How do we use purpose as the bridge to engage parents, and as the mechanism to transform the interactions with their child from being fear-based to risk-encouraging?


What if…

the role of parents in their teens' educational journeys went far beyond volunteering or PTA meetings, and extended to parents examining and pursuing their own purpose journeys in parallel with their child?

What if…

parents and teens could be co-journeying on separate paths of purpose in parallel?  And this shifted the way parents thought about guiding their child?

What if…

parents believed the new status indicator wasn’t where their child got into college, but how unique and authentic a mission their child were pursuing?

“After a hard day at work it may be more natural to complain about one’s job than to talk about the parts that one finds meaningful. But it is both healthy for the parent and instructive for the child to frequently discuss in a family context the highest purpose that the parent has for the work that he or she does.”
— Bill Damon, The Path to Purpose


We believe strongly that a positive, purpose-based academic environment couldn’t be designed without a positive influence from parents.  We think the parent population might represent the greatest opportunity (and currently the most underdesigned) element in a traditional school system.  

From our empathy work in the fall, a meta-theme that emerged was the underlying fear-based culture that exists across the system and in all people, including students and parents.  For parents this is often fear that my child will fall behind, fear that he won’t get into a competitive “good” college, fear that she will struggle to find a (well-paying) career, and even fear that because of all these things, my child won’t be able to ever come back home to settle around the Palo Alto area.  One parent said “I want my kids to be able to come back here.  It feels wrong for them not to be able to come back home to a safe place.”

We are curious about how engaging parents through the lens of their own purpose journey could start to flip some of the prevalent fear-based culture.  

We strongly believe that purpose could not only exist alongside rigor, but actively complement and fuel it.



Take a look at our past and upcoming prototypes, and then share your comments, questions and ideas below! Interested in joining us on our journey of prototyping?  


// January 5 and 6, 2016

2 Parent Empathy Events

We ran two evening workshops with parents the first week in January.  Our goal was to understand:  

  1. How are parents in PA wired?  Who do they trust?  What do they really value?  How do they define success?  How do they currently engage with their kids?  What do they aspire to for their kids?
  2. How do parents relate to a new, different educational model (ie. purpose-fueled rigor)?  What are their fears/concerns?  What spurs excitement and buy-in?


Feeling inspired?  Journey with us as we scale prototypes this spring.  

Comments, ideas, feedback are all welcome below.

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