“Not about them without them” is a mantra in EPIK’s collaborative community change work. Rather than doing things to people or even for people, this principle is about doing work with people, particularly those who are designated beneficiaries of any given effort. It’s about listening, asking, involving, caring.

Here’s a great example of “Not about them without them.”

A “non-techie” teacher (she says she actually hates technology) recently wrote on Ed Surge about her experience when she was invited to participate in a workshop discussing K-12 education.

As a teacher, I have ideas all the time about how to improve the process of teaching and learning, but I usually just jot them down in a notebook and forget about them because I am never given the opportunity to turn them into reality. We never get the chance to meet people with the power to do that.

We’ve shared what a teen felt after a recent meeting that was designed around listening to youth. It’s striking to see the similarities in this teen’s feelings to what the teacher expressed.

“[Y]outh are often underrepresented and not given much say. Of course parents and teachers listen, but it’s just listening. This was different.

“Having a discussion like this one with several high-powered adults was the most empowering feeling I have felt in my life. To know that the adults were not only listening to all my ideas, but were able to actually make them happen gave me a lot of confidence.”

Who is the desired beneficiary of your work? How can you involve these people in your work? Share your “Not about them without them stories” in the comments below or email your story to michelle@epik.org


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