The Fairy Tale of The Learning Ecosystem Trilogy and the 3 little reports

We are honored to present the Learning Ecosystem Trilogy, an amazing 3 year journey of collaborative international action-research around human learning and flourishing in our complex world. It is definitely hard to briefly and meaningfully share how this Trilogy and the 3 Reports come together, but I will try… We humans are stories, and stories are very important for all my family and for me, as they play a relevant role in my life and growth. Famous Italian writer and storyteller Gianni Rodari said that Fairy Tales are the place for all hypotheses. As a father of a 5 year old daughter and a 8 year old boy, I daily experience the power of stories for learning, unlearning, understanding, questioning, imagining new worlds and enjoying our time together. So today I will share with you the Learning Ecosystem Trilogy Fairy Tale:

I hope you enjoyed it! For all that are willing to take a deeper look, below you will find the links to the 3 reports, co-crafted between 2020-2023 by the NetEdu Project team (PSITIC Research group in FPCEE Blanquerna URL). These examine how learning ecosystems change, evolve and flourish over time in diverse contexts. They consider the systemic enablers which need to be unleashed and seeded by decision makers and leaders in the ecosystem to enable system-wide learning and human flourishing to occur. The first report offers an overview and an evolutionary framework for considering the emergence of learning ecosystems. The second examines learning ecosystem development at a school level, through the use of The SchoolWeavers Tool in South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan. Finally, the third report articulates and examines how learning ecosystems may be supported at a National level, through the use of the Learning Ecosystem Tool for National Government, deepening in a Case Study in Ghana.

The reports offer research-based explorations within international contexts into the experiences that school and regional leaders face in embracing a Learning Ecosystems approach, and weaving relational capacities into their systems for deeper and wider levels of learning and flourishing. Before the report links, we also invite you to see them through a telescope:

Thank you to all who have indicated an interest in reading and reflecting on the Learning Ecosystem Trilogy Reports, and for continuing to co-create and craft this journey with us. We hope that these efforts will support leaders of learning, wherever they may be found, with practical, experiential, and supportive tools to enable the “being and becoming” of a thriving learning ecosystem culture.

We hope they bring you reading pleasure!

Report 1: An Evolutionary Framework for Flourishing Learning Ecosystems


Report 2: SchoolWeavers Tool – Weaving school ecosystems for belonging and human-centred learning


Report 3: Mapping and analyzing national Learning Ecosystems for SDG4. The NetEdu Hub in Ghana


Our tremendous thanks to the whole team that has worked selflessly, and with commitment, on this project. Thanks too to all our colleagues and friends who have walked this journey with us, shared their wise advice and insights, and helped us to trial and prototype this work. Our gratitude too to our organisational partners – UNESCO, Jaconbs Foundation, PSITIC, Blanquerna Universitat Ramon Llull, T-Tel Ghana, the Ghanaian Ministry of Education, and DXTera. We welcome your ongoing engagement, and if you would like to give us your feedback, have a further conversation, experiment with any of these tools, or partner with us in the continuing evolution of these approaches, please let us know by completing this expression of interest: or by emailing me on

Thank you for your friendship and support! 

Jordi Díaz Gibson. Learning Ecosystem Trilogy Lead, Professor and researcher in FPCEE Blanquerna, Ramon Llull University (Barcelona, Spain). Lead of the NetEdu Project.

Learning Ecosystems Trilogy: ’Weaving our relational capacity for flourishing futures’

Jordi Díaz Gibson PhD, Trilogy Lead. NetEduProject, PSITIC Blanquerna (URL).

We are thrilled to present the ‘Learning Ecosystems Trilogy’, a collection of three reports that gather the intense international and collaborative research, discussion and practice led by the NetEdu team (PSITIC, Blanquerna- Ramon Llull University) in the last three years (2020-2023). Our key focus in the Trilogy is the urgent need of new educational leaders equipped and empowered to heal, seed and weave human connection and social infrastructure across our learning systems for flourishing futures. This is not about superheroes or superheroines, either about bottom up or top down change, it is about new leaders unfolding across spaces, facilitating and weaving the conditions for our collective emancipation and for a new system to emerge. Our work contributes to ground how ecosystemic leaders -or weavers- are becoming extremely influential in the learning ecosystems’ growth, spanning multiple boundaries, seeding synergies, and empowering people, organizations and whole communities for deeper and wider learning and flourishing.

The Trilogy is formed by these three interlinked reports (NetEdu 2023).

