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What are the current systems, structures, processes related to this challenge? How are they working in concert? Where are the gaps and needs?

What are the technical needs?

What are the quality of the relationships between the stakeholders nearest this challenge? How do they identify in relationship to the challenge? What are the values, beliefs and mindsets of those involved? 

What are the relational/adaptive needs?

How is the information flowing? Is there two way communication? Is there space to make meaning collectively? 

What's up with information?

What is the equity imperative connected to this challenge? What is creating inequity in relationship to this challenge?

How about equity?

What are the root causes of this complex challenge?

Based on what's happening above and below the green line...

for leaders considering complex challenges


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whats the problem of


It didn’t matter what systems, structures, and protocols you had before COVID-19 -- it wouldn’t be enough anymore. Solutions once thought up, meticulously refined and tweaked, and perhaps executed to near perfection -- were all of a sudden dwarfed by a problem 10x its size. The first challenge was the immense amount of need of students and families, both in distance learning, as well as livelihood. Joseph Blasher would need a team at Urban Promise Academy, and so the second challenge would come with overseeing and leading a transition where several staff members would need to shift to accommodate the new distance-learning format. How could you take two problems and see an opportunity? How could this move where everyone takes on a more holistic role shift the way school culture is cultivated and sustained in the long-term?










personal leadership:key questions and realizations

How do you navigate your place in the flow of communication? Joseph first had an instinct to be the central process keeper of the intervention initiative, supporting communication between teachers and the intervention team. What he realized was that he was actually playing the role of gatekeeper, and potentially stifling the development of the relationship between the two.


How do you do things with people, and not for people?

How do you honor those you work through developing them? Joseph needed to consider the unique needs of the intervention team members, both recognizing the strengths, skills, and knowledge as well as the need to develop them as professionals. Many team members are from the Fruitvale community and are alumni of the school, but they are also young professionals. Balancing the need to create space for their expertise and holding them accountable to grow in their professional skill-set would take time and practice (and is still a work in progress...).


In the context of distance learning, student struggles were immense and the causes weren’t always known. The team, and the individuals who comprised them, would need to see itself and themselves, occupying new roles and space. This would be quite a shift.


Joseph and the team stand alongside a robust network of people and teams who historically have been the fabric of student support outside of the conventional classroom. Therapists, after school mentors, coaches, and paraprofessionals. 

The team would also utilize systems that helped capture important data around student mastery across the school -- Canvas and Grade Guardian essential online tools that aided in supporting cross team collaboration and communication.

Many of the intervention team members are folks from the community, and many of them UPA alumni.


Changing the way people work, both individually and collectively, compounds possibilities for miscommunication, misalignment, and therefore, misdirection towards the goal. That’s a lot to see, hold, and harness.


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