I am currently finishing an enlightening book called Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation by Edward Humes (2016). True to its title, this book explores how everything from a morning cup of coffee to delivery pizza gets to my doorstep. While the premise is, in fact, both magnificent and maddening (my ground coffee involved thousands of miles of shipping by boat, rail, and truck to reach my kitchen cabinet), what’s equally astounding to me are the partnerships required to make such commerce happen. The goods and services in our lives require a complex management of people and processes from factory or field to port, and then shipment over tens of thousands of miles of seas, highways, and rail lines. Some products in my home may have originated in a nearby town, only to be shipped across country for assembly with other manufactured parts, and then returned to my local store where I picked it up on sale. A vast web of professional agreements and relationships must occur to make trade – and our economy – work. Partnerships are the anchor to transportation networks. They enable such complex systems to operate and meet our needs and wants.
Organizations are also complex systems. They require a similar coordination of individual interests and resources into products and services that support a larger mission. Our new NCSS Strategic Plan identifies five Priorities for our organization: Collaboration, Communication, Innovation, Inclusiveness, and Influence & Leadership. When I reflect on what it will take for us to realize these five Priorities, I get a strong sense that we will not realize them one by one on a checklist. Instead, we will realize them when we map the ways in which they work together. Then, we can discuss how we – as individuals and as organizations representing multiple perspectives and interests in the social studies – can act together through these Priorities. Such action will take our collective partnership on behalf of the social studies. Partnerships are the anchor across all 5 Priorities. They enable us to build a future for the social studies that we know is possible.
Over the next year, NCSS will reach out to partners – our friends in other disciplines, educators, scholars, policymakers – to make sure they are included in an active conversation about the growth of social studies education. What can we do together in support of student success, classroom practice, and professional learning?
Partnerships require nurturing and support to work well. They begin with an agreement to work together, and that commitment comes to life over time through many conversations and careful planning. Partnerships require trust in a common vision to take risks that innovate and move our profession forward.
When I pour my coffee, I’m now very aware that many partnerships were created and sustained to bring me some morning happiness. It will take many sustained partnerships to realize a vision for social studies education through the 5 Priorities. If we can distribute fresh coffee to home kitchens worldwide, imagine what we can accomplish in the social studies! What can we do together?