Learning ecosystems are evolving as a new paradigm that is interwoven with a diverse body of previous influential research as Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (1974); Paulo Freire’s Critical Pedagogy; Edgar Morin’s Complexity Theory (2001); Provan, Milward, Kenis and Klijn’s work around Interorganizational Networks and Network Governance (2001); Alan Daly’s research on Social Networks in Education (2010); latest work of VanderWeele on Human Flourishing (2020), and the work led by Dr. Jordi Riera in PSITIC, Blanquerna Ramon Llull University, in the last 20 years around systemic and networked-based education. All these studies share a central idea: hyper-fragmentation and isolation within our educational systems’ silos is drastically reducing our capacities to interact, learn, feel well and evolve individually and collectively, a reality that has been globally visualized and exacerbated by the pandemic. Thus, we are aware that we need to collaborate, co-create, co-design, and several co-, but we don’t have the needed infrastructure and culture in place.

Learning ecosystems are complex and difficult to narrow, and we conceptualize them as the natural environments where people learn and unlearn across life time. So, an initial idea is that we all already live in learning ecosystems with diverse and contextualized characteristics as we inhabit the planet. Thus, learning ecosystems are influenced by many social forces of all diverse contexts, as resources, cultures, laws, policies, traditions, leaderships, organizations, people and relationships, among others. Ultimately, our work takes a social and relational perspective to understand and weave learning ecosystems, underlying that learning and flourishing opportunities are inherently and actively shaped by a wide network of people and stakeholders that are specific from each context.

Thus, this complex social network extends far beyond the traditional frame of family and formal education, including a wide range of influential individuals and organizations. Some of them interact directly with children and adolscents -as schools, highschools, universities, libraries, community centers, theaters, museums, after school programs, sport centers, social networks, digital devices, video games, religious organizations, neighborhood spaces, among others-. Others interact indirectly with them -as educational districts, municipalities, governments, Ed tech companies, among others. All of these stakeholders belong to diverse sectors -including public, private, civil society and combinations of these three-; they are part of multiple systems –education, health, youth, wellbeing, technology etc; including professionals from different disciplines -as education, psychology, tech, sociology, health, architecture, research, and so on-; and finally, all of them are learners. Therefore, the relational capacities within and across the learning ecosystem determine the learning and flourishing possibilities and opportunities offered to all people and communities, especially to the most vulnerable ones. 

Working groups in the Learning Ecosystems’ tool prototype. Greater Accra, Ghana 2022.

In the Learning Ecosystem Trilogy we take a careful and deep look into how leaders across the ecosystem weave this relational capacity in their contexts for deeper and wider learning and flourishing. And we understand the relational capacity of a learning ecosystem as 1- the social connection between all people, and 2- the social infrastructure that weaves the diverse parts of the system. And we will try to explain this idea a little further. Initially, we believe that seeding social connection becomes a central priority in our learning environments for individual and collective flourishing. We can’t learn and flourish in an unsafe relational environment that makes us feel that we don’t belong. As the Office of U.S Surgeon General states (2023), we live in a fragmented society where isolation and loneliness are a dangerous consequence of the imperative of our times, an epidemic that strongly affects health, learning and growth of children, young people, adults, teachers, leaders, parents, elders, whole schools, whole communities and so on. And we know that most vulnerable people and groups are the ones suffering more from this epidemic and its consequences. Thus, social connection is a primitive human need at the core of the survival and evolution of our species, which is why that for flourishing futures we must prioritize ahead of instruction and achievement, the design of safe and flourishing environments that protects and supports us all across spaces and lifetime: students, teachers, educators, parents, etc. – especially the most vulnerable.

Second, is the fact that social connection becomes, beyond a human need to be fulfilled, an invisible but powerful infrastructure that can enable or inhibit learning and flourishing opportunities for people and the planet. This idea suggests that any desired change and transformation in education that we can dare to imagine, such as a new learning reform, method, strategy, tool, mindset, culture, leadership or policy, is directly influenced by the quality of our social connection among the people that are involved in all levels of the system -from design to implementation-. Thus, change is inherently relational and systemic, starting with the inner relationship with ourselves, with relationship with territory and nature, including relationships between students, between student and teacher, between student and all educators that interact in the wider and natural environment; and last but not least, change is interdependent on all social connections between educators, leaders, social workers, health professionals and/or parents, among many others, that are also part of the natural environment where we all live and learn. It is across this invisible social infrastructure -also named as social capital or social fabric- that we all interact, challenge ourselves, exchange resources, access new opportunities, learn, grow and find sense and meaning to our lives. Thus, the better we weave the social infrastructure in our systems and organizations, the greater will be the opportunities and possibilities for all to learn and flourish.

The Learning Ecosystem Trilogy relies on initial descriptive studies emerged in the last decade where we have collectively explored and framed the learning ecosystems paradigm and learnt from worldwide experiences –UNESCO, Jacobs Foundation, WISE, Dream a Dream India, Global Education Futures, The Weaving Lab, Learning Planet, Remake learning, Education Reimagined, among others-. The Trilogy opens the door to a new level of development of studies in the field, presenting new experiential research-practice that aims to support leaders that are not aligned or even familiar to the ecosystemic approach to unfold the relational capacity in their communities and organizations for flourishing futures. Thus, the work presents the experience of more than 500 world wide education leaders playing and experimenting with new tools and frameworks, facing contextual resistances and contributing to understand real needs and elevate new thinking around our purpose. The Trilogy is formed by three complementary action-research reports where we explore crucial questions around how to weave Learning Ecosystems, claiming to inspire new leaders across the system -macro, meso and micro- to accelerate the development of our flourishing futures. 

