In May of 2015, Kirsten Brown was getting ready to finish the school year at the Kauffman School. At a year's end professional development meeting, Kirsten's friend Katie Laird had approached her with an idea she was excited about. Katie was also planning on applying for The Lean Lab's Incubator Fellowship program that was taking place over the summer and was interested in partnering with Kirsten on the venture together.
As a result, the two had applied to the Lean Lab and we accepted them into the Fellowship later that June on the premise of building a leadership pipeline.
One of the first skills every Lean Lab Fellow learns is user validation. This is the art of confirming that the problem you want to solve is actually a challenge that your intended audience is experiencing. "After going through user research and speaking to group of administrators and other educational professionals, we realized that the real issue was not a lack of interest, but a lack of sufficient professional development and collaboration opportunities for current leaders in education" Kirsten said.
This lead Kirsten and Katie to pivot to an initiative focused on effective and comprehensive professional development that could help educators across schools and districts easily share best practices. Kirsten and Katie continued developing the pilot after the fellowship concluded and gained enough traction that Lean Lab decided to add this initiative to their regular programming. After concluding, Kirsten utilizes many of the lessons and skills developed in the Lean Lab Fellowship in her career today.
Her latest project is Crossroads High School, set to open this August 2017. "Former students' parents would call me anxious about high school and their children's future. I've received so many calls and questions that I had to be part of the solution" Kirsten speaks as to the reason she decided to open the high school. "I want to take the community and principles that Lean Lab has built and create our own innovative and driven community in the school." During the Lean Lab Fellowship, Kirsten listed three ways the program really pushed her to become who she is today.
"The coaching and mentorship are really key to the success of whatever goal you are trying to accomplish. We could have worked on the project ourselves, but The Lean Lab gave us the tools and resources to accomplish our goals more effectively. As a result, we learned how to hone in on the real issues and challenges of our audience."
Among the coaching and mentorship, Kirsten also mentioned that the ability to challenge oneself and learning how business models are designed have also made her a more effective educator. Despite first impressions, schools have many things in common with regular businesses. "It's a really complex system building a school from the ground up. You have students and parents, administrators and policy-makers, and you have local government officials who all are invested in making projects like a new school a reality." While she still has to find more teachers and complete the strategic vision for the year coming up, Kirsten believes that The Lean Lab was one of the reasons she was able to make Crossroads High School come to life.
The Lean Lab is a Kansas City based community that launches transformational ed innovations that have national impact. They host an annual Incubator Fellowship program, to support 5 bold innovators, unafraid to push boundaries and build something that changes the way children learn. Become a Lean Lab fellow and receive coaching, capital & connections. #LLFellowship #LLCohort4 http://bit.ly/2oJyN68