REL Northwest’s work in furthering research-practice partnerships is spotlighted in the 2013 annual report just released by the William T. Grant Foundation. The New York-based foundation supports research on improving the lives of young people and is particularly interested in “when, how, and under what conditions research is used” to inform practice and policy.
To build connections between practitioners and researchers, the foundation launched a learning community that brings these two groups together. REL Northwest is one of 10 participants in this national network, which William T. Grant describes as showing “significant promise” as a forum for networking and problem solving. REL Northwest Director Christopher Mazzeo brings to the initiative REL Northwest’s experience working with eight diverse alliances that are examining priority issues such as college and career readiness, equity, and school improvement.
In the annual report, Mazzeo points out that “partnerships are hard work, especially if you want to have an impact. [Through the learning community], I’ve seen a growing number of people working in this space and that’s gratifying. I think the potential of partnerships is to increasingly change the mindset of research and practice so that researchers are more practice-minded and practitioners are more evidence-minded. I think I was always hopeful, but after the learning community, I’m more positive than I was before.”
In addition to REL Northwest and our sister laboratory REL Midwest, the twice-yearly learning community meetings bring together education leaders from alliances in Baltimore (MD), San Francisco (CA), Chicago (IL), New York City (NY), Austin (TX), Louisville (KY), Fort Worth (TX), Boston (MA), and Bellevue (WA). “It’s been invaluable to hear from policymakers and practitioners and how they work with the partnerships,” says Mazzeo. “There’s a strength in our diversity.”