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Let’s not waste a crisis! The opportunity of School Leadership

A pilot to equip education leaders to maximise opportunities for real change – often uniquely present in an emergency when priorities shift.

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What problem does your innovation solve?

This initiative aims to ultimately address the problem of schools and their communities missing out on opportunities, potentially made available in an emergency when context changes, priorities are re-evaluated and urgency generated. This includes missing out on mobilizing necessary resources; being unable to prioritise needs and focus on purposeful action; or missing addressing important, education relevant community change issues that may have seemed intractable before the emergency.

Explain your innovation.

Building on recent practice and concepts around adaptive programming, school leadership and adaptive leadership, this initiative develops a pilot emergency preparedness leadership program for education leaders including head teachers and deputies, government decision makers and community leaders. The pilot program is envisaged to be an experimental “on the job” learning program by adopting a specific learning agenda around the end user needs, with defined learning outcomes, use of “live scenario games”, an on-line learning network, social media chat rooms, smart phone - response technology apps (e.g. Turning point) and an action learning framework for implementation. Supporting evidence: Many recent disaster responses include the practice to “build back better”. INEE identifies that Education protects during crises and lays a sustainable foundation for recovery, peace, and development, however few programs focus on this area. J.Birkmann (2008), UN University: Extreme events and disasters: a window of opportunity for change? argues we need to learn better how to harvest the opportunities from crises, yet few seem to connect to the context of education in emergencies. Separately, the Developmental Leadership Program (DFAT); the Pacific Leadership Program (DFAT); adaptive programming (World Bank, DFID, OXFAM); the adaptive leadership model; work on crisis opportunities by the Cranfield School (UK) and others, are researching how more adaptive approaches can work in crisis.

Who benefits?

Education leaders and influencers such as head teachers, deputy head teachers and government policy makers will be the main target group in the pilot stage and will benefit from training, mentoring and tools and an on-line community of practice support network. School communities and students will benefit from school leaders being able to mobilise resources and effect change. A specific focus will be on building the capacity of female education leaders and promoting an opportunistic approach such as the opportunity of emergency funding to build more secure dormitory facilities for girls. Success will be measured by how participants have been able to identify purposeful changes they would like to make, analyse potential interventions in likely scenarios and take action. This will include interventions before, during and after an emergency to help these changes to happen. If a real emergency happens during the pilot then the actual application of these interventions could be evaluated.

How is your innovation unique?

While adaptive leadership practice and programming are now being incorporated in many development programs, they are not common in the area of education in emergencies. Opportunity2Change will draw on an adaptive leadership framework and skills from its resource of people connected to the international Centre for Leadership and Adaptation (CLA) and piloted in the Pacific through the Pacific Leadership Program as well as its experience in working in and evaluating education programs in various emergency and post emergency contexts. As far as we are aware, no other organisations are doing this work in the Pacific context. We believe this pilot has a strong chance of success in developing learning in how to build capacity in education leadership in emergency contexts as Opportunity2Change is applying tested methodologies from other contexts though people who are experienced in evaluating approaches in this context.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Some questions: • What is the makeup of an educational leadership group who should participate in this type of program in a school environment and educational environment for a strong chance of success? What is the minimum criteria for people involved and minimum number? • Are there opportunities to integrate this training with existing school leadership programs? • What follow up – mentoring, on-line networks, refresher training etc will help the long term application of learning? • What sectoral, cultural and contextual factors need to be addressed in adapting and applying this approach to education in emergencies? • Can this type of program be adapted and used in a post-emergency environment as well as in emergency preparedness?

Tell us more about you.

CEI is a not-for-profit specialising in Education. CEI provides policy advice, research and technical assistance to governments, donors and development partners and combines academic methodologies, innovative solutions and practical advice to support effective reform. In developing this initiative, Fred Brooker, Principal Education Advisor is supported by Belynda McNaughton (Education Consultant) and Cameron Bowles (Currently with SPC; ex-DFAT Director of the Pacific Leadership Program)

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Examples in the Pacific are cyclones, tsunamis and civil unrest - where schools are frequently used as locations for refuge. Resources often come into these communities during emergencies and could be better leveraged for longer term impact. Many communities have other issues such as segregation which are re-evaluated during an emergencies when people by necessity work together. With the right leadership, schools may be able to seize these moments to support community collaboration.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Based on positive feedback & interest on our idea from the Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) and school leaders from the islands of Tanna and Efate, we propose involving leaders from selected communities in Vanuatu who opt in. Each province in Vanuatu is different so will be tailored for each context if scaled. Learning from the pilot will be applied when carried out in other contexts. Local partners will assist with advising on political or cultural tensions within communities.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

