What would Tony do? by Marika Shioiri-Clark, Fellow at IDEO.org

Project Summary:

IDEO.org is working with the Architecture, Construction & Engineering (ACE) Leadership School to understand the role of community engagement and consider new ways the school might improve and systematize feedback loops between itself and the Albuquerque community.

Story Title:

What Would Tony Do?

Story Summary:

IDEO.org Fellow Marika Shioiri-Clark describes a new IDEO.org flash project, working with a school in New Mexico to design ways to improve feedback loops between the school and the community.


Sarah Lidgus and I just returned from an awesome, lightening-quick pro bono project with Architecture, Construction & Engineering (ACE) Leadership School in Albuquerque. We heard about ACE and their co-founder, Tony Monfiletto, while on the IDEO.org MyCollege project, and interviewed him as an expert in industry-led curriculum—an area that seemed promising for the model we were building as well. After the interview, Tony got back in touch with us to see if we might collaborate on a project with ACE around improving feedback loops between the school and the community. We were excited to see the school in action, and jumped at the chance.

In ACE’s case, “industry-led” means the school partners with those in the fields of Architecture, Construction and Engineering in the surrounding area in order to inspire curriculum. ACE’s project-based approach is critical to the success of the school, whose students are low-income kids who have been unable to succeed in Albuquerque Public Schools. They’ve been labeled as “bad kids” by a system that has continually failed them. But stepping into the school, we were immediately greeted with handshakes and hellos—from high schoolers. One student even asked us to come check out the model train project he was working on. These kids were excited. They were engaged. And most importantly, they were learning.

It was clear that the community of ACE began here, with the students. And after interviewing a bunch of local experts, educators, and parents, it was also clear that these students were the reason why they wanted to maintain strong ties with ACE. In fact, these community partners were looking for even more ways to engage with the school, and getting better feedback from them would begin by finding more ways to invite them in. And because ACE’s model is centered on intensive student support, leveraging all of these relationships on behalf of the students is key to their continued growth.

But growth is a funny thing at ACE. Often scale within the social sector is about rapid duplication, and sometimes without consideration of context. For Tony Monfiletto and ACE, this kind of rapid duplication doesn’t make sense. Tony loves to describe ACE as a highly adaptable organization, and uses the metaphor of a coral reef—a living system—as an analogy for the school. Growth for something like a coral reef is gradual, and it’s highly dependent on its environment. It’s a family of individuals.

Because of this, our ideas centered around small ways ACE might strengthen the ties within and between these “families.” Ideas like informal off-site meet-ups between parents and teachers, business cards and thank-you notes between students and professionals, and even better signage within the school to let visitors know where to go are simple ways in which the school can create stronger bridges between groups, and build bigger, more sustainable communities within ACE.

As we continue to work on issues around education, we will also be thinking about how to translate some of our learnings from ACE’s innovative model into an online setting. We’re already asking ourselves What Would Tony Do?

Link to the story on HCD Connect here: http://hcdconnect.org/stories/what-would-tony-do/