The Trilogy is a direct call to governments, policy and decision makers to support, train and give wings to these new type of leaders to weave the relational and collective capacities in our learning ecosystems, taking care and empowering them is strategically fundamental for our flourishing futures. And finally, we deeply hope that this work offers all amazing weavers in the world a whisper of experiential inspiration, with new frameworks, guidelines, tools and processes, all of them to be discussed, adapted and lifted with new meaning and purpose to design and lead flourishing learning ecosystems worldwide. They truly are one of the philosopher stones for our flourishing futures.

Trilogy Presentation next November 23rd 2023, from 4 to 5.30 CET. Hosted by the Weaving Lab, the session will be facilitated by Robyn Whittaker (NetEdu team) and Jordi Díaz Gibson (NetEdu Lead), and other team members will be in attendance to contribute to the thinking. Nadia Chayney (The Time Zone Research Lab) and Pavel Lucksha (Global Education Futures) will engage as reflective thinking partners to the team. Please respond to this survey if you plan to attend, or would like to contribute your thoughts to this ongoing work. In the session we will open and share the published reports, and will also present a Learning Journey where we want to deeply discuss the work with all of you.


The Learning Ecosystem Trilogy is a reality thanks to UNESCO, Jacobs Foundation, the Government of Spain and the Ministry of Education of Ghana that have supported and funded the action research developed. Special and deep thanks to Valtencir Mendes and Borhene from UNESCO; Ross Hall, Nora Marketos, Romana Kropilova and Donika Dimovska from Jacobs Foundation, thanks for trusting us to lead this amazing learning journey. 

The shared learning journey has been rich and complex, deeply impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic and post pandemic forces, but full of inspiration and meaning. It has been a complete honor to share this journey with a team of amazing human beings, extending our collaboration across more than 1000 thoughtful and committed educators and leaders from the five continents. They all meaningfully enriched every single thought and piece of this Trilogy. 

NetEdu Team and Authors of the Trilogy Reports 

Jordi Díaz-Gibson (Ramon Llull University); Robyn Whittaker (Kaleidoscope Lights); Mireia Civís (Ramon Llull University); Yi-Wha Liou (National Taipei University); Dale Allen (DXtera Institute); Peter Fagerström (Educraftor); Enikö Zala-Mezö (Zurich University of Teacher Education); Akwasi Addae-Boahene (T-TEL Ghana); Eric Ananga (T-TEL); Avril Kudzi (Jacobs Foundation); Lana Jelenjev (The Hum); Anna de Montserrat, Annabel Fontanet, Mireia Lerena, Míriam Cos and Estel Torruella (Ramon Llull University).

Sense of belonging: an invisible essential condition for thriving school-based Learning Ecosystems

Last Friday December 3rd 2021 we celebrated our SchoolWeavers Workshop with the project Community of researchers, school leaders, teachers and district leaders from 17 countries around the world, spread over the five continents. These precious time together allowed us a deeper weaving, a deeper thinking and a deeper support between people froma schools, universities and educational organizations who join the SchoolWeavers. It is amazing how connected and aligned we are beyond our contexts and diverse realities, we speak the same language and we face similar issues, and most importantly, we share the purpose of reimagining our school communities to enhance learning and wellbeing opportunities for all. Thanks for your involvement in the session and to share your learnings, thoughts, ideas and expertise with all of us. The Workshop experience is an invaluable source of collective wisdom that allowed us to grow together and strengthen our community and purpose. 

The ScholWeavers tool is an International project led by the NetEduProject team (Catalyzed by PSITIC, Blanquerna) and funded by the Jacobs Foundation and the Government of Spain. The intention behind the SchoolWeavers tool is to weave school communities around the globe to rethink learning and bound the transition from standardized educational systems to human and caring ecosystems that enhance personalized learning and equity. The tool claims to facilitate a process of cultivating and weaving trustful ecosystems in school communities around the world, strengthening and expanding meaningful human interconnections within and across school borders, focusing on seeding a relational environment that holds and inspires the best version of all its members. 

During the session, we explored how we can better create opportunities for a sense of belonging in our lives, schools and communities. We started by sharing experiences where we felt that we belong, and discussed how these sense of belonging ideas resonated with our dayly work. Then, we shared the school and university experiences to support the engagement of all school actors (students, families, teachers, leaders, staff and community collaborators). And finaly we shared how we are doing all this through the ScholWeavers tool. 

A key assumption of the SchoolWeavers model is that a sense of belonging is essential for us to feel connected and involved in our communities. Thus, a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need that is crucial in the process of weaving learning ecosystems. Here we can grasp a few ideas shared around the science of sense of belonging.

