“Diversity is not the problem of this country but the solution.
This laboratory is one of the deepest experiences of reconciliation we have had. Prejudices were challenged and stereotypes fell to pieces through dialogue and direct communication.”
Esteban Moctezuma Barragán, Secretary of Public Education, Mexico
(Education Lab public launch, October 8, 2019)
Diverse leaders—including members of political parties, trade unions, parent and teacher associations, business leaders, academics, and civil society organizations—collaborated over 11 months with the goal of improving education for children and youths. Lab members indicated that increasing polarization, including between trade unions and government and between political parties, as well as state-level differences, presented challenges to meeting the needs of students.
The Mexico Education Lab functioned as a platform for leaders to explore ideas together, respecting their different training, opinions, and lived experiences. (See more on social labs at
https://reospartners.com/tools/social-labs). Together, the 50 leaders who participated designed nine experiments to test their hypotheses about how the educational system is currently functioning and innovative ways to transform it.
Our partners at Méxicos Posibles (http://mexicosposibles.mx) and the Aspen Institute of Mexico (https://www.aspeninstitute.org/tag/mexico) were invited by the incoming government in 2018 to create a space for dialogue about public education. Reos Partners was invited to join the initiative to support the creation of a platform for leaders to use stretch collaboration and practical exploration to discover ways forward.
The leaders in the lab identified 10 results they saw as priorities for 2030:
- Horizontal, participative educational policies that span multiple government administrations.
- Integrated services delivered as part of students’ education (for example, nutrition).
- A national education budget that is sufficient, assigned equitably, and used efficiently.
- A guarantee of rights for teachers, including initial training, professional development, competitive salaries, and promotions.
- A model of schools as inclusive spaces.
- Citizenship, participation, and rule of law as central aspects of education.
- Improved educational outcomes regardless of student identity (for example, socioeconomic status).
- Increased connections between schools and communities.
- Collaborative pedagogy.
- Opportunities for students to learn in their first language, as well as in Spanish and in English.
The leaders spent about 90 minutes agreeing on these desired results. The group then worked over a period of 11 months, including 14 days of workshops and weeks of practical exploration, to achieve more clarity about the reasons these results are not currently being produced and identify points of leverage to increase the likelihood of achieving them.
The lab platform was structured to create four deliverables over the course of its first year:
- A network of leaders from the whole system who develop trusting relationships with one another.
- Strengthened individual and group capacities to work collaboratively, systemically, and experimentally.
- A shared set of hypotheses about the current system and how to transform it.
- A portfolio of projects with the potential to transform the system.
The 50 leaders met every one to three months for a 48-hour workshop. At workshops, leaders explored ideas about the current reality and shared their hypotheses about how to transform it. Leaders divided into small working groups to design practical explorations to test their hypotheses about the current reality.
During practical explorations, subgroups of leaders worked together, often in unlikely or unconventional groupings, to test their hypotheses about what actions would work to make the current reality more like the desired results in 2030. Lab members were supported by a full-time Technical Secretariat, made up of staff from Méxicos Posibles, Aspen Institute, and Reos Partners.
In its first year, Education Lab members advanced work on nine projects aimed at creating the 2030 results. Lab members indicate that the major impacts of the first year of work include: creating relationships of trust that were not possible outside the lab, contributing to constitutional reform relating to educational budgeting, and opening space for the use of technology tools in rural schools.