Synergy…making connections that create change

This notion of synergy and change has been flitting through my head all week. Human synergy is working together to create an outcome greater than one alone could achieve.  I’ve been reviewing some past projects and initiatives I’ve been involved with – all of which were successful because many people with different skill sets came together to create something none would have been able to do alone.  This week, a new initiative with great potential for creating positive change has landed on my work radar, and I’m already imagining the impact it may create in the lives of kids.

I also had a great conversation recently with a friend and colleague about the power of connecting people with ideas. As we shared stories I realized that one of my most successful programs of the past year- the VPAA GuysRead Club – is the perfect example of human synergy. It began as an idea formed when I heard several speakers talk about boys and reading at the 2008 FAME conference.  One of those people  was author Marc Aronson. I contacted Marc by email later to tell him I wanted to start a boys reading club and asked for his advice. He graciously offered to help. Next I asked eight of my colleagues if they would be willing to give some time and energy to mentor some boys in the club. Again, they agreed. With my principal’s approval, some brainstorming help from our reading coach, and cooperation from every middle school teacher in the school, we launched this club.

Over the past six months amazing things have happened. Several people have donated food for the meetings, Florida Gulf Coast University provided free tickets to a college basketball game, ESPN and other publishers sent free reading materials, and our Parents in Action donated funds to purchase books for the boys. The mentors have committed time and energy above and beyond school hours to provide opportunities for these boys to learn to love reading. They’ve taken them to ballgames, challenged them to trivia contests, and sat and read magazines and books with them. They’ve shared personal stories and made connections. These boys have changed. And these men have been the heart of the success of this program.

But in the background, all along the way, there has been Marc Aronson. He has answered questions, offered ideas for activities and resources, connected us with other authors,  and shared our story on his Non-Fiction Matters blog and in speeches given around the country. His interest has fueled our desire to make the program succeed. Like a biological feedback loop, each time he gave advice, we adjusted the program to make it better. Our boys have never met Marc, but they have benefitted greatly from his commitment to them.

The synergistic support of everyone involved made this program work.  A tiny idea has grown into a big deal. Next year we are planning to have Read Clubs for every middle school student – based on their interests. Now that’s synergy!

How has human synergy worked for you? Do you have a story to share?

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