Creativity and Innovation in Guatemala: A week in the life of Karla de Pineda (Part 1)

In honor of World Creativity and Innovation Day, April 21st, we would like to highlight the courageous and innovative leader Karla de Pineda of Edify. In a two-part series, we follow two weeks in her life learning and teaching school leaders in rural villages across Guatemala.

Monday

We start almost every day with intense traffic. Guatemala City is well known for its traffic no matter which way you are heading in the city, but it is always something hard to get used to. On Mondays, I try to avoid the craziness and prepare for my busy week. Below I will share with you some of the highlights of this week and the innovative things we are working on here at Edify, Guatemala. As the Guatemala Program Director, my role is to support all of the activities of the organization across the country, including trainings, reports, innovation, and providing feedback to support ongoing programming, so every day is something new and exciting (to learn more about Edify, please visit).

Tuesday

This week I had the opportunity to attend an exciting EdTech conference with two Edify colleagues. PROGRENTIS is an online literacy program that allows students to develop strategies and skills such as reading comprehension, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving through topics such as neuroscience. It supports teachers by tracking student learning and designing activities to help teachers provide interventions to best meet students’ needs. Our dream is to be able to bring this program to the low-fee private schools we support across the country.

Wednesday

We got a very early start today with a beautiful sunrise to try to avoid traffic. Today we visited with a group of trainers who provided training to five different school sites over the past few months. At the end of each training or module, school leaders are asked to share feedback on the what they liked and what they would recommend improving upon as well as to share how they plan to implement what they learned at their school sites through a google doc feedback form. Today we reviewed this data with the trainers and discussed ways in which they can better support school leaders in future trainings. The main feedback we provided was to try to create more opportunities for participant interactivity through questioning strategies and interactive activities–important conversations to make sure we are serving these schools in the best way possible. One of our key next steps will be to go to the schools and see how they are implementing these ideas in practice.

Thursday

Each week a few days are dedicated to fieldwork in schools. Most of our schools are located in vulnerable and semi-rural areas, requiring quite a long drive, with some very beautiful and unique scenery. During these visits, we observe classrooms, hold conversations with the school leaders, and look for physical evidence of the learning that takes place in classrooms. Here are some examples of some student work that we saw today.

Friday

Part of the support we provide to trainers is to follow-up after we provide them with feedback and see how they implement this the next time they deliver training. Today I observed a trainer deliver the topic “Curricular Adaptations,” which focuses on how teachers can support the inclusion of students with special needs as well as students with different learning levels by making sure that learning is differentiated. Guatemala recently passed a law which requires teachers to include these “adecuaciones curriculares” in their lesson plans. This trainer had 65 participants, and we saw great improvement, seeing her use EdTech tools such as Kahoot!— a free tool that has participants answer questions an compete for high scores–to generate participant engagement.

Saturday

While work keeps me pretty busy, always learning something new, I think it is important on the weekends to take some time to enjoy with my friends and family. This balance is important for me, and some of my hobbies include listening to jazz, classical music, and reading.

I really enjoy my position, and every day I am learning something new. Next week I will take you all on a journey to the school sites we work at to see what it looks like to support the change at the school and classroom level. Until next week! ¡Nos vemos!

We thank Karla for providing a window into her professional and personal life–pulling back the curtain on what it means to be an inspirational leader and women “changemaker” as well as how she finds balance following the International Women’s Day 2019 theme of #BalanceforBetter. Stay tuned for a week in the life of Karla de Pineda Part 2 coming soon.

Thanks for reading!

Paula and Maxie

Meet Karla de Pineda

Educating with the Future in Mind: Nurturing Young Entrepreneurs

Here’s a guest blog from Jane Wanjiru Kinyua, who is a Rotary Global Peace scholar pursuing her M.A in Peace and Justice Studies at the University of San Diego’s Kroc School.  Jane is from Kenya and was a part of my recent practicum class that visited Colombia where we explored the intersections of social innovation, social entrepreneurship and their relationship to the ongoing peace building process.

