Background

The New School recently published a vision statement, which asserts our shared commitment to "orienting our students' educational experiences to help them become critically engaged citizens devoted to solving problems and contributing to the public good." It describes The New School as an "intellectual and creative center for effective engagement in a world that increasingly demands better-designed objects, environments, systems, and organizations to meet social and human needs."

The Fund for Collaborative Innovation is a two-year initiative supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which advances this vision by supporting collaborative problem-solving for the public good and helping The New School developing a practice of sustained reciprocity with external partners. Specifically, the fund will enable us to:

  • Examine and test new approaches to creating a more just, resilient and equitable society, including strategies that specifically address race, gender, class, ability, poverty, and sustainability
  • Advance innovation in curriculum, public engagement, and public scholarship, testing diverse methods for problem-focused and engaged learning with external partners and communities
  • Contribute to this university's ongoing efforts to be a resource in New York City and to build a strong foundation at The New School for socially engaged learning and practice.

Anticipated outcomes include:

  • Real co-created change, products, and models of change that build capacity in communities
  • Enhanced understanding about engagement in deep and sustained community partnerships 
  • New institutional and pedagogical practices, tools, and platforms that will enable The New School and external partners to co-create solutions to critical urban challenges and sustain meaningful partnerships

A key value of funded collaborations is expected to come from collective reflection about the entire set of funded projects. To this end, the Provost's Office will establish a Community of Practice that will include faculty members, students, and partner representatives from selected partnership projects. The Community of Practice will convene periodically over the two years of the grant and will work collaboratively to

  • Design and engage in an over-arching action-research project to understand different modes of engaged learning and partnership across all of the funded projects and assess their outcomes.
  • Contribute to a visioning process—to imagine strategies for improving The New School's capacity to sustain deep-rooted and effective partnerships
  • Develop prototype tools and methods to enhance institutional capacity to engage in effective partnerships
  • Collectively create and share knowledge through papers, case studies, and/or conferences
  • Look for new resources to extend established collaborations and develop new ones beyond the two years of the Rockefeller grant

The Community of Practice will be supported by a small faculty and staff team, who will manage the related action research process, including convening participants and workshops, facilitating the assessment process that crosscuts the selected Partnership Projects; and completing and disseminating an initiative report and case studies with members of the Community of Practice and beyond.

The Fund for Collaborative Innovation is based on the following assumptions:

  • To solve complex problems it is necessary to cross boundaries of disciplines and sectors. Successful social innovation to improve lives and address the challenges of the 21st century entails new forms of interaction, organization, policies, products and services, technologies, and systems.
  • Communities possess critical experience, insights and knowledge for addressing system failures and driving innovation. Collaboration with communities is the most effective way to generate sustainable solutions to local and global problems.
  • Universities have a wealth of underutilized resources to contribute to solving complex social problems and a responsibility to channel these resources effectively.
  • Learning that is organized around real-world issues and based on the values of active citizenship and interdisciplinary problem-solving prepares students to become skilled changemakers throughout their lives.
 
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