Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

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  • David Willows

School Advancement and Why It’s Time To Start Copying One Another

There are times when we all want to stand out and be different; when we want to hold on tightly to our ideas, our pixels, our strategies, clinging to the naive belief that they were born in isolation of everyone around us.


This is not one of those times. This is a time to start copying one another.


A week ago, we thought that we’d have more time. As a team, we had started to prepare ourselves for the inevitable closure of our school, but we had little idea of how the week was going to unfold.


Below is the story of an extraordinary week in the life of an extraordinary Advancement team. Many of you will recognise this story, because you already lived it weeks ago. Others are living it all around us. The rest of you, I would dare to suggest, have one of these weeks just around the corner.


I’m sharing it, not only because I want you to know what’s coming, but because some of these ideas might save you some time. And time is the one thing you will run out of faster than toilet paper. I’m inviting you to copy what’s useful, just as we learned from colleagues around the world.


MONDAY: The day is interrupted at 10:00 by the news that a member of our community has been tested positive for COVID-19. The community is prepared for this moment. For several weeks, we have been meeting as a Crisis Response Team and using a Matrix to frame our communications and decision-making. The letter is sent at 16:00.


TUESDAY: With school no longer in session, faculty spend the day preparing to launch the school’s Distance Learning Plan. Meanwhile, the Advancement Team meets to design a virtual admissions experience for prospective families. The more we talk, the more we realise that we need to find new ways to make families feel welcome and at home; new ways for them to be heard and understood; new ways to experience our school. We know we don’t have all of the answers now, but we have to start somewhere. It took us three years to design our Experience Room. This time we have 3 hours.


WEDNESDAY: Students and faculty launch into the Distance Learning Programme. We are now all working remotely, which is an adjustment in and of itself. As an Advancement team, our attention has turned to our messaging. We decide to redesign several sections of the school’s website with a clear and simple message: Our Campus is Closed. Our Learning Continues.


THURSDAY: With virtual admissions up and running, we share ideas about how best to capture and celebrate the stories of learning and community across the school. We design a way to showcase these extraordinary moments. It is something we have been thinking of for a while, but, somewhat ironically, prior to this week we simply didn’t have the time.


FRIDAY: We wake up to the news that all schools in Belgium will now be closed. The scheduled reopening of school is pushed back to April 20. We publish Distance Learning in Action and end the week with a virtual team meeting, already anticipating new iterations of what we have created this week. We clearly miss being in the same room as one another.


Next week we will pick up where we left off and continue our Advancement Quest. If I have learned one thing in the last five days, though, it is that, at times like this, innovation is not so much about having truly original ideas as knowing which ideas are worth copying.

Good luck doing the same!


Click on the images below to go directly to the ISB site or visit www.isb.be


1. OUR CAMPUS IS CLOSED. OUR LEARNING CONTINUES A simple message that underpins all of our messaging.


2. A NEW LANDING PAGE Making it simpler to get to the information that most people are looking for.


3. DISTANCE LEARNING IN ACTION Showcasing the learning and building community.

4. A VIRTUAL ADMISSIONS EXPERIENCE We continue to design an interactive learning experience for prospective families.


5. CONTINUING THE UPDATES A single page for all important communications and updates.


Cover Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash.

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