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Curriculum, Intellectual Property, and Relationships

Leslie, of Essential Explorations, was part of an ad hoc team of Consultants who came together to work on an Action Research project. The team, called Team NextGen, utilized Action Research Methodology to research, provide feedback, and suggest recommended actions to a non-profit leadership education and community-building organization. The non-profit needed help in determining the future of its curriculum and intellectual property while maintaining positive relationships with volunteer facilitators. Subsequent reports suggest the changes have gone well.

The leadership education and community-building non-profit was in the middle of condensing and rearranging its curriculum from a 3-year program to a 2-year program, which provided a great opportunity to look at other aspects of their processes and structures that could be improved.

  • What might it do to help create community amongst its graduates?
  • How might the non-profit make its relationship with facilitators even better?
  • Are there ways it could remain flexible and yet provide a consistent set of curriculum and experiences for students year after year?

The team researched other leadership education and community-building organizations to get a feel for the range of possibilities. This external research involved collecting data about how flexible versus structured other organizations were with their curriculum and relationships with facilitators/teachers, which included documenting the pros and cons of different strategies regarding intellectual property rights and finding examples of different degrees/types of contracting with educators.

For instance, some educational organizations have a tight hold on their curriculum and facilitators are required to teach the curriculum in a very specific way, following a formulaic model, whereas other organizations are more flexible about how the facilitators teach the curriculum as long as the main points are covered thoroughly. This presents a polarity of control versus flexibility. Our client started pretty far on the flexible end, so the real question was how far they wanted to move towards control while making sure not to lose their flexibility.

Simultaneously, we conducted surveys of current and emeritus facilitators of the non-profit to get a feel for their perspectives on intellectual property, contracting, what keeps them coming back to the organization, and what they thought could be improved. This internal research gave us a feel for the non-profit as-is and gave us an idea of how much it could move one direction or the other while maintaining its positive relationship with facilitators.

We provided the final data to the non-profit along with suggestions to help determine where it would best fit on the spectrum of intellectual property rights and contracting. The organization chose to remain on the more informal and flexible end of the spectrum but instituted safeguards to make sure this arrangement could be maintained with clearer communication and agreements with facilitators.

Knowing the range of options, reviewing configurations of other organizations, and looking at their own culture and needs helped the organization to make an informed choice about who, what, where, and why they wanted to be. This is a good example of how decisions moving forward need to be based on both internal insight AND external awareness.

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