignment or shared process for understanding and working together if everyone doesn’t agree and create the space to slow down and listen. The powerful impact of slowing down was most notably seen in the first six months of the pandemic when people were finally given the chance, if only by universal force, to slow down and think about what they value and want in life. What resulted was a shock to many, but not to those who had previously taken the time to slow down and consider their own values. The “Great Resignation” that occurred was a sign of the unsustainable work cycles that had become unfortunately all too common for many employees around the world.

How might this transformation affect the organization’s impact?

This kind of transformation can have a huge impact on an organization, if they choose to lead it. Marwa Farouq highlighted that when Teach for All introduced this idea from the top of their leadership team, the result was that most people’s values aligned and a majority got on board with the transformation very quickly. The idiom “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” applies here though the means by which we get there is different. Instead of “the goose” leading “the gander” through its own sense of authority and vision, it engages and leads the gander in the vision building process not only as a leader, but as a stakeholder whose life will also be impacted by whatever vision is built. Khadija Bakhtiar shared the importance of their teachers in Pakistan making a personal commitment to the work and viewing themselves as part of the group who will be positively impacted and benefit from their work, instead of existing from outside of it. This idea was complimented and supported by Jeremy Downing’s comments about re-indigenizing students by giving them access to teachers who see themselves and the knowledge they carry as part of a long history and experience in New Zealand. These ideas map very closely onto Frederic LaLoux’s idea for teal organizations viewing themselves as an organism, in which every element plays an important part in the success of the whole. If leaders view themselves as outside of and separate from the work their employees are doing, then true transformation will not occur and traditional power models will remain the norm.

How does this case influence your thinking about your own work?

For me, this case is challenging me to think deeply about how I can help make my workplace an environment that embodies the value of continuous learning. The subtle impact of what Khadija Bakhtiar did by asking teachers to view themselves as inside the experience and needs of their students is that it minimizes the power imbalance between them. Instead of the teachers holding their knowledge in a position of power over the students to demonstrate their influence and status, they see themselves and their work as an opportunity for reciprocal and ongoing learning between diverse individuals with different backgrounds and experiences. By doing so, they remove the “othering” effect that very often creates inequity. I know that I already work towards elements of this goal by talking about an arts organization as a very small food chain. The number of levels between a box office assistant and the Chairman of the Board might be two staff members. By comparison, Amazon factory workers would have hundreds of levels between them and Jeff Bezos. By calling the system out for what it is, and framing it as an opportunity, my hope is that the box office assistant might have a positive impact on the Chairman of the Board and vice versa. That’s just the start for right now, but I am dedicated to experimenting and exploring different ideas for how to integrate the organism mindset into an arts org more holistically.

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