Imagining futures: Doing outreach differently with collective impact, participatory research and cross-sectoral partnerships

Year: 2021

Author: Baker, Sally

Type of paper: Workshop

In this presentation, we describe a new outreach project in Australia that has been designed to build students’ capacity to imagine futures, as well as building capacity for schools and universities to collaborate and develop more equitable strategies and partnerships. The NSW Equity Consortium (NEC) is a collaboration between three NSW universities and six schools in Greater Western Sydney, taking a whole-of-cohort approach with English classes in Year 7 (UNSW), Year 8 (UTS), and Year 9 (Macquarie University). The project is characterised by a commitment to deep collaboration in purposeful common cause: to influence quality teaching and learning, (through an innovative Stage 4/5 literacy intervention), and enhance student capacity to imagine, plan for and attain their futures.In this presentation, we explain the innovative NEC outreach program, which has developed a deliberately collaborative, layered, and complex partnership approach. This approach constitutes a different approach to university outreach and equity practice in the ways that it is based on voluntary and long-term partnerships that resist the usual competitive and territorial logics of outreach (Peacock, Sellar & Lingard, 2014). This collaboration is underpinned by a bespoke research and evaluation strategy that is built on the principles of participatory action research and collective impact, both of which value flexibility, consultation, and collegiality. The longitudinal, mixed-methods, creative research design and evaluation strategy are designed to collect rich data to help make sense of how students imagine their futures, and how outreach can build schools and universities capacity to support them.In addition to the innovation with the methodological and practical components, we also offer an innovative conceptual basis for our work. We drew on Harrison & Waller’s work (2018) and Harrison’s (2018) map of ‘possible selves’ as our conceptual base for making sense of students’ imagined futures. We developed a Theory of Change that asserts students need to be able to imagine possible futures (destination: The Map), to develop ideas about how to get there (navigation: The Compass), and what they need to succeed (academic attainment: The Key). In the NEC, we focus on students’ literacy development and metacognition as key indicators of their academic attainment.In this presentation, we will present student and teacher data drawn from the first three iterations of the Years 7–9 program to exemplify our approach and our early interpretations of the data regarding students’ imagined futures and teacher perceptions of working collaboratively with universities.