Colombia has an extreme disparity in wealth between the country’s elite and the lowest income earners, with the country’s 2017 GINI coefficient remaining the second highest in the Americas at 50.8[1]. Each neighborhood is classified in strata ranging from 1 to 6 whereas one is the lowest and 6 is the highest. However, some communes are in zero strata as they stay in condemned areas that are not recognized by the government; I was humbled to visit such areas and learn how people make it one day at a time.Reflecting on the inequality reality of Colombia and considering the stake of the future generation who are the children and youth of today, calls for the need to rethink ways of educating them to face the future with all the challenges it brings forth.

Borrowing from my experience of our visit in El Paraiso at the Investing Hope Foundation in Bogota, empowering children effectively requires intentional incorporation of relevant skills required to thrive in the social-economic situation surrounding them. As such, if a country has issues of ethnicity, tribal hatred or social stratification, children need to be equipped both formally and informally with skills that will help them to be more accommodating, less biased, and that promote unity, resilience, and forgiveness among others. Consequently, if a country has huge social economic inequalities, empowering children effectively would entail equipping children with skills that boost their creativity in developing diverse ways that can help them thrive irrespective of the social economic challenge limiting them thus bridging the social economic gap. But how do you practically teach children to be entrepreneurs without violating their rights aschildren?  This question from one of my fellow students challenged my perspective. Thinking about it, and reflecting on the context, there is a thin line between the intersection of practically teaching children financial literacy and safeguarding their rights as children; challenging yet achievable. This was evidenced by the work done by Investing Hope Foundation

Young Social Entrepreneurs: Credit and Saving Program for Children

Entering in their workshop, we found young social entrepreneurs undertaking different enterprises. Cautious of the hygienic handling of their product, every child had a hair cap, mouth and nose protective gears and gloves. Working in small groups, the children were busy sorting their candy of different color, size, and shapes for sale. Creatively combining them in every possible way to make them appealing to the eyes of any potential buyer. The other section involved another team of children making different chocolate bars decorated for different occasions. The last category included making cookies and adding different flavors.  After sorting all these different products, and packaging them beautifully, they were taken to the weighing section where the price was determined depending on the weight of the final product after which they were declared ready for sale. All these sections were children-led! They had learned the skills required to successfully prepare the product and have it ready for sale and moreover how to make a profit from it.

Each child was allocated a certain number of items that he/she would commit to selling throughout the week. This was well recorded and the expected amount of money equivalent to the total sale of the product noted. After the sale, the child would bring all the monies from where the expenses would be deducted and the profit saved under that child’s name. This is done every week after school on Friday afternoon and the children are made aware of the cumulative value of their savings.

What is the overall goal of the credit and saving program for children in El Paraiso?   This program was started with the end in mind. Considering the cost of higher education in Colombia, the program is geared towards helping the children to save to enable them to attend university after which they would be able to get a better job, thus possibly improve their social strata.

Collaborating with schools

The program was tailored in that the theory part is done in collaboration with the schools they attend, thus it is made as part of their learning process. They are taught basic money management, related values of hard work, honesty and stewardship. The practical session is an afterschool program thus it doesn’t interfere with their schooling. 

Unintended consequences

Although the main goal was to equip the children with financial literacy, the participating children ended up improving their arithmetic performance in school as the practical concepts taught of transacting money were applicable in their school work. Additionally, the project helps kids stay out of the street as they have goals they are determined to achieve, thus reducing vulnerability to engagement in drug abuse. Besides that, their income boosts their family income and gives them an opportunity to contribute to their own education through saving with the future in mind

Impact

The social enterprise with tangible results helps the children increase their financial awareness, learn money management, understand the power of savings, and the value of hard work. Additionally, they learn the virtue of discipline and gain a positive sense of responsibility. Besides that, the project nurtures entrepreneurship at an early age- a skill that can be transferred to other fields when they grow up.

Takeaways

Breaking the cycle of poverty requires disrupting the norm. Something different ought to be done: something that resonates to the needs of the community and that will answer the needs of a particular context. The education system in many countries prepares children for white color jobs which at the end, it doesn’t offer. My experience in Colombia is a challenge to all educators to innovatively come up with ways that can equip children with skills that prepare them to face the challenges of a changing world; educating their minds and hearts in nurturing creativity and innovativeness. In a nutshell educating them holistically with the future in mind.

