Programs and initiatives are at the heart of what an education network and its organizations do. Doing this work is why they exist, how they build partnerships, and how they seek to directly impact education. But to what extent do those programs center equity? How are they designed, led, and informed by marginalized communities?
- Strategy and Alignment – How equitably are the decisions made on what projects to pursue? How do programs and priorities reflect a network’s strategy and values?
- Design, Leadership, and Participation – How is the program’s design informed by the needs and desires of marginalized communities? How do programs amplify their work? How are they co-led and co-designed? How do marginalized communities access and participate in the initiative?
- Impact and Evaluation – How is impact defined and measured from an equity-centered approach? How are programs evaluated for their benefit to marginalized communities? How are learnings shared and acted on?
Programs, projects, and initiatives in education are too often designed for—not with—the communities they are intended to serve. This is especially true for those at the margins. The best practices, learnings, and impacts of human-centered design have proved out the importance of design informed by an understanding of community. And multiple examples across multiple fields point to the failures of “solutions” that did not center community needs, culture, and desires.
Equity-focused programs are those that don’t just serve or design for “end-users” but co-create with them. They design for the margins. They amplify and include. In our work, we have been inspired by the principles of EquityXDesign, the model of Liberatory Design, and others. Based on our own experience leading multi-sector, collaborative R&D work with schools and districts, we developed the Inclusive Innovation framework. We recommend engaging more deeply with these models as a way to further shift and center your work.
On the worksheet for this module, you’ll find prompts to help networks and organizations examine their programming and initiatives from an equity lens—from strategy to design, participation to impact. We also recommend exploring additional resources that will support your work in building more equitable programming.