About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Balancing community-based school leadership with an outsider's expertise

One of the things I have encouraged in my work in Haiti is authentic, community-based models of leadership. Externally-driven solutions to local problems may have short-term benefits but are limited in their long-term effectiveness. It's better to work with people at the local level who have insights into the immediate context than to provide "made-in-Canada" solutions.

However, this type of leadership, that is grounded and honed in the local context, often can benefit from an outside perspective. This is where I can assist. Rather than identifying problems and providing solutions, I take on the role of a facilitator who tries to provide a different perspective or who can support further networking.

Most of us have a tendency to become myopic in our day-to-day leadership roles. Yes, we may be experts in the local context but we may also succumb to an inward-looking mindset that fails to recognize opportunities beyond our immediate experiences. We may also have limited exposure to resources that might be helpful in our local context.

Dale and Newman (2008) provide an interesting case study of a community initiative in Vancouver that benefited from external (in this case, governmental) support. They argue that "Collaboration for sustainable community development means that increasingly local community organizations, leaders, and governments must form partnerships with other levels of government, with the private sector, and with civil society organizations" (p. 18). My experience with multiple schools and leaders in Haiti reflects this balance: For successful capacity-building to occur, there must be a positive interplay of community-based leadership and external support.

Dale, A. & Newman, L. (2008). Social capital: A necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community development? Commuity Development Journal, 45(1), 5-21.

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