Conclusion

Looking at the young social entrepreneurs, I felt a great sense of hope of a community redeeming itself from the gnaws of poverty that has held it hostage for years. Children learn problem-solving by being part of the solution.

Meet Jane Wanjiru Kinyua : https://globaledleadership.org/jane-wanjiru-kinua/


[1] https://data.colombiareports.com/colombia-poverty-inequality-statistics/

The journey’s we take that lead us to what we love: Karen Sherman’s story

In honor of International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, we share the story of Karen Sherman, a change leader who works to promote women’s education and economic empowerment throughout Rwanda and across Africa. April 7th marks the start of a 100 day period of national mourning for the 1994 genocide; it begins on today with Kwibuka (Remembrance), the national commemoration, and concludes on July 4th with Liberation Day.

Karen Sherman embodies the persona of a “women changemaker.” For the past 30 years, she has combined her expertise, passion, and transformative leadership skills to effect lasting change in conflict-affected countries and those in transition. In her current role as President of Akilah Institute as well as in her past executive leadership roles  at Women for Women International, she has achieved considerable success in helping organizations grow their capacity, impact, and financial and organizational sustainability. However, in what she calls “winning ugly,” she shares how the journey for women global change leaders is never easy, requiring a constant re-assessment of “tradeoffs between family, career, and life.”

Her journey, as many do, started by a chance encounter. In 1985, during a DC internship post-college graduation, she had the opportunity to attend the Geneva Summit Talks where she met General Secretary Gorbachev. Interested in understanding the changing dynamics in the former Soviet Union and broader region, these conversations propelled her to pursue a Master’s in Russian and East European studies. This fascination blossomed from an interest to a business and then a development career, where over the course of 15 years she worked to support women entrepreneurs through business incubators, microcredit programs, and civil society organizations across Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Jumping continents, she continued this women’s empowerment work first as the Chief Operating Officer and then Executive Director for Global Programs at Women for Women International (WfWI)–an organization that supports women survivors of war; for the next decade, she expanded the number of women they served threefold and grew revenue from $5 million to over $20 million. When WfWi gave her an opportunity to take a more in-person role in Rwanda, she made a big decision, jumping to another continent with her three sons, fourteen-year-old twins and an 11-year-old.

As she reflects back on this decision, she highlights that it was not easy. As she notes, most of the women she knows who do international development work are kidless, empty nesters, or divorced. However, she strongly believes while there may be difficult tradeoffs involved there are tradeoffs that come with any choice that one would make. In her forthcoming book, Brick by Brick: Building Hope and Opportunity for Women Survivors Everywhere she unpacks some of these tradeoffs, with a hope to inspire individuals, and in particular women, wives, and/or mothers who might be considering a new journey.

Karen with the women of Akilah!


For over a decade, the Akilah institute–an all women’s college in Rwanda–has been offering two-year diplomas in information systems, hospitality management, entrepreneurship, and business management. Recently, they announced exciting plans to expand their offerings to include bachelor’s degrees in these majors as well as in additional areas of study based on the fastest growing sectors of the East African economy. Karen has been integral in driving this growth as well as their plans to scale globally alongside Akilah’s CEO Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes (to learn more about Elizabeth and Akilah see here).

As Karen and her husband joke, making tough choices is all about determining if you can “live with the whole ‘winning ugly’ piece,” a reference from Brad Gilbert’s book about becoming a tennis legend. For now, she says, this journey has allowed her to do what she loves and she is extremely grateful and looking forward to what comes next.

Learning from the experiences of women leaders such as Karen is critical, as the global development space is still heavily dominated by men and lacks diversity–greatly shaping the work and whose voices shape policy in the NGO sector. With only 32% of female CEOs and only 3% black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds (Root, 2019), there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Karen, not only through her own experiences but also in her current position as President of Akilah Institute, is working to change the conversation as to what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a professional working to empower other women leaders across the world.

In future blogs, we will be sharing more about how women like Karen, strive to #BalanceforBetter, taking into consideration the tradeoffs of family, career, and life in pursuit of what they love. Keep up the incredible work Karen, we look forward to following you along this next leg of your journey!

In our hearts and memory, we also ask that you take a moment to reflect and learn more about the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, as well as share this information with your networks to promote awareness and remembrance for all those whose lives were lost.

Thanks for reading!

Maxie & Paula

Contact Karen:  karen@akilahinstitute.org

https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-sherman-76115016/

Global Education Leadership: Mentoring for Change (Part 2)

In this post, Maxie Gluckman & I dive deeper into what it means to “mentor for change” focusing on Dr. Bruce Barnett’s experiences and recommendations for supporting global education leaders at different stages of their careers (Enjoy Part 1 of this conversation here). He also offers insight into what this looks like as leaders work in diverse countries and cultural contexts–particularly important to consider if you are looking to create or grow successful and sustainable mentoring programs.

What are your thoughts on mentoring and coaching novice and advanced administrators?

First and foremost, I believe it is important to distinguish how mentoring and coaching differ and what this looks like as administrators advance in their career stages. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, mentoring focuses on career development and implies a long-term developmental relationship between the mentor and mentee. Mentors are interested in the overall growth and development of their mentees over time as their career develops; coaches assist in helping others for shorter time periods aimed at improving or strengthening a particular skill, product, or event. Both approaches can be useful for novice and advanced administrators, as long as they adapt to the nuances and needs of each individual.

To my knowledge, the vast majority of mentoring and coaching programs for school administrators focus on novices as they begin the job or on administrators who need to improve their performance. I have been involved in many such ventures including my work co-

Kathryn Whitaker, Peg Basom, Myron Basom, Bruce Barnett and Alan Shoho—UCEA 2007

developing and delivering the SAGE Mentoring Programme with Dr. Gary O’Mahony from the Australian Principals Centre. From 2000-2007 our team had the opportunity to prepare over 1000 SAGE mentors–individuals who would work with novice administrators across various spaces and capacities across Australia.  I have also conducted a variety of half- and full-day workshops on mentoring for various organizations, including the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Tennessee, Centre for Educational Leadership and Administration at the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand), Education University of Hong Kong,  Australian Lutheran Schools (Adelaide and Brisbane), University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada), and Local Education Authorities in England (London).

These experiences reveal various challenges and benefits of working with novices. Many of the challenges focus on the logistics and operation of a mentoring program, such as (a) matching mentors with novice administrators, (b) finding time for mentors to meet with novices, (c) establishing trusting relationships between mentors and novices, (d) monitoring and reassigning mentoring partnerships that are not productive, and (e) dealing with large geographical distances between mentors’ and novices’ schools. Other challenges that can compromise the relationship include (a) convincing mentors to help novices reflect on their situations and possible solutions to problems, rather than telling them what to do, (b) working with novices who are reluctant or resistant to an outsiders’ perspective, (c) ensuring their discussions remain confidential, and (d) blaming mentors if the ideas and strategies novices use fail to achieve their intended results.

M. Salinas’ Graduation

The benefits, however, can be extremely productive for novices and mentors. Novice administrators can benefit by (a) clarifying their beliefs and values, (b) improving their self-confidence and sense of efficacy, (c) learning the value of taking risks, (d) expanding their understanding of the factors affecting problems and solutions, (e) beginning to not take resistance and failures personally, (f) reducing their stress, and (g) increasing their motivation to continue the job. Interestingly, many mentors claim they believe they gain more benefit from the experience than novices do. When asked to explain this reaction, they indicate that working with novices has two advantages. One benefit is they begin to hear fresh ideas and strategies from someone who has not been in the job. Sometimes this results in novices sharing new resources (e.g., books, articles, programs) that are new to their mentors. Another benefit is that mentors find it extremely valuable and insightful to articulate their rationale for making decisions, many of which they do automatically. The work of school administration is multi-faceted and fast-paced, with little time to think deeply about motives, actions, and desired outcomes. Because mentors have the opportunity to slow down the process by reflecting on their actions and explaining them to another administrator, this allows them to clarify and articulate their beliefs, values, and attitudes. I think many effective administrators operate on “automatic pilot”, resulting in being “unconsciously competent”. Being forced to articulate their ideas forces them to become more “consciously competent”, an outcome many mentors relish.

