Network. The last word of our name. When I began this job, I had no idea of how profound the implications of that word would be. I wear many hats in my work, but over the last year, perhaps the most important one I’ve worn is that of collaborator. Beyond the incredible collaborative work that created the Wisconsin Innovative Schools Network, I have also learned about how much collaboration is central to what we do with our partners, and with other organizations around the country. It’s implicit in the word network, and this focus on collaboration will be central to our upcoming conference.
I recently read an interview in Isthmus with David Krakauer. He’s the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, an organization within UW Madison devoted to innovation and reshaping the nature of higher education. The article was filled with thought provoking ideas, but I was particularly intrigued by how much collaboration is at the center of his vision. For example, when architects designed the Institute, they considered ways for people from different departments to “bump into” each other, so that conversations and interactions could occur naturally, encouraging a kind of disciplinary cross-pollinization, which we know is a powerful tool in creativity. He also talked about the need to reach outside the walls of educational institutions. “The only way forward is a new kind of collaboration between academia and industry.”
I believe that collaboration is also at the heart of any way forward, and that our most important job at the WISN is to encourage it.
Collaboration might mean that people work together on a project. The ability to do that is a central 21st century skill. But collaboration can also mean something more like what David Krakauer describes: facilitating ideas, experiences, and questions among people who might not normally be in contact with each other and letting information pass easily between those who might otherwise be isolated.
I see our upcoming DPI/WISN Conference on Innovation this March 12-13-14 in Appleton as a prime opportunity for this type of collaboration. We are creating specific models and opportunities within the three days to encourage conversations, challenge thinking, and share visions and ideas, allowing for ongoing collaboration, but also making random, unpredictable, and potentially transformative connections possible.
I’ll write more about the nature of our collaboration later, but, for the moment, come
to our conference, and bring your collaborator hat. It will get lots of wear.
As always, I welcome your feedback.
-Dr. Heather Terrill Stotts, Executive Director