Spotlight on Partnerships
Institute Event Highlights Importance of Working with Global Partners to Sustain Meaningful Learning in the World Programs
by Eric Roland, Precourt Director of Partnerships
What is the secret to cultivating impactful, sustainable, and meaningful partnerships? That was the topic explored by Learning in the World (LITW) program leaders, students, and other community members during the January 29 Tang Institute Lunch & Discussion in Pearson C. Participants shared the most critical aspects of cultivating partnerships in the context of the Academy’s myriad LITW programs, both near and far.
Key aspects raised during the discussion included:
Trust. Program leaders emphasized the long-term investment involved in selecting potential partners and building collaborative activity. Building trust requires time, but the first step is to identify specific opportunities to work together and to commit to that activity. That commitment is evident in LITW programming such as the Piette (France) experience (where a partnership at the core of a trans-Atlantic, archaeological repatriation effort initiated the program itself), as relayed by faculty leaders Claire Gallou, Ryan Wheeler, and Deborah Pickering. Regular communication, face-to-face meetings, and co-creation of programming, present across LITW programs, all represent trust-building activities.
Authenticity. An authentic relationship between partners relies upon regular forms of communication where transparency represents the norm and all voices are genuinely heard. A veritable partnership translates into an authentic experiential encounter, buoyed by mutually understood learning expectations.
Peer connection. Mark Cutler and Donny Slater, HUACA (Peru) program co-leaders, and Flavia Vidal, the PLACES (Brazil) program leader, emphasized the importance of student participants connecting with peers from Learning in the World locations. Those connections provide transformative pedagogical moments that both encourage learning about a local context and strengthen social bonds. Students often use social media to connect with one another—and, in some cases, have maintained that communication long past in-person encounters.
Local sensibility. Program partners provide opportunities to experience, engage, and build empathy with citizens and communities and to explore issues and ideas of significance within towns, cities, villages, and countries throughout the world. LITW collaborators aid students in navigating the complexities of local politics and market forces, help frame historical events, and offer insight into the “rhythm” of local areas.
Sustainability. In addition to maintaining a long-term perspective with partner organizations, program leaders seek creative means of extending conversations and collaboration beyond on-the-ground activities. Ideally, discussions with partners are shared before and after program happenings in the field, sensitizing students—and adults—to experiencing the reality of “the other” in a sustained fashion.
Bidirectionality. Through open partner channels, learning takes place by both members of partner organizations and Phillips Academy program participants. Activities are structured such that all those involved in programs emerge as learners; knowledge is shared between and among visitors and hosts.
Multidimensionality. LITW partners serve often in various capacities and, alongside program leaders, provide expertise in learning and logistics and activity and reflection. In addition, the range of LITW partners across all programs reveals a makeup that spans public, private, and non-profit categories; that diversity of perspective augments program pedagogy and provides students with glimpses of how change happens within and across sectors.
Program leaders highlighted other dimensions of cultivating viable partnerships. Moments of serendipity and unplanned encounters with could-be partners have led to unexpected but rich learning opportunities. For example, the agile thinking of LITW program leadership once transformed a potentially trying event—a vehicle breakdown in the highlands of Mexico during the BALAM Project (the sister program to HUACA)—into a chance and memorable encounter with the residents of a nearby town. Such informal and in-the-moment partnerships, responding to participant energy or unforeseen circumstances, offer the possibility of compelling and lasting interactions. Similarly, partners provide a sense of stability for programs, as program leaders know they are able to count on select counterparts with whom they have collaborated for months, years, and even decades.
Perhaps most notably, Learning in the World programs have benefited from partnerships based in mutual understanding—a sense of alignment built upon the aforementioned partnership traits. Finding ways to work in true, collaborative fashion and to embed the highest of learning expectations into programmatic design represent a significant undertaking; a sense of understanding must be at the core of any successful arrangement. Indeed, it is only through well-conceived partnerships that those experiences emerge— and leave a lasting imprint on the students and adults who take part.
A Sampling of Learning in the World Partners