BRIDGE was started in 2009 and is a registered non-profit organisation. BRIDGE came about because of the realisation that a critical part of the problem in education in South Africa is that stakeholders do not sufficiently share, adopt and implement what works. Pockets of successful practice, operating in silos, have consequently failed to improve the education system in an impactful, lasting and sustained manner.
The idea of collaboration is the foundation of BRIDGE’s intervention, which ensures the maximising of collective effort and the decreasing of duplication and competition in key focus areas in education.
The mission of BRIDGE is to link people and share working practice and knowledge in key leverage areas in the education system as fostering collaboration and co-operation helps to spread successful practice, which in turn promotes systemic improvements in education.
BRIDGE believes that complex problems require the views of diverse stakeholders in order to solve them, and that all stakeholders in education have a role to play in systemic improvement in education in South Africa. BRIDGE stakeholders include representatives from civil society, government, funders, educational practitioners, learners, teachers, principals, parents, research organisations, universities and unions.
In support of its mission, BRIDGE has developed a membership of over 3000 stakeholders from over 650 organisations across different education sectors. These members collaborate in 12 Communities of Practice with specific objectives in five key focus areas. BRIDGE hosts over 60 face-to-face Community of Practice meetings and dialogues a year, has an extensive facilitator network and has developed and refined a tried and tested methodology.
BRIDGE’s facilitation in the Communities of Practice makes certain not only that resources and knowledge are shared (both internally and beyond) but also that innovative ideas are generated through joint problem-solving activity. Communities of Practice are not just gatherings of people with similar interests; they are activist by nature and are made up of practitioners who commit to engaging and working together to increase the impact of their work and to create systemic change.
BRIDGE uses a variety of communication platforms and a knowledge hub to disseminate working practice, tools and resources, and its collaborative online network provides a space for virtual engagement among its members.
Our Theory of Change and the BRIDGE outcomes
BRIDGE’s methodology is based on our Theory of Change, which in turn is linked to a set of generic outcomes for our work. The following diagram illustrates these relationships.
The BRIDGE outcomes can be seen at work in some of the results of BRIDGE’s intervention:
- Fewer resources are wasted and there is a reduction in duplication;
- There is a quicker uptake of effective solutions and fewer isolated duplicated efforts;
- Effective practice is spread more widely in the system;
- More innovations are created to address education problems; and
- There is a stronger linkage between policy and practice whereby government adopts programmes or adjusts existing programmes and new policies are created/ or old policies are amended for the better.
A significant event in the development of BRIDGE’s identity and mission was our hosting of a day of exchange and reflections about education in South Africa. The reflection event, described as ‘Walking Together in Education’ took place in November 2009, and brought together almost 150 people from NGOs, government and business with an interest in South African education. The aim was to provide a ‘… a cross-sectoral platform for discussion about the Dinokeng Scenarios, their implications for education and the ways in which educational role-players might work together differently for the future.’ The Dinokeng scenarios (http://www.dinokengscenarios.co.za/) were developed by a group of 35 ‘citizen-leaders’, influential and respected South Africans who came together to consider possible futures for the country.
The day was jointly hosted by BRIDGE and the Dinokeng Scenario team. Participants explored what the scenarios might mean for individual, sectoral and organisational action, specifically in terms of collaborative and co-operative actions.
Link to Walking Together in Education (2009) for a report on the themes and outcomes of these discussions, which remain pertinent in 2014.
We need to spend more time networking and sharing our experiences and challenges so that we can all learn from each other. I would like to commend BRIDGE for putting these sessions together. BRIDGE is setting up a knowledge bank that is, I think, invaluable in South Africa – these meetings bring together a wealth of knowledge and experience that will improve education as a whole, which in turn will help develop the country.