Statewide Support for Learning Beyond School

Since mid-2017, Dr. Mette M. Boell, Dr. Peter Senge, and Robert Hanig, with support from the Stuart Foundation, have been partnering with the California Department of Education (CDE) to help transform California’s System of Support for Expanded Learning (SSEL).

SSEL is a complex system that includes agencies at the state, county and district levels and supports programming for 860,000 children in the state through roughly 5000 out-of-school programs. Together SSEL oversees a budget of $730 million and is led by Michael Funk, the Director of Expanded Learning at the California Department of Education.

The complex structure of systems nested within systems and no clear protocol for accountability and responsibility created structural tensions and prevented the SSEL to work effectively towards its stated goal of supporting the learning and wellbeing of California children.

The project started with four state-wide SSEL meetings to introduce tools and practices of organizational learning and systems awareness. In this initial phase, members of SSEL managed to produce what they describe as a “remarkable shift in the culture” from a “toxic and dysfunctional to generative and celebratory” social field. You can read more about the transformation in Dr. Boell’s Stories of SSEL. Gradually, a core group of SSEL leaders have emerged capable of designing and w facilitating gatherings to sustain this process.

Next Steps in the project center on a five-year partnership to deepen the development of organizational alignment at SSEL through a wider introduction of the tools and practices. Whereas the previous work focused on the interface between CDE and county offices, this next proposed phase will focus on working directly with the County Offices and their grantee organizations throughout the State of California.