The Structured Solutions Announcements page has been reimagined into an issue-centered blog to illuminate critical ideas and events that affect the schools, communities, and families that we serve. This is the first post of the new blog.
My husband and I recently finished watching the new Netflix documentary, Inside Bill's Brain. We both found Bill Gates' story to be fascinating and inspiring, impressed by how he and his wife have channeled their intellect, curiosity, and empathy into an idea generation machine -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- to solve the world's toughest problems. While I, of course, felt like I immediately needed to get off the couch and do something good for the world, I also found myself reflecting on how Bill Gates reached this point in his life.
In the documentary, Gates talks about the many opportunities that allowed him to become the computing prodigy that he is and was. I was immediately reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which I had read many years before. Gladwell highlighted the incredible opportunities that Gates encountered in his early years that facilitated his exponential growth. Both Outliers and Inside Bill's Brain discuss the prestigious private school in which Gates was enrolled for his adolescent and teenage years, which allowed him to learn to code and develop programs in the school's computer lab ... in the 1960s. My Baltimore City Public Schools classroom in 2011 did not have any technology! Gladwell writes:
"We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that's the wrong lesson. Our world allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?"
Both the documentary and Gladwell's case study also highlight the resources into which Gates was born. Gates himself admits that his family was wealthy, and during his childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, he had two professional, working parents. The documentary speaks in great detail to the power his mother had in the community, serving on boards and building an impressive network. Her connections were so impressive, in fact, that Gates shares how she forced him to meet with Warren Buffett and facilitated that connection for her son. My first thought was, "That is SOME social capital!"
The esteemed sociologist James Coleman discusses his theory of social capital in his 1988 "Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital." He explains that the resources and connections that people have access to through their close relationships and communities can have profound impacts on personal and professional outcomes. Examples of social capital might include community members sharing job opportunities with each other, elder family or community members connecting youth to an internship or mentor, or professional individuals serving as positive role models for others in their circles. In each of these scenarios, people have access to opportunities, exposure to new ideas and people, and the ability to see what they themselves could become. Now imagine what happens when none of these resources are present in the life of a child or young adult. Coleman suggests that without social capital, an individual's outcomes might look quite different: "Like other forms of capital, social capital is productive, making possible the achievement of certain ends that in its absence would not be possible."
Gates benefited a great deal from his sheer luck of being born into a family of means, but this certainly does not diminish his genius or impact on the world. However, the social capital he had access to in his youth had, without a doubt, an enormous impact on his success in life. As Gladwell muses, what about every other teenager? Don't they deserve the same opportunities and resources? If our most disadvantaged communities were rich with opportunity and home-grown role models and free from the oppression caused by centuries of systematic, legalized discrimination, we would only be able to imagine how many more Bill Gates the world would have.
This fall marked the third anniversary of Structured Solutions! Here is a recap of what we have done in our first three years:
Dr. Klein is honored to be highlighted by Johns Hopkins University's Alumni Weekend Committee as a featured alum, in honor of her 10th reunion! Click on the link below to view her feature:
STRUCTURED SOLUTIONS is excited to announce a big change - that we have relocated from Baltimore, MD to Columbus, OH! While we will continue to support the work of Baltimore City Public Schools and its families and partners, it is exciting to explore a new area and expand our reach.
In the upcoming months, Dr. Klein will be presenting at two national conferences - the Community Schools National Conference in Baltimore in May, and the National Family and Community Engagement Conference in Cleveland in July. We are excited for these opportunities and hope to engage with professionals in the field from across the country.
STRUCTURED SOLUTIONS is two years old today! Here are some of the things we have been working on in the past few months:
Looking forward to many more years of serving schools, districts, and non-profit organizations on projects with positive impacts for families and children.
Structured Solutions has had a busy spring and summer! Here's what we've been up to:
On May 12, Structured Solutions owner Amanda Klein graduated with her doctorate from Vanderbilt University. Commencement was an exciting culmination of three years of work, travel, and collaboration that have had a tremendous influence on the foundation and formation of this business. Professors such as Joseph Murphy, shown below, were especially influential and supportive.
Looking forward to using what was gained from this program to better support families, schools, and organizations!
It has been quite a busy few months for Structured Solutions! We are now supporting 22 elementary through high schools in Baltimore City with their family engagement efforts, working to bring big-picture thinking, creativity, and an asset-based approach to work that is often viewed from a compliance lens. We are working with an additional eight schools in Baltimore in conjunction with the Family League, supporting engagement efforts around Pre-K enrollment, early transitions to school, attendance, and partnerships with community childcare providers.
Our work has also expanded to Louisville, KY through a project with Attendance Works! We are supporting a small group of elementary schools in providing tried-and-true practices and strategies for supporting engagement in the area of attendance.
Structured Solutions believes that this is essential work for helping to improve educational experiences for students, families, communities, and school staff. We are grateful for the opportunities to work with these schools and organizations in pursuit of it!
This month, Structured Solutions celebrated its first birthday! It has been an amazing year full of opportunity and growth, and we are incredibly grateful.
We are excited to now be supporting over 20 schools in Baltimore City, working to help the Family League of Baltimore City evaluate its pilot grant supporting transitions from childcare/Head Start to Pre-K and Kindergarten, and talking to stakeholders in Baltimore about their needs for career resources and supports.
Feel free to share our work with your networks, and if you are in need of project support, you are welcome to reach out to us.
Summer 2016 was a busy one, full of meaningful projects and work with schools and the Baltimore City Public Schools district. Here's a snapshot of what we've been working on:
The biggest development for the fall is an amazing opportunity that came out of this summer work. I will be working contractually as an Engagement Specialist with Baltimore City Public Schools to support the family and community engagement supports for 21 state-identified Priority Schools. I am honored for the opportunity and eager to hit the ground running!
I am so grateful for the support, referrals, and guidance I have received as I have launched my business. Thank you to all who have contributed.
The goal of this blog is to highlight relevant issues that impact students, families, and communities and spark engaging discussions about how to address those issues through evaluation.