Earlier this year the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) held a summit that brought together a group of education stakeholders who don’t typically engage with each other on a regular basis. During the summit, researchers, practitioners, policy makers and government officials were talking together about how to help vulnerable students succeed.
It’s important for all four of these groups to learn and think about new initiatives as well as discuss and share current and future research and policy practices. But, what was most striking for me about this event was the overt effort to silo-bust.
We all tend to work in silos, and with growing specialization within the disciplines inside the academy, the silos have proliferated. Everyone’s expertise is so narrow that we tend to stay with those like us. And academia is not alone. We have been “siloed” in business and in government, and this administration is working to silo-bust, through programs like Promise Neighborhoods, ED’s labor-management conference and International Summit on the Teaching Profession, as well as through collaborations like the “Learning Registry,” which partners with the Department of Defense.
People know the value of moving across silos – engaging with others in different disciplines and departments enriches one’s thinking; it enables cross-disciplinary/departmental/organizational problem solving; it prevents duplication of work. It permits wider buy-in, consensus and wisdom.
But, when time is short, it is much easier to remain in one’s silo, keep one’s head down and get the work done.
OPE’s summit sent a message to all of us working on student success both in and out of government: if we are going to find solutions, we are more likely to do it together than apart.
Now, the hard part is to carry that message forward after the conference has ended. What might motivate that continuity, at least for me, is the powerful impact our collaborative efforts could have on vulnerable students’ success.
Have you had success in breaking down silos? Tell us your story in the comments below.
Karen Gross is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary