Mapping Our Future

There have been an efflorescence of interesting articles and reports I’ve been reading over the past months and I’m excited to have opportunity to do some Presidents Day Posting.  

With Community Schools on my mind, and thinking about geographic hubs for learning, I was pleased to read the New America Foundation’s report Putting Learning on the Map: Visualizing Opportunity in 21st Century Communities.   Its orientation seems valuable, arguing for the greater use of community-level mapping to expose at the local level where resources are abundant and where there are disparities (and, hopefully, seek to address this.)  The report spotlights examples of mapping initiatives that span the education spectrum—across early learning, public school, higher education, and informal learning environments such as computing centers and public libraries, noting that few education policy leaders are considering this entire network of learning opportunities as a whole, nor are they recognizing how much place and location continue to matter given the segregation of low-income families.  

The report highlights how mapping can be a powerful first step for directing collective attention toward, and investment in, building interconnected networks of educational opportunities in an effort to close gaps in communities.  The white paper unfortunately doesn’t provide many tangible takeaways about just how to do this.  But underscoring the value of it is valuable unto itself.  The report notes that there are few examples that seek to understand the whole network of learning opportunities available within a neighborhood or community and how essential it is to do this in the service of creating robust, connected networks of learning opportunities.

I think of this as what Stephen Berlin Johnson refers to as “the adjacent possible.” (building upon Stuart Kauffman’s explanation of biodiversity)  Given my adoration of alliteration, I call it “the proximate possible.”  I can envision HiveNYC collaborating with the Community Schools effort and perhaps with SONYC (the middle school after school expansion) and/or South Bronx Rising Together and/or NYC Service’s interest in spewing broad-based Youth Councils to engage in youth-driven asset-mapping of communities in order to create better coordination of services and continua of experiences for youth. What a powerful vehicle for leveraging public dollars and "mainstream" efforts in a way that could truly build sustainable capacity in schools.  That is my wish for this President’s Day—and beyond!