  • Social relationships are important because they provide opportunities to belong and grow together. 
  • Sense of belonging makes people feel distinctive and special, so a lack of it is associated with a host of negative psychological outcomes. 
  • Sense of belonging increases positive interaction between individuals and is related to feeling trust and passion. 
  • It also fosters individual and community resilience.
  • A good organizational culture can play an outsize role in fostering belonging via beliefs and values.
  • Sense of belonging in students drive positive peer and teacher relationships and helps to intervene against bullying. 
  • Finally, sense of belonging in students is also related to academic achievement, expectations and aspirations. It also adds more value to learning experiences increasing self efficacy. 

Therefore, we should create opportunities for people to feel and experience a sense of belonging to our communities as an invisible but powerful condition in the work we are all doing in our schools and universities. Some of the ideas shared by team members were: ‘if everybody knows that they will be heard, this creates a powerful sense of belonging’; ‘feeling valued and that we belong is essentia on building trust’; ‘we should shift thinking from -I do what I do and I belong- to -I belong and then I do what I do-’; ‘being yourself is a key ingredient to be part of the community, and allows you to LEARN and participate in a wider range of community experiences’; ‘having a supportive and encouraging environment cultivates our sense of belonging’.

As a beautiful gift, our colleagues and leaders from Daniel Mangrané School (Catalonia, Spain) and Montemorel School (Chia, Colombia) presented their ongoing experience on strategies to involve the school community in the SchoolWeavers project. Mainly, these experiences and strategies focus on creating spaces to engage with all actors in the community, exchange ideas and actively listen them. Daniel Mangrané has linked the Tool model (Showed in the images above) to their ongoing school pilars: Cultivate dimension is related to cohesion within the school community in a project called “junt@smilor” that involves participation in the daily life of the school. Facilitate dimension involves immersing in innovative projects through the process called #makingmagrané. Thrive dimension focus on #strategiclearning, a learning comprehension where students not only get good marks but focus on individuals. With this in mind, they are mobilizing their community with teachers and students involving also families. It is highly interesting the way students are actively involving their families in the project.

Montemorel School main strategies used in the initial phase are to generate expectations and prepare communities around the different dimensions the tool proposed in its model. They work in each dimension progressively starting from empathy and finishing with equity. Some of the strategies used are: To share videos in families-teachers meetings; To develop human flourishing workshops; To explain benefits and goals the tool will help to achieve through posts on social media; To organize Individual meetings with community actors (parents, administrators, students) to talk about dimensions. 

Some final ideas from our discussion

  • Sense of belonging is essential in the development and involvement in the SchoolWeavers project
  • We need holistic and interconnected strategies to reach all school actors and weave a collective sense of belonging in our community.
  • It is important to explain to schools and teachers that the tool is not to evaluate their work but to improve learning. 
  • It is important to open spaces to share better with families what we are doing and the sense of education. Sometimes they don’t understand why schools are proceeding in some ways at the same time that we do not take advantage of the potential of the families being engaged with the school project and feeling that they belong.
  • We need to understand that many changes are needed to weave better ecosystems, so as leaders we have to use diverse and multi dimensional strategies.
  • Researchers can better support school communities in the SchoolWeavers by being part of their team and purpose, being part and belonging to the school communities.
  • Although some circumstances are similar between contexts others are different and need differentiated and contextualized approaches.

Schools, universities and educational organizations who join the School Weavers tool project are co-creating learning ecosystems around the globe, and at the same time, are starting to become a global learning ecosystem. We are part of something greater, we belong to a wider movement where energies and efforts support learners to take care of themselves, society and planet, and we are not alone, there are other communities and schools sharing this values and mooving toward these learning goals. We are the type of change we want to see in our schools, experiencing a shift in our collective mindset beyond achievement, deeply taking into account relational and collaborative processes to strengthen human relationships, and holistacaly support each other in our learning and living journey.

Invitation to UNESCO-NetEdu Learning Ecosystem discovery event

We invite you into a participatory discussion and the project initiation of the UNESCO-NetEdu Learning and Digital Ecosystem Tool. Sign up now to October 27th 5- 6.30pm CET (RSVP here). We would like to engage with you on the novel approach being taken to co-design and co-prototype an online tool aimed to support government leaders and policymakers to weave country and local learning and digital Ecosystems.

Our hope is that, in time, this tool will support and enhance opportunities for lifelong learning and wellbeing at country and regional levels. The intention for the tool is to facilitate a process of cultivating and weaving trustful and innovative learning ecosystems, through strengthening the quantity and quality of meaningful interconnection between public, private and civil society stakeholders.

