Future Search The Method

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General Education Overview

The Educational Environment

The educational environment presents huge challenges and people involved in education are deeply committed to meeting those challenges.

This is how one school manifested that commitment.

Future Search and the Oak Hill Elementary School

There was never a school that needed to close the past and refocus on a bright future as much as Oak Hill. Its history was filled with outstanding accomplishments, but a number of circumstances moved the school into near crisis. The future search process proved to be an amazingly effective vehicle not just for celebrating the past, but helping the school community and staff develop a shared vision for the future. It brought real and lasting change in the form of significant program implementations, improved morale and increased dialogue and shared decision making. No other event changed the culture and direction of that school in such a dramatic way. No other event in the history of my own professional career changed my ability to function as a leader more than future search. It was successful in part because of the timing of the event, but also because of the embedded processes and strategies used by the highly skillful facilitators, Dr. Nancy Aronson and John Van Deusen. This versatile planning process could be used in nearly any organization. It is a positive, energizing and productive approach to dynamic leadership.

Dr. Sandra Chapman
Former principal,
Oak Hill Elementary School Director of Professional Development
Blue Valley School

The Education Community Functions in a Complex Environment

In trying to manifest caring and commitment, most educators live in a complex tension between responsibilities, expectations and standards.

  • Superintendents are under constant pressures from political and community interests, while juggling administrative duties related to unions, teachers, parents and staff.

  • School administrators have inadequate staffing and funding, often doing double duty as counselors, teachers, schoolyard attendants or custodians.

  • Teachers, while trying to focus on their student's personal and educational needs, also have to juggle legislative mandates, parental issues, professional requirements and performance standards.

  • Parents, caring about their children's education, often feel powerless to affect the quality of their education or to participate in a meaningful way.

  • Cherished priorities and programs can be changed or undermined by new boards, principles or superintendents.

  • Charter and private schools, while less exposed to such pressures face the important need to build buy-in and support from their school.

  • Schools are increasingly dependent on other agencies for things such as health services, counseling, security, human services and other needs related to the schools mission.

  • Special programs, even when they are effective or widely supported, often struggle for survival, spending huge energy maintaining political and financial support.

  • Follow through and buy-in are difficult to maintain in the charged educational environment, where paid staff are overextended and many programs depend on volunteers.

How Future Search Can Help Schools

Schools and school systems around the world have used future search to build a common foundation from which diverse individuals and interests can act collaboratively. It offers a methodology that builds on diversity and is able to elicit sustainable commitment, ownership and buy-in.

While many organizations and communities spend 80% of their energy on the 20% of things about which they disagree, future search focuses on commonly shared values and visions, building commitment to action on a shared foundation. At the same time, it encourages people to speak their voices fully and acknowledges the realities that exist in the community.

Future search is invaluable in establishing shared, goals, standards, implementation strategies, or curriculum priorities. It can help departments, schools and communities develop or implement mission. It is a powerful way to coordinate activities between departments, agencies or other service institutions.

Ways FS has been used by schools:

  • Develop and build commitment and ownership in a school or program. Develop or implement curriculum.

  • Build common ground among parents, teachers, community members, political leaders and others in the school community. Support collaborative implementation of performance standards. Long range planning.

  • Produce positive results for people with multiple complex needs. Respond to complex social, political and economic realities. Achieve community-wide solutions.

  • Integrate agency efforts with those of numerous other providers. Strengthening partnerships among agencies. Strengthening partnerships with the community. Bring hope out of despair.







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