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Arriving at the North Star

What skills and mindsets do Kenyan learners need to thrive in the 21st century–and who gets to answer this question?

Over the past 10 weeks, our team has been hard at work exploring these questions. At Metis, our focus to date has been on Fellows and the growth of their leadership and ventures. We deeply believe that collective leadership is an essential lever for improving learning outcomes for students. But what are the outcomes towards which we collectively strive? What is our shared vision for education? Who gets to decide? Our Collective enjoyed the process of co-creating this vision with youth, caregivers, policymakers, and practitioners, situating it within our local context, and thinking about how we can each orient our efforts towards shared outcomes.

Through a design-thinking inspired approach and conversations with ~120 people across the education ecosystem, from educators to learners to parents to community members to funders to partners, Metis has co-created a vision for these requisite skills and mindsets that will serve as our North Star, orienting our work and all we do. These internal skills and mindsets are supplemented by external factors that have been flagged as critical to enabling the inculcation and strengthening of these skills and mindsets.

How did we do it?

We created outlines for workshops and conversations designed to source large amounts of raw data. We deliberately designed questions to be creative and open-ended, to optimise for accuracy in the stories we heard. An example of this was asking participants to draw pictures before and after they saw a positive change in a learner. When conducting these workshops and conversations, we aimed to solve for the diversity of participants, which took us to locations around Kenya like Kibera, Magadi, and Mombasa, as well as to virtual rooms with leading education thinkers relevant to Metis. We designed these conversations to be inclusive of all voices who’re affected by education because we strongly believe that learners’ and caregivers’ input is just as important as that of education experts.

Then came codifying this output. We typed up all the raw output that we solicited from the first stage and analysed each piece of text critically. For each distinct piece of text, we identified as many themes as we possibly could, distinguishing between internal (e.g., confidence, problem-solving, community-centred) and external (e.g., safe space, access to resources) themes. This resulted in an output of ~35 internal themes and ~25 external themes.

We next focused on grouping related themes. For each theme, we evaluated it against every other theme to ask ourselves if they were related. We also counted how many times each theme came up as a way to guide prioritisation. Using both these steps, we then identified five major internal themes (chosen by priority and encompassing related ‘smaller’ themes) and four major external themes. As we did this, we also ensured that our themes complemented frameworks such as Kenya’s CBC–think of the double helix of a DNA strand that’s connected.

In parallel, as we worked to identify these themes, i.e., relevant skills and mindsets, we realised that communicating these would need to be supplemented with further storytelling from within our Collective. We, therefore, designed open-ended questions to allow Fellows and alumni to tell stories around these themes–how did their programmes and organisations work on these skills and mindsets, and what examples did they have of learners displaying these?

Once our themes were finalised, we then set out to source these stories so that we could capture what our North Star was–not just defining the important skills and mindsets, but bolstering these definitions with stories sourced from our community.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, where we share the themes we came up with and related stories from our Collective!

Metis Team.

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