Convene, Convey, Converge: Ten Years of Bringing Unlikely Allies Together

Posted by on April 30, 2019 at 5:18 PM

In April 2009, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution was founded to address a missing capacity in Washington. Convergence created an opportunity for people who disagree on major issues but wanted to solve problems to sit down, build relationships, and work together. As we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we now have a track record that marks our place among bridge building organizations. In recognition of this important milestone, we share some lessons learned that could inform others engaged in similar work.

Our signature effort involved educational practitioners, advocates, and experts who joined forces to transform K-12 education in the United States. To share lessons learned when unlikely allies work together, we published a case study earlier this year entitled, “Reimaging Education: How Unlikely Allies are Transforming Education for the Twenty-First Century.” It explains how our methodology can lead to a more collaborative way of addressing issues of national consequence.

Education Reimagined began as a Convergence dialogue among representatives of teacher unions, companies, foundations, school districts, and long-time educators. They were asked to put aside their policy differences and come up with a shared vision of what education should look like in the 21st century.

Their vision statement captures what unites them about how to best educate America’s children. It offers a new paradigm for education that is learner-centered rather than school-centered, creating a system focused on what each child needs to thrive. The vision statement encourages communities to experiment and discover new ways to create excellent learning opportunities for each child, based on his or her needs, regardless of background or circumstance.

Education Reimagined became an independent national organization in January of 2019 to broaden the base of those who want to champion this kind of learning. They now engage hundreds of local educators, policy advocates, students, and other leaders who are working together to advance their vision in ways that they could not do alone. Many of the original stakeholders hold leadership roles in the new organization and remain deeply committed to its work. Even people whose life’s work puts them on different sides of an issue can find ways of working together when they realize they have much more in common than previously recognized.

We also have tackled complex issues such as economic mobility, nutrition and wellness, federal budget process reform, and health care using our dialogue-leading-to-action methodology. Our Reentry Ready project, addressing how to prepare people to successfully return home from prison and lead more productive lives, will issue its recommendations later this spring. We are building up our capacity to educate and train others to use our methodology in their own settings. As we enter our second decade, we look forward to continuing to work with other like-minded groups to help bridge divides and drive positive impact.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Bridge Alliance, or the Bridge Alliance’s member organizations. Additionally, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund makes no representations as to the accuracy of this post’s contents.