The ThirdWay Approach

Our work at ThirdWay typically has four strands — though our approach is heavily tailored based on the needs of our clients (we are all about customization).

  • Strand One — Diagnostic and Self-Assessment
    • During this phase we focus on doing a thorough analysis of what currently exists while also starting to unearth what needs to be true for key stakeholders to be invested in the work
    • We use our “6-Ps” Framework — Performance, People, Policy, Practice, Partners, and Power — and our EQUITY Framework
    • We conduct interviews, look at data, read key documents
    • Where possible, we visit sites and connect with those closest to the work by walking a mile in their shoes
  • Strand Two – The Playback and Emerging Action Plan
    • Using the 6-Ps Framework, we summarize what we have learned — on each of the six categories, what we hope to preserve and strengthen, what needs to change, and what levers for change need to be prioritized
    • At this point, we can also do a more “presentation” format of the Playback to gain feedback from stakeholders — what we got right and what we missed
    • Out of the Playback, a series of priorities emerge; we begin to flesh out what needs to happen immediately and what needs to happen over time
    • The Emerging Action Plan lays this out to ensure (a) the team has picked the right levers for change, and (b) work can start while full implementation plan is built
  • Strand Three — Implementation Planning and Collective Action
    • Once the team and key stakeholders believe the PlayBack and Emerging Action Plan reflect the pathway forward, we begin to build out a full Implementation Plan
    • The full plan includes outputs and quarterly milestones — while we have templates and samples, we also prioritize using whatever tools are most familiar to those charged with leading the plan
  • Strand Four — Capacity-Building and Coaching
    • Depending on the scope and needs of clients, we also provide group sessions and facilitation on topics defined as areas of common need identified in the self-assessment process (through the engagement)
    • We also provide executive coaching to senior team members with goals revealed in the self-assessment process

Sample client-driven projects (in alphabetical order) include:

  • Bloomberg Associates: Working with cities and mayors who want to make educational equity, juvenile justice reform, child welfare, and/or the intersection of all of these systems, a cornerstone of their agenda
  • Chiefs for Change:  Facilitating gatherings, knowledge sharing, and peer visits for 15 reform-minded Superintendents
  • The CityBridge Foundation: Developing an investment strategy to help most at-risk young people, in school and court involved
  • The Donaldson Adoption Institute: Establishing Let’s Adopt Reform! Initiative, public awareness campaign, and national policy agenda to radically improve outcomes for children in foster/adoptive care
  • Louisiana State Department of Education: Supporting state and districts to design and implement comprehensive plans to drive more equitable outcomes for students who struggle the most; conducting training, leading community learning sessions, coaching leaders, and building grassroots momentum
  • Raise DC: Working with senior leadership to craft comprehensive plan to serve most at-risk middle and high school students, including launching new discipline approaches and better programming for young people in alternative settings
  • Stand for Children: Providing strategic support for national initiatives; helping build local coalitions to support a comprehensive approach to equity
  • State University of New York Charter School Institute: Serving as an expert advisor and designer of an initiative to improve equity in how charters are held accountable, and in broadening the definition of success beyond test scores   
  • The New Teacher Project: Advising on new school design, coaching school districts on breaking school-prison pipeline, school turn-arounds, cross-agency partnerships, and labor agreements

ThirdWay-driven, long-term projects, in partnership with philanthropic and not-for-profit organizations. ThirdWay seeks opportunities to promote equity and increase diversity at leadership tables. Sample staff-driven, long-term projects include:

  • Discipline Revolution Project:  Working with Superintendents, charter leaders, independent schools, funders, and advocates to replace biased, “zero tolerance” discipline practices with better student supports and restorative practices
  • The Equity Fellowship: Designing, building momentum for, and facilitating an 18-month, city-wide fellowship for best-in-class teachers, administrators, and support personnel who get ‘beats the odds’ results for students with disabilities
  • Alternatives to Detention: Designing new educational, therapeutic, and holistic models for young adults who are court-involved and in long-term care

Districts & Charters

The ThirdWay Solutions Team has a wealth of experience in K-12 education.  We help charter management organizations, district teams, and other school partners get better results with students by helping clients improve their approach to planning, people, practices and/or policies.  We are particularly focused on equity — and improving outcomes for students who struggle.

Government & Non-profits

Government agencies and non-profits focused on child welfare, mental health, substance abuse juvenile justice, homelessness, and education often exist in silos and don’t have structured ways of learning from each other or working together.  We help organizations better meet their goals by helping them improve their approach to planning, people, practices and/or policies.  We are particularly focused on systems integration and helping clients execute bold, high-impact ideas to promote equity and undertake previously unthinkable tasks.

Corporations & Philanthropists

Corporations and philanthropists often wonder where they should invest time and resources to better realize their vision and mission. ThirdWay helps leadership teams tackle everything from lack of diversity in executive teams to incrementalism in organizational culture.  We are particularly interested in projects and organizations dedicated to realizing equity.