The project is led by the NetEduProject –FPCEE, Blanquerna– in collaboration with Teach MIllionsKaleidoscope lights and the Jacobs Foundation. The tool is being commissioned and supported by UNESCO and will be built in the context of the Global Education Coalition, as part of the efforts to achieve a resilient and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

We are hoping to connect with potential partners that share our collective purpose and that would be interested in the further collaborative development of the UNESCO-NetEdu tool, as well as share their experiences and learnings within this space. At this point, the tool is in process of development. A prototype pilot is being designed for application in a country to be selected. 

The Ecosystem tool will use social network analysis and Ecosystemic visualization features, allowing users to collect live data from social relationships, map community interconnections, analyze strengths and weaknesses and finally, translate insights into strategic action to strengthen the learning and digital ecosystem. 

We are very looking forward to your participation.

With gratitude,

UNESCO and NetEdu team

Practical wisdom from the NetEdu Workshop on Cultivating trust in learning ecosystems

Last Tuesday January 19th 2021 we celebrated our NetEdu Workshop on TRUST as a fundamental seed to be cultivated in learning ecosystems. It was lovely to see and listen to you all, and was amazing to share the learning space with more than 40 leaders and educators from the 5 continents that are really devoting their energy on making educational systems more human, relational and interwoven. The term ‘Learning Ecosystem‘ is gaining a powerful attention across the world -and this will increase in 2021- as a crucial approach to transform education and enhance learning opportunities for all, empower every student as a changemaker, weave caring and meaningful relationships within and across school boarders, enable school-community collaboration, grow individual and collective well-being and foster planet sustainability. But the huge expectations on the concept and named outcomes contrast with the low research based knoledge and understanding we have around how we can weave these human ecosystems and try to enhance all these relevant and ambicious challenges. And this is why the NetEdu Community and all these faces are so important!

Meditating and connecting to our collective purpose

However, there is already a big consensus around the idea of TRUST being the glue of learning ecosystems, but we strugle when we are willing to land in schools, districts and cities and start weaving meaningful relationships based on individual and collective TRUST. And this was the purpose of our session, to capture our collective experience and expertise to enlight the dialogue with practical wisdom. For this, we had the wonderful close testimony from three leadership teams from diverse countries that are using our tools to collect data around TRUST in their educational ecosystem levels and build TRUST as a crucial seed and sistemic outcome. Down here I will share some of the highlights of the session shared by members and facilitators, not as a conclusion but as a starting point to continue our glocal conversation and learning journey around how are we building trust in worldwide learning ecosystems.

One of the words that best captured the very rich and deep discussion that we had was “together“. Trust is built when we engage around shared hopes and dreams, and are able and willing to work together to achieve them. It can be expressed through words with a “com-“prefix, that indicate togetherness, such as “Com-passion” (shared struggle) and “Com-fort”(shared strength). Trust is also built when there is integration and “togetherness” individually across heart, mind and spirit, and organizationally and systemically across different systems levels and objectives, for instance education department, district, school leaders, educators, learners and community levels. 

In this sense, being integrated within ourselves also allows for healthy mirroring to occur. It is now known that the phenomenon of  mirroring is a neurological, biological and emotional occurence. We work well together when we are able to mirror back to each other what is happening in our system. Students thrive in environments where teachers and leaders are able to mirror to them what agency looks like. It is therefore so important for us to attend to these levels of teacher and leader wellbeing, so that these environments of healthy mirroring can occur – and not to focus solely on what is happening at the learner level. When leadership and educator levels are well, and are integrated across heart, mind and spirit, environments are created where not only learners, but everybody within that system can thrive. 

Social Network analysis helps visualize emotional and intangible exchanges in the ecosystem

We also discussed how trust struggles to emerge because of the lack of “familiarity” with an organization, with someone or with her or his work: familiarity is connected to empathy and compassion, and may emerge from an authentic interest in the other person and from testing ways to connect with his or her work. This last point is particularly salient for trustful interactions in inter-organizational contexts, where people may have a preconception of how distinct their different organizations and actions are. In this sense, a “silo structure” and individualistic culture, where there is low transversality and low empathy, dramatically decreases trust across the whole organization.

Therefore, the ability to listen emphatically becomes a proxy for benevolence. To develop a trusting environment, we need first to insist on developing an authentic disposition towards students’ wellbeing. A caring teacher, for example listens empathically, knows how to express and make sure that the student felt that she/he is genuinely interested in her/his well-being. We also believe that teachers and staff should always be able to step back, emphatically, and distinguish what the student “is” from how she/he may behave or have learned. Institutionalized spaces and dispositions to express feelings and emotions are a key element. For this we need to work on rebuilding the relationship we all may have with mistakes, distinguishing the error from the person who commits it, and this happy-error culture needs to travel from classes to teachers labs. In this sense, trust in a school or community setting is a situation where the individual is empowered and not judged by his or her actions. The lack of judgment was also central in the discussion as a cross-sectional trust driver.

