Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ten Years Later the Tables Have Changed

 Around a decade ago, Jonathan Woocher hosted a meeting where folks from educational change initiatives sat at long banquet tables to discuss how to effectively transform congregational education. The tables are important in the telling because they represent both the number of places recognized as trying to shake things up and the tone of the time. 

Many, not all, spoke about their work like feted kings: “We’re the rulers and we know what we are doing.” There was pride and little inquiry.

 I remember one project director, seemed to take pleasure In saying “We’re not like The RE-IMAGINE Project (where I worked) we do this…which is so much better.” 

Childish for sure, and armchair psychologists would say, “Hey that just comes from insecurity.” Sure it didn’t feel safe to say "I don’t know" or "we are not getting the results we hoped we'd see." It also came from an expectation that someone had to be the best. Funders were listening too.

And now a decade later, with the proliferation of networking as a big idea, the lack of quick results from any single project and a recession that kicked everyone in the rear, the table is very different.

Next week teams from the educational agencies in Boston, Philadelphia and New York are having lunch together --again-- around an oval table that will be lined with chocolate and flowers. As before, the table is important in the telling.

These three geographically friendly cities are all in the thick of trying to support their communities in transforming Jewish learning. And the good news is that we are all strong enough to be vulnerable. Each city is doing thoughtful and focused work that produces results and quandaries.  Over the years personal relationships have been built among the people at the table so we have a convivial  safety zone to learn from each others results and to explore the quandaries together. Let's be honest: there are a lot of quandaries. 

Our next conversation is about sustaining innovation with a large emphasis on “What is the story we are telling?” 

Our agenda has us learning from each other's work: what is/not working. And then asking: “Is there an opportunity to have a national campaign to tell the story of the new face of congregational education?” As David Treitsch from Boston said: “We need something like the dairy farmers have with Got Milk.” Wanna join the conversation, there is room at the table, and the chocolate is yummy.