Opportunity2Change has considerable experience in working with networks and in evaluating educational programs. across the Pacific Islands, in particular Vanuatu Through its networks, Opportunity2Change also brings experience of managing leadership programs in the Pacific region including Vanuatu and have a close working relationship with civil society and the Ministry of Education and Training.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Opportunity2Ch's team have experience in EiEs and have been part of the school-based management (SBM) debate and in the middle of many reforms over the last 15 years. This has included strategic planning processes in Ministries of Education where school leadership have featured prominently. In the Pacific, our Principal Education Adviser was a leading expert in the implementation of the Pacific Benchmarking for Education Results (PaBER) program. A major component of this was school leadership.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Many locations including Australia, Timor-Leste and Noumea. Staff recently / currently working in Zambia, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands and PNG.


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

Based on positive feedback from our networks in Vanuatu, we have decided to implement the program in Vanuatu. Feedback from potential end users highlighted the need to consider : - broad stakeholder engagement beyond the education community to facilitate decision making at the community level that supports education outcomes; - the impact of trauma on students after a disaster & the need to be prepare to address this; and - using Principals with experience in dealing with disasters as mentors

Who will implement this Idea?

CEI associate, Belynda (Australia based) will take the lead role in implementing the pilot in Vanuatu. In consultation with the Ministry of Education and Training(MoET), a local partner will also be engaged. All of our projects are managed and supported by a full-time member of staff - in this project, Fred Brooker will lead. This ensures full commitment to quality outputs, effective implementation and meeting the changing needs on the ground. In addition, we have a wide network of associate consultants and leading development practitioners to provide QA resources and support M&E.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

1. Limited leadership training for heads of schools, communications, geographic isolation and logistical constraints (400 schools spread across 83 islands) in rural areas impacts on school funding, management and quality of learning as well as emergency preparedness. 2. At the Central level, insufficient funding is allocated for Teacher training , Disaster Preparedness and Emergency response, therefore making MoET heavily reliant on donor support. There is also limited technical capacity within MoET to implement necessary training programs at the Provincial level.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

We will utilise a strong contextual approach including the use of practitioners experienced working in the Pacific, engage local partners to assist with implementation, embed the program within in a local organisation and community decision-making structures. We will develop a simple sustainability framework at the onset. The purpose of this framework will be to ensure that all stakeholders are involved and transfer the initial ownership to a phased handover of responsibilities for overall implementation with mentoring support. Program alumni will be encouraged to participate as mentors.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

By 2021, across targeted emergency affected Pacific countries, we expect evidence of school & education community reforms, incl. on entrenched issues, as education leaders have reacted purposefully and strategically in times of crises. Q: With much evidence regarding the challenges of achieving “sticky" learning outcomes in leadership development programs, the biggest hurdle will be how to make this experimental learning sticky in such a way that it is drawn on & useful in the heat of a crisis.

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

Outcomes will vary depending on user need and context. Feed back suggests that our support will improve school emergency preparedness (more resilient infrastructure, disaster management plans, options to address trauma/student well-being) which will reduce impact the of an emergency on student learning. Qualitative methods such surveys and focus group discussions with recipients and the broader community will assess progress. National or local learning assessments will show impact on learning.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

To undertake the pilot program we envisage approximately 12 to 13 months from notification to completion. This would include time to develop, implement and evaluate the Adaptive Leadership package of support. Chat groups and smart phone apps eg Turning pt, Event Hero will be used to seek real time feedback on the program. Learning from the pilot would be communicated to users and broader stakeholder group incl MIKTA, DFAT iXc via multi-media and social media platforms. Then iterate and scale up.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $1,000,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • No paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country in which we plan to implement our Idea.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Between 6 months and 1 year

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Communications / Marketing / Graphic Design
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Attachments (3)

EiE Feedback - Focus Group Discussions.xlsx

We sought feedback from school principals in Vanuatu on our idea and asked them a series of questions. The questions and their answers are attached. We have used this feedback to shape our idea further.


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Photo of Rasal Lia


Photo of Cameron Bowles

Thanks Rasal,  appreciated.  Regards Cameron

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