Re: ME: An alternative approach to insitutional development

From: Eugene Matusov
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Date: 25 Nov 1996
Time: 13:00:38


Hi Mercedes, Sharon, and everybody—

I'd like to add a new twist to our discussion on how the project has to be developed. I want to suggest an alternative approach to institutional development. It seems to me that Mercedes' model can be depicted in the following way:

Shared goal à Structure (tool) à Implementation,

where sign à means timely sequence order. According to this order the project designers (e.g., Steering Committee) first has to develop clear goal, then find appropriate organizational structures (tools), and then implement the goals using means and people (including students) available. Sharon noticed that there may be a disagreement on goals within the Steering Committee and between University and Barrios Unidos.

Moreover, our class discussion last Wednesday revealed that we have disagreements within our class. According to the model, I just described, disagreements (especially among designers) are either a temporary obstacle or a permanent failure of the project due to the lack of direction.

However, it seems to me that Cindy, Pablo, I and, probably, some of the students, proposed an alternative model to institutional development. Here is how I'd portray it:

Personal visions: Negotiations: Collaboration,

where the colon : states for parallel processes. According to this model, all participants (including kids and their families) develop personal visions of the project that are constantly negotiated by the participants (this negotiation involves many forms including kids not coming to Barrios Unidos). Through diverse form of negotiation, collaboration among participants develops. According to this model, both agreements and disagreements contribute to development of a community.

I want to stress that these two models are not mutually exclusive but rather have different priorities. The first model put emphasis on product of an activity, while the second model stress more a process. Last meeting, Pablo called this process as "creating a culture." In the second model, people are also concerned about goals, organizational structures, and implementation but all these are considered as processes that subordinated to meaning making by all the participants (and especially kids). For example, Pablo, Cathy, and I spent last Saturday designing creatures that we called as Tele-Azteka (that live traveling in electrical wires) with whom kids can communicate about game and anything else by writing e-mail messages. We think that Tele-Azteka is a possible compromise for Wizard among people involving to the project (we'll see how other participants including you, other Steering Committee members, and kids will react). Also we called our project as Tele-Araña Mágica (magic spider web, there is intentional misspelling in the word "tela" to express telecommunication). For more details, see

Also if you want to read about project mission and visionary statements that were developed before the project started, see

What do you think about all that?


PS If you want to read about institutional development here are references that I like:

Argyris, C., & Schon, D. (1978). Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Hargreaves, A. (1995). Changing teachers, changing times: Teachers' work and culture in the postmodern age. New York: Teachers College Press.