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Aurora Institute

Conditions for Innovation: The 5 C’s

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Transcend Education

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education

This post originally appeared at Transcend.

Teacher With Students

How can educators set conditions for innovation?

The longer we (Transcend) engage in the work of reimagining school, the stronger our conviction grows that radical transformation is possible across a wide range of settings—districts, charter, and private; rural, urban, and suburban; and in- and out-of-school.

Our experiences have also taught us that powerful, equitable R&D processes thrive only when strong local conditions are in place. The nature of those local conditions—and how to nurture their growth—are among the most important lessons we’ve learned.

Similar to how trees need good soil to live and grow, we’ve come to understand that extraordinary, equitable learning environments take root under specific circumstances, which we refer to as the 5C’s:

  1. Conviction,
  2. Clarity,
  3. Capacity,
  4. Coalition, and
  5. Culture.

You can download the 5 C’s here.

How to use the 5 C’s framework

The 5 C’s framework is meant to be a living document that individuals and organizations can use to guide the creation of conditions for innovation readiness in their community. To that end, we’ve seen educators and leaders use the 5 C’s in multiple ways, including:

  • Reflection
  • Self-assessment
  • Strategic planning and decision making
  • Professional development
  • Collective action
  • Partnership vetting
  • Vision casting

Origins of the 5 C’s framework

During Transcend’s founding, our team looked at previous attempts to transform antiquated school models. In particular, we looked closely at the Bensenville, Illinois-based New American Schools Project of the early 1990s, as well as more recent efforts to build and scale more personalized models of school, such as Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), XQ Super Schools, Summit Public Schools’ basecamp initiative, and Bellwether’s “U.S. Education Innovation Index: Prototype and Report.”

We learned a number of lessons from the successes and challenges that these efforts experienced. One of the most crucial is that a community’s ability to engage in innovation depends on several crucial factors, including their capacity, internal culture, conviction that change is necessary, clarity on their context, goals, and strategy, and the depth, breadth, and diversity of their coalition for change. In 2016 we codified those lessons in our “5C’s of innovation” and have since used them in the ways described above. We have continued to iterate and improve on our 5C’s framework based on lessons learned from previous years of partnerships with schools and districts. In any situation, we believe that a deep dive and reflective conversations around these conditions  are an important step prior to fully committing to a longer term innovation strategy.

As we engage with more schools, we will continue to learn more about the conditions that are most critical to successful innovation and to iterate on both the content of the 5 C’s and where to prioritize given a school’s individual context and stage of innovation—e.g., designing a new model or scaling a proven model.

If you have any feedback or ideas related to our Conditions, please share them with us—we are eager to learn from your perspective! Please email your input to Stacey at [email protected].

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Transcend is a national nonprofit that supports communities to create and spread extraordinary, equitable learning environments.