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We are not an alternative school.
We are the alternative to schooling.

The Impact of Organisational Culture on Success

RN

Raaji Naveen

Jul 20, 2020

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Is tech-readiness alone enough to adopt online education?

Online education has taken the world by storm and is heralded by many as the one to stay. Schools and colleges are anxious about dealing with this ‘new’ mind-shift in the space of education.

And if you are thinking that we are having to adapt with the times, then what I’m about to tell you now will surprise you. Distance learning and online learning are both very old ideas. The first official correspondence education program, called the “Society to Encourage Home Studies”, was established in 1873. And in 1953, the “The Channel That Changes You”, ran educational material for approximately 38% of its total broadcast time. By 1989, the University of Phoenix had put together a fully online bachelor’s and master's degree. In 1996, a whole University was available online. Many of us may even remember the “on-TV” classes conducted by UGC channel during the heydays of Doordarshan.

As you can see, online education, even the kind we still use, is nearly 25 years old and the idea of distance learning, over 150 years.

So where is this thought of newness coming from?

Does it have something to do with being tech-ready? Or is there something that we are missing out? Will tech-readiness alone be the factor for educational organisations to thrive in the future or is there more? I suppose that by now you have realised that there is a magic ingredient that has always been responsible for learning organisations to adapt, build new ideas and thrive in any situation - pandemic or not.

And the magic ingredient is: Organisational Culture, explained as the values, beliefs and assumptions that organisations are guided by and the factors that decide if an organisation is accepting and adaptable to change in various situations.

Listed below are 6 aspects of HLC and Beyond 8’s organisational culture that make us feel not just hopeful but fiercely confident and excited about gracefully riding this wave of change and thriving in the new future that is ahead of us.

Learn Constantly

  • We are a live, emergent, and dynamic learning organisation. This has fostered a culture of acceptance, open discussions and holistic thought processes. We constantly seek support and guidance from experts outside our organisation; and we continue our internal learning efforts to build new initiatives, and other solutions all the time. We as individuals constantly adopt new roles and exchange them between ourselves thus reducing singular dependencies and eventually all of us learn to do a variety of things. We have a social group named AID (stands for All In a Day) where we share our experiments and excitement with one another so more members can use similar ideas with their own learner groups.

In these uncertain periods, our learning facilitators are not just adapting but bringing their creativity to the fore as well. All this with a “chin-up attitude”. In the pursuit of keeping the online learning experiences as rich as the on campus experience, they are leading this new bout of online learning in the most creative and enriching ways by being mindful of screen time issues and mental and emotional health of children.

Embrace Change

  • Change has been our constant; and the change process more critical than the change itself. The empathy and understanding required to onboard a team fully are critical to the success of any change being considered.

Over the years, we’ve felt the need and hence, led a few initiatives (social incubations), all close to our heart & core philosophy:

Karthavyam - Our global citizenship diploma in public problem solving
Elina - Our theory and practice for creating an equitable world where everyone is included
Militvaa - Our social entrepreneurship program and our outreach program
Kognify - Our online assessment learning platform
Explorers - Our incubation that focuses on sporting integrity
and Beyond 8 - Our futuristic educational paradigm that focuses on enabling passions and listening to the learner’s voice.

Education bodies around India have now started to include entrepreneurship education (akin to Militvaa) and design thinking (Karthavyam is based on the framework of design thinking) into their curricula too.

Develop Adaptability

  • Every time we were confronted by an unprecedented condition, we adapted quickly and created richer learning experiences for our learners. During the 2015 floods in Chennai, HLC became a flood relief and essentials-distribution centre. The Vardah cyclone that uprooted so many trees and plants across Tamil Nadu reinforced the need to have a sound understanding of nature and soil. We created Shashvatham, our farming initiative in which the learners grew 300 varieties of organic fruits, vegetables, and grains at the HLC Square Gardens.

Our alternative to schooling initiative, Beyond 8, started during this pandemic and has provided a very unique dream mapping experience for learners to voice their dreams and curate a path to follow their passions. Our thought leader for inclusion has put together a renewed, detailed and elaborate framework for including all learners. While we have been inclusive for the past 25 years, we have been constantly responding to the needs of individuals, evaluating our processes critically, learning from our mistakes and changing where change is needed. During this time, facilitators are busy upskilling by keeping their IKIGAI (the purpose that we live for) in mind.

Promote Intrapreneurs

  • Our thought leaders continue to develop new ideas and form teams to promote them so they may create greater value for our learners. By being leaders and innovators in some initiatives and enablers in others, our team members lead some and follow in others. By championing other’s ideas, their own initiatives too find greater support.

Our learners have been raising funds, conducting awareness programs, cooking and distributing food, healing hearts through innovative artwork, all this while they continue their academic learning journey in this pandemic.

We are flooded with requests to start various new initiatives by our learners at HLC and Beyond 8. Our alumni too are constantly involved in ongoing change processes while also creating impact in the new institutions that they are a part of.

Build Social Connectedness

  • Parents, teachers, learners, alumni, community members all work collaboratively. Social connectedness is key to building meaningful relationships. What started as a small effort in celebrating local heroes has become a deliberate practice in building an ecosystem of thought leaders and changemakers in society.

As philosopher Avishai Margalit says, “A big goal requires a ‘thick we’ network — a community of people who feel responsible for collaborating toward a shared purpose that they see as superseding their individual needs. Members of a community — as opposed to a simple network — expect relationships within the group to continue, and they even hold one another accountable for effort and performance.”

Lead with Compassionate Empathy

  • Be it the floods, rain holidays, Vardah, or the current pandemic, HLC has shown leadership through empathy. Because of this, we’ve always looked out for our security staff, support staff, learning facilitators, parents, our children and even the community around us. During these uncertain periods, we have always ensured that salaries are paid beforehand to every single stakeholder, and even given advances and increments to those most affected. We’ve given fee waivers and even reduced our fee receivables without hesitation or calls for consideration.

It is heartening to say that we are also offering Kognify, our online assessment learning platform free to all educational institutions that cater to the needs of the underprivileged. As a part of the Militvaa initiative we are working towards ideas that can support the schools that we have adopted, with online learning using creative ways.

By leading with compassionate empathy, we see many hands, minds and many voices willing to collaborate and participate in our endeavour of making education meaningful again.

These are by no means the only 6 ingredients needed for organisations to be adaptable to external changes, but as Chan Kim points to in his book, “The Blue Ocean Strategy”, constantly looking to create enriching experiences for everyone in the organisation’s ecosystem and actively changing without waiting for events to unfold are both needed to be able to adopt new ideas.

What do you think about the importance of organisational culture? How has it impacted you personally? Share with us on the comments below.

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