Reflections on our E.E. Ford Leadership Grant

By Meredith Ford and Liz Kornheiser

When we first embarked on our Edward E. Ford Foundation Leadership Grant project in 2018, our intention was to enhance the Folio process and experience in a way that would help our schools attract and retain the best teachers. The hypothesis was, and remains, that finding more effective ways to support and enhance collaboration among teachers will benefit the overall quality of teaching and learning in our schools. We conducted research that included independent schools and extended beyond schools into companies, hospitals and even a professional sports team, to learn and bring back to our community findings about creating and nurturing a more collaborative working environment. 

In order to share our research and findings we wrote our white paper, Creating a Culture of Collaboration, and developed the corresponding meeting activity deck with exercises, tips, and guides for hands-on use inside schools. 

This work centers on our framework “The Core Elements of a Collaborative Culture”:

  • Establishing clear expectations for collaborative practices
  • Living a shared culture of collaboration
  • Encouraging and supporting faculty and staff to share collective wisdom
  • Designing space, time, and teams to promote collaboration
  • Balancing hierarchy with distributed leadership and collective ownership

What we could not have anticipated at the outset of this project several years ago was the meaningful journey this Leadership Grant supported for our organization and team. Now, more so than ever, schools need to be intentional and strategic in their approach to faculty and staff professional learning so that everyone in the building feels equipped and supported when facing unexpected challenges. In order to do that, school leaders are now seeking tools and resources that help them to execute and implement programming and support in a way that creates an impact and shifts school culture.

The formation and work of E.E. Ford Design Team, made up of members with diverse professional roles and personal backgrounds working at Folio member schools across the country, has been a deeply impactful professional development experience. We hoped we would learn about collaboration through collaboration when designing this process, and we did. The Design Team approach is a promising model for collaboration across schools, given the degree to which teachers and leaders crave collaborative opportunities not only within their own schools but also with individuals at other institutions and is a method we plan to continue using to keep our members connected and engaged in deep collaboration on real projects in service of Folio. 

We would like to thank all of our E.E. Ford Design Team members for their contributions to this work:
Bo Adams, Elizabeth Bartlett, Maureen Burgess, Lori Cohen, Craig Copeland, Kevin Costa, Nancy Fleury, JD Gladden, Nasif Iskander, Derek Krein, Garet Libbey, Nicole Martin, Kathryn O’Neill, Kim Samson, Brad Shelley, Zakaria Sherbiny, Andrea Shurley, Louis Tullo, Sarah Wolf

The E.E. Ford Leadership Grant work has deep reverberations within our Folio organization’s strategy and plans for growth. We have always been clear at Folio that we see educators are our “lever for change” and now, more than ever, we understand the importance of providing them with the opportunity to build relationships, deepen personal and professional connections, collaborate meaningfully, and time to reflect on their practice.