I am only aware of one coaching program that took a different approach for more experienced principals. In 2004, the Australian Principals’ Centre established the Coaching for Experienced Principals Program, which assigned coaches to principals with three or more years of experience. These principals were not at risk or needed to strengthen a weakness, but were seeking short-term assistance in improving how school improvement occurred on their campuses. In observing the program, I sensed many of the same logistical challenges associated with mentoring programs noted earlier, including matching, time constraints, and geographical distances between partners.

Professors David Thompson, Alan Shoho (now Dean at UW-Milwaukee), John Folks, Bruce Barnett, and Mariela Rodriguez– University of Texas San Antonio

To assess the value of the program for these experienced principals, we surveyed them to determine what they gained from the coaching experience. Three major outcomes surfaced (a) increased awareness of their beliefs and values, (b) clarified their strategic view of school improvement, and (c) realized they were not tapping the talents and resources on the campus. To me, these findings suggest coaching programs supporting experienced school administrators not only help them gain valuable insights about their leadership but also deepen their understanding of change and school improvement.

What does this mentoring look like in diverse cultural contexts?

Over my career, I have delivered mentoring and coaching programs in various countries (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand),allowing me to gain a better understanding of how these learning processes are affected by cultural norms and contexts. In these settings, I have found that the vast majority of issues affecting mentoring and coaching in the USA are similar in these countries. Many of the same logistical and operational challenges and benefits noted earlier also arise in these settings.

There are, however, several subtle differences that affect how mentoring and coaching are viewed in these contexts. For instance, Australians favor an egalitarian society, acknowledging the social and economic equality of all individuals. Consequently, they do not like to put people on pedestals and tend to be somewhat skeptical and cynical about authorities, especially political leaders. One way of expressing this is what they refer to as the “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” meaning that the tallest flowers in the field should be cut down to the same size as the other flowers. Australians tend to distrust individuals who are perceived as self-promoters and arrogant. While they realize success and achievement are important, they are offended when these people act superior or try to rise above others. This issue can arise in a mentoring relationship, especially when examining the unequal knowledge and skill levels between mentors and novices. Mentors do not want to be viewed as superior to novices, preferring instead to be seen as equal partners in the learning process. Therefore, successful mentors realize they need to refrain from coming across as arrogant or demeaning novices’ thoughts, ideas, and actions.

Scotland—the Suttons and the Barnetts

In addition, in the Hong Kong and Chinese culture, maintaining harmonious relationships with one another is a strong cultural norm. Therefore, criticizing others, especially in a public setting, is socially unacceptable. This perspective can influence the mentoring relationship, especially when mentors might feel novices are performing below expectations and need to alter their actions or strategies.

One way we have tended to acknowledge these norms of egalitarianism and harmony is by helping mentors learn how to assist novices in becoming more self-reflective about their actions. Rather than being directive in confronting novices’ actions, we stress mentors use reflective questions strategies that allow novices to describe their perspectives of particular situations they are experiencing, what they sense is affecting these situations, and what they believe are useful approaches and strategies for dealing with the situation. Although mentors do provide their advice on these issues, the goal of reflective questioning is to build novices’ capacities to dissect situations and develop insights about how best to respond. This questioning strategy uses a collaborative approach to mentoring, allowing mentors and novices’ voices to be heard.

While much is still left to be unpacked with respect to how to design and implement successful and sustainable mentoring programs, we hope that this series has allowed us to start a conversation surrounding what it means to generate professional relationships for global change that may push our community to share their own experiences and lessons learned along the way. We welcome hearing from you!

Maxie & Paula

Meet Bruce Barnett: https://globaledleadership.org/bruce-barnett-ed-d/