However, measuring trust in order to inform the conversation and enact was also a relevant piece in our conversation. Colleagues from Barcelona shared the metaphore placed by Kaplan in 1964. As we guess from the image below, an illuminated area is an area where it is possible, even simple, to find something and obtain quantitative data. The light provided by the research itself means that the data found can be presented as objective, even indisputable. The dark street is the rest of the space, and these are the areas where obtaining data would be complex, perhaps impossible in relation to the means available. Thus, collecting data on trust in practice can be sometimes imprecise but extremely meaningful and useful to strengthen the community and weave the ecosystem. And this was highlighted by leaders as a core value of the research-practice partnership lived and experienced with diverse tools co-developed in the NetEdu community.

Regarding school leader’s relationships with teachers and other staff, we shared that it is essential for school leaders to replicate these relational features in their interactions: coherence is fundamental to promote a caring and trusting environment. Also, for this latter kind of relationship, we need to rethink the idea of control as a support on teachers’ activities, for example, shouldn’t be an external judgement but collaborative and adaptive support in order to foster trust: their formulation and implementation may be co-constructed and adaptable to ground dynamics. In this sense, we discussed the differences between the trust-terms Solidarity and Support. Solidarity is connected to community and a sense of belonging, and is an ongoing process, while support can be momentary as a feeling of “someone having your back”, as the school leader or the colleges.

Regarding the city level ecosystem, we came into the idea of the need of supporting the multiplicity and interconnection of diverse formal and informal networks that conform the whole ecosystem, identifying weaving opportunities and duplicities and favouring the flow of resources exchange. The strategies discussed to generate trust across levels were mainly based to create a relational climate in the network of diverse organizations and professionals based on horizontal and supportive relationships, considerng purpose and previous learnings of the participants, and facilitating universal learning conditions where everyone feels part of the whole and feels supported to participate. It was also relevant the intent of building new learning across all actors through spaces of metacognition, sensemaking and deep reflection; thus favoring the increase of professional capital among teachers and educators, and being faithful in each session to coherence and symmetry priciples: what we want to happen in our organizations and classrooms, we make it happen first with the global network. Thus, four systemic strategies were shared to be developed at this macro level of the ecosystem ecosystemic: leverage Systems thinking and networks to create a shared vision; focus on collective intelligence and co-ideation; personalize and contextualize; and co-design solutions to create the enabling conditions for change.

Finally, we were all invited to continue our deep conversation in our local contexts and organizations. A second invitation was to encourage all of you to consider whether your work on trust could be captured in a blog post and shared across our community and beyond (contact us if you have an idea for that;-). In our view it’s vital that all of us are encouraged to continue to experiment with the ideas around cultivating trust in learning ecosystems and specifically wrestle with applying and learning from them. We will end with special thanks to all the energizers of the session: Juan David and Diego Pinzon, school leaders from Montemorel School in Cundinamarca, Colombia; David Vannasdall, superintendent weaving the Arcadia Unified School District of 12 schools from California, United States; and Tatiana Soler, Victoria Ibañez and Imma Adell, co-leaders of the City School network Networks for Change weaving around 300 schools in Barcelona, Spain. And of course, special thanks to our beautiful trust builders and co-facilitators in the session, Alan Daly, Gitte Miller, Martin Scanlan and Juan David Pinzón.

NetEdu Workshop: Cultivating trust in learning ecosystems

Hello friends from the NetEdu Community,

In our collective journey of transitioning from standardized educational systems to human and caring learning ecosystems, we are happy to share with all of you the date and focus of the next NetEdu Workshop that will happen on January 19th 2021 from 5 pm to 7.15 pm CET time (by Zoom). This time the workshop discussion will be focusing on a hot area for the global project: How leaders cultivate the seeds of learning and caring ecosystems, and specifically we will focus on trust building as a key seed for ecosystemic growth. For this we will have three leaders as panelists that have used our NetEdu tools from diverse ecosystem levels from around the world:

– Juan David Pinzon, school leader and principal from Cundinamarca, Colombia –Montemorel School
– David Vannasdall, superintendent, district leader from California, United States -the Arcadia Unified School District
– Tatiana Soler, Victoria Ibañez and Imma Adell, School network leaders from Barcelona, Spain –Networks for Change-.

We will have a deep dive on trust drivers and consraints, its relevance, its measurement and its meaning, with crossed discussion from the leaders ground, we will also have breakout rooms, a fish bowl and of course, many surprises to come. As we usually do, building community will be a goal for us so you all can invite your close networks and aligned partners in your local or global contexts. We also share with you our latest blog post also focused on trust as a pillar of learning ecosystems: A question of trust: the case of the Arcadia Unified School District.

