November 15, 2021

Educopia Institute Annual Report 2020

Letter from the Director

2020 was a traumatic year, one that brought local and global inequalities and needs into glaringly sharp focus.

It forced all of us at Educopia to take a fresh look at our work and our values—personally, as a team, and within each of our affiliated communities and research projects.

2020 made us ask and answer hard questions about how we ensure that our work consistently aligns with our values and brings about real change in our field and in the world. Those questions uncovered gaps in our own infrastructure and in our team’s composition, gaps that were especially important to address given that our staff almost doubled in size early in the year, just before the pandemic’s impact began to be felt in the U.S.

We turned our community cultivation tools back onto ourselves to help us navigate this time of transition. We needed to deepen and strengthen our internal infrastructure at Educopia, building new processes, pathways, and scaffolding to make sure that our own staff felt a sense of cohesion and community, not just within their own affiliated communities or research projects, but also with each other as Educopians.

We worked to convert our previously individualized environment into a more streamlined team with clear roles, responsibilities, and boundaries. We asked tough questions and we listened to ourselves and to each other, cultivating more space for vulnerability and honesty across the organization.

2020 taught our team to prioritize our time differently. We now expect different things from each other. In 2020, we could no longer just focus on the next deadline or deliverable—we had to actively and creatively change those milestones to accommodate our often chaotic and unpredictable pandemic schedules.

Our emphasis moved from delivering outputs to deepening relationships with each other and with our many community members and partners.

As we made this shift, we surfaced our own invisible labor and after-hours work. We extended deadlines and built cushions into our new work to deliberately build buffers against burnout.

We cheered each other on as we took time off on hard days and admitted our own humanness, dropping the “I’ve got this!” You’ve got this!” postures that had often carried us into excess and overextension in the past.

Our people-first, values-driven approach to running an organization is not unique, but the way we experienced it in 2020 was new and important. The biggest lesson that this year brought home for us at Educopia is that healthy, vibrant communities are powerful mechanisms that we can use to take care of each other and our world.

The following pages highlight not just our concrete deliverables or “by the numbers” successes, but also the ways in which our successes are always predicated first on the strength of our relationships with each other.

We are grateful for all of the extended networks, project teams, collaborative engagements, and clients that shared this 2020 journey with us.

-Katherine Skinner
Executive Director