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.
A significant event in the early development of BRIDGE’s identity and mission was the hosting of a day of exchange and reflections about education in South Africa. ‘Walking Together in Education’ (November 2009) 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. Link to Walking Together in Education (2009) for a report on the themes and outcomes of these discussions, which remain pertinent to this day.
Our mission and the BRIDGE outcomes
BRIDGE has subsequently built on these founding ideas to shape its intervention. The mission of BRIDGE is to connect people; we foster collaboration so that collective effort and the sharing of ideas helps spread successful practice. This in turn promotes systemic improvements in education.
In support of its mission, BRIDGE works with a wide range of stakeholders through convening communities of practice and in the context of collaborative projects. BRIDGE believes that complex problems require the views of diverse stakeholders in order to solve them. BRIDGE stakeholders include representatives from civil society, government, funders, educational practitioners, learners, teachers, principals, parents, research organisations, universities and unions.
The BRIDGE mission is captured in the BRIDGE Outcomes as set out below.
The BRIDGE outcomes can be seen at work in some of the results of BRIDGE’s work, such as projects or partnerships in which resources are shared or co-created, innovations are developed, and there is a quicker uptake of effective solutions and good practices. BRIDGE community of practice members have also, through collaborative effort, been able to give input into policy as well as integrate a better working knowledge of policy into their own programmes.
Click here for the BRIDGE brochure for a concise overview of BRIDGE’s work and activities.
BRIDGE’s mechanisms for achieving its outputs include convening communities of practice, working in partnership with other stakeholders, and knowledge management. BRIDGE has developed a membership of over 3500 stakeholders from over 900 organisations across different education sectors. These members collaborate in 9 national communities of practice, in a number of provincial communities of practice, and in over ten local communities of practice for principals. Our communities of practice work with specific objectives across four key focus areas: School Leadership, Teacher Development, Learner Support and Early Childhood Development. A fifth area of interest is that of Cross-cutting Themes, addressing topics that are key to a number of areas in education. BRIDGE hosts over 70 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’S approach to knowledge management ensures that outputs from work with communities of practice and other partners is widely shared. This approach is summed up in BRIDGE’s Framework for Knowledge Management as set out below.
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.