If you are interested in joinng the session please contact Jordi Díaz-Gibson (

Warm regards,

How learning ecosystems evolve and how can leaders weave the whole change process

Weaving educational ecosystems in our districts and cities has become one of the greatest worldwide challenges for our systems to enhance learning and equity for the new era. The UNESCO (2020) publication “Education in a Post-COVID World: Nine Ideas for Public Action” indicates that those communities that have responded in an innovative, effective and resilient way to the crisis of COVID-19 are those who had shown greater collaboration between teachers, and between school and community actors. These ideas are also shown by other recent studies on school networks by Daly (2020) Azorín (2020) and Ion & Brown (2020). The reality of this pandemic has reminded us as a species that we are deeply connected to one another (Lancet 2020).

Learning ecosystems are social infrastructure formed by diverse actors that share a purpose, and engage in collaboration to co-design and co-implement innovative responses to existing social and educational challenges. Learning ecosystems provide a new understanding of education from an ecosystemic perspective of actors and their relationships; they challenge traditional organizational boundaries while providing place-based focus on local schools, neighborhoods, cities, or transnational networks; they are based on systemic and cross-sectorial collaboration; and pursue systemic impact (Díaz-Gibson et al., 2020). Thus, one of the most relevant questions in the global educational sphere is how learning ecosystems can be intentionally supported, cultivated and weaved, and how these place based ecosystems grow and evolve over time.

A natural way to approach and better understand learning ecosystems’ development and growth process is to dig into how biological ecosystems change and evolve. Science shows us that collaboration between organisms and species, not struggle for survival that allows ecosystems to evolve and species to truly flourish. As Darwin defended, if humans are the most advanced species it’s because we have the most advanced means of collaborating, and our communities care for the most vulnerable, the sick, the elderly and impoverished. Thus, collaboration is actually a natural and social driver for species survival and for thriving communities.

Ecosystems evolution is drawn by ecological succession, understood as the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time, where a network of different populations and organisms coexist and interact. The time scale for a biological ecosystem to evolve can be decades -for example, after a wildfire-, or even millions of years. The community begins with relatively few pioneering plants and animals and develops through increasing complexity until it becomes stable or self-perpetuating as a climax community. The engine of succession becomes the impact of established organisms upon their own environments. In other words, intraction among species and within the environment are the drivers of change in all ecosystems.

Colleagues in the NetEduProject have been studying networks, partnerships and ecosystems that enhance learning and equity in the last two decades (Daly, 2010; Riera and Civís, 2008; Díaz-Gibson, 2014; Díaz-Gibson et al, 2017 and 2020). Our learnings show that the development of learning ecosystems and their relational networks become a taugh and complex process that needs time and efforts to be properly cultivated, weaved, and consolidated. Personal relationships require time and intention to emerge and sustain, and their growth involves devoting intentional efforts. With this in mind, Mireia Civís and I have worked on a model to cultivate and weave learning ecosystems in three non linear steps, where we identified some patterns of evolution. Thus, to weave learning ecosystems we need to focus on different conditions depending on its level of maturity:

Biological and learning ecosystem’s evolution/ NetEduProject
  1. The initial stage of the ecosystem’s growth is shown in the image as ‘Young network’. Following the idea of ecological succession, ecosystems change depends on the initial conditions found in the social network, and the type and number of actors, and the quantity and quality of relationships draw an initial starting point. At this stage, it is necessary to develop a structural design to cultivate the social foundations that will sustain the whole ecosystem: trust, empathy, recognition of others and collective purpose. It is the moment where members share goals and expectations, adjust rhythms and levels as new relationships are woven. This social capital will sustain the future development of the whole ecosystem of people and organizations, and will become the pillars that pave the way for a new collaborative culture. At this point, collective learning is a priority flow that needs to be planned, at the same time, will be part of the network’s own working culture. Ecosystems can take from one to three years to move into a second stage, and only the construction of solid intangible pillars will allow networks to change and evolve.
  2. The second stage, named as ‘Mature network’, is more difficult to limit in time as its duration depends on several factors beyond the initial network conditions, such as investment, political support or system coherence. Here, we need to move towards the development and sustainability of social networks, and one of the aims is to consolidate the transition from individual to institutional commitment. It becomes a stage where we want to sustain a collaborative model of action and where we must continue to feed the social intangibles generated. At the same time, new strategies are being sought to assess and increase the impact of collective action. Once networks are weaved, they must come to live and make sense for themselves, they may not depend (or only depend) on external leadership. Also, at this point they must generate clear benefits for their participants according to the established objectives. The design and the structures need to be flexible and readjust to optimize resources to respond to needs and expectations of the people and organizations involved, also drawing clarity on paths for local based outcomes to emerge.
  3. Finally, the third stage named as ‘Climax network’, is also imprecise in time for the same reasons. In this stage, the ecosystem creates intentional infrastructures for its sustainability beyond personal relationships, establishing institutional agreements, coordination documents, new opportunities for participation, among others. These strategies are aimed to facilitate interaction and self governed initiatives within the network. Here the ecosystem acquires an optimal level of maturity that is evidenced by consolidation of a new culture, where new rules and new ways of doing are practiced in professional and institutional levels. The network organization within the ecosystem in this stage tends to be characterized by a collaborative governance. People are empowered to open new cycles of revision and regeneration in order to create new meaning and new opportunities for individuals and for the collective.

We believe these three fluid and organic steps can inform the type of systemic support needed in the evolution of ecosystems to enhance social capital, learning and equity in our communities and cities across the globe. In the NetEduProject we are ‘hands on’ working on learning and sharing new leadership strategies that can move these social and participatory structures forward over time. As shared in the begining of this post, science has shown that collaboration is a natural driver for species survival. In this new era we are all embracing, humans and social systems really need to improve our collaborative competences to better take care of one another and create a thriving world for all.

Jordi Díaz Gibson

What if we understand Schools as a Learning Ecosystems in times of COVID-19 pandemic

Written by Jordi Díaz-Gibson and Alan Daly, NetEduProject

As we write this many of us across the world are sheltered in place, not being able to safely leave our homes.  This pandemic has its roots in how connected we are as a planet.  Ironically, we only seem to attend to our human connectivity when it comes to historically negative events such as a pandemic.  However, what if we really focused on the fact that these connections also hold the potential for equally positive impacts for our world.  Sadly, it seems we rarely activate these systems for this purpose.              

In countries across the globe there are long standing educational inequities despite decades of attention, study, and work to alleviate systemic disparities.  This statement is not to undermine the strides made, but as an educational community we still have a great distance to travel in becoming more equity minded and growing our educational systems in new and different directions.  Perhaps one of contributing factors in not making greater progress on these issues is that many educational systems, and in fact individual educators, operate as independent units and as such may continue to create and replicate separate and unequal outcomes for students and communities.  Typically, educational institutions and public agencies have not viewed themselves, either as organizations or individuals, as part of a larger interdependent and interconnected eco-system. This failure to recognize and embrace the idea that decisions, actions, and inactions are mutually influential and consequential has perhaps inhibited the collective ability to address pressing issues that have for far too long plagued educational organizations across the globe.

In recent days, there have been a number of proposals around the world that are being implemented on an experimental basis to reopen schools after the long breakouts responding to the complex challenge of education in times of pandemic. What surprises us about the proposals is that most of them focus on the school as a center of education and ignore the community as the natural eco-system for development and growth of students and families. Strictly focusing on the school-level at the expense of the community may inhibit our ability to expand educational spaces and flexible learning opportunities. 

Schools are increasingly important parts of the social ecosystem, a part that cannot function alone or disconnected from the system to which it belongs. The significant educational challenges we face today are complex and intertwines with other public good issues such as promoting health, encouraging well-being, eradicating poverty, providing employment, creating work-life balance, and building strong intra and intergenerational relationships.  We need to be aware that all parts of the system must work in concert and embrace the social and educational complexity that comes with that collective ecosystem participation.  Thus, we need to connect disciplines to assess risks, map the educational assets of each territory, activate diverse people, organizations, institutions and services capable of contributing to a better understanding of our ecosystem.   

Bronfenbrenner (1999) suggested that in order to understand schools and learning with high ‘ecological validity’, generating authentic knowledge that could be applied in real life and not just in ideal labs, we need to study the various subsystems that ecologically affect children and schools not as discreet individuals, but interconnected units. In this sense, the perspective of educational change and innovation in schools must evolve to take on a more systems focus as each school is located in the context of a neighborhood that, at the same time, is highly relevant as an informal education space. 

Social network theory builds on the idea that social resources such as knowledge, information and expertise are exchanged through informal networks of relations between actors in a system. A fundamental element in this theory is concerned with the pattern of social ties that exist between actors in a social network that creates an overall social structure. In this sense, actors with more ties are more likely to quickly move resources across the network as they are well-connected to a large number of actors. In contrast, actors with fewer or no relational ties may have limited access to the mainstream information and may not be able to efficiently move information because their communication channels are less well-connected (Liou et al, 2019). Hence, as a growing body of research suggests, leaders need to have a clear map of the schools’ and community social networks to better understand how the resources flow in the wider ecosystem, and to promote broader opportunities to all the actors.  This approach brings to life the idea of ecosystems and sets of interactions that hold promise for increasing the public good. 

Although seeming like an obvious statement, that relationships matter, traction around this space for positive change has not taken hold as deeply in the education space.  It may be that in the education space we are still very much focused on the “technical core” of the education process.  In contrast to the technical core of schooling, progress through a relational perspective or the “social work” of improving outcomes requires a set of skills and capacities some leaders and educators may or may not possess.  Interpersonal skills such as facilitating, questioning, active listening, and collaborating are often assumed to be among capacity of educators, but that assumption is potentially faulty and can derail efforts.  Moreover, the ability to rebuild and repair damaged trust is a complex and nuanced endeavor that may require a new set of leadership capacities.  

Thus, thinking about schