System of Support for Expanded Learning (SSEL) – California, USA

Center for Systems Awareness HUB

State-wide network for “expanded learning” outside schools and working with youth at risk

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 which 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 from working effectively towards its stated goal of supporting the learning and well-being of California children.

Starting in June 2017, Dr. Boell, Mr. Hanig and Dr. Senge supported four state-wide SSEL meetings to introduce tools and practices of organizational learning and systems awareness. Initially, they led these gatherings but eventually started to build the capacity of a core group of leaders within SSEL and transition responsibilities over to them. Over the course of these eighteen months, members of SSEL described a remarkable shift in the culture and social field from toxic and dysfunctional to generative and celebratory. You can read more about their transformation in Dr. Boell’s Stories of SSEL.

Next steps in the project journey is to launch 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