Math Minds is an innovative form of collaboration, where alliances are forging unique outcomes, crossing boundaries, and building potential long-term solutions to improve numeracy in Canadian society. In 2012, Canadian Oil Sands initiated a bold partnership with leadership organizations representing education, public library and children-serving agency to collaborate on how to promote deep, meaningful and significant improvements in early mathematics learning. Building upon the strengths of each of the organizations and oriented by their shared values, these partners co-created an initiative that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Math Minds school partners are Canadian Oil Sands, JUMP Math, University of Calgary, Werklund School of Education and Calgary Catholic School District. Over the past four years the partners have engaged us as brokers to help shape and support their partnership to maximize results and impact.
It is common to evaluate projects and programs of work, but what about reviewing the partnership itself? How it is working? What might work better? Are the partners still engaged? Has the partnership delivered new value? Has the program changed and do partners need to change? A broker is a go-between in reviewing the partnership and keeping it relevant and strong. The broker’s role is to be a behind-the-scenes leader who has the capacity to create clarity, convene and facilitate productive interactions, inspire and encourage the partners’ in their work.
In order to gain insights into the partnership each year we undertook a series of internal and external interviews. We wanted to determine the strengths of the partnership to date and the opportunities to further build out successes. Based on our learning we hosted annual workshops to share insights and help the partners co-create the next steps in their partnership development. Our role was to act as a facilitator, negotiator, record keeper, coach and reviewer.
The brokering role has helped the group to develop a stronger governance structure, improve communications, prepare critical mission, vision, and values statements for both the project as well as the partnership and help continuously evolve the partnership so that it can achieve maximum results. Today, the partners are focused on three core goals:
- Strengthening the partnership and the program based on learning and long-term goals.
- Scaling to bring the positive results to a larger audience.
- Sustaining the partnership and initiative so that it can outlast any of the partners, operate on a shoestring budget and continue delivering positive results.