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 In the wake of the pandemic, schools are all too aware that relationships matter. But fostering connection in systematic and equitable ways remains challenging for schools short on resources. Luckily, a host of early innovators are taking a more relationship-centered approach to school design. These designs treat relationships with peers, educators, and community members not only as inputs to learning and development, but as valuable, measurable outcomes in their own right.

Session Learning Outcomes:

  1. Gain insight into the emerging evidence base of relationships to support well-being, academic success, and long-term access to opportunity.
  2.  Understand promising school designs and associated educator behaviors aimed at fostering deeper and broader networks in students’ lives.
  3. Gain visibility into emerging measures of relationship quantity and quality that can guide equitable, data-driven approaches to fostering connections in students’ lives.


  • Julia Freeland Fisher, Clayton Christensen Institute
  • Phyllis Lockett, LEAP Innovations
  • Elizabeth Santiago, MENTOR/The Untold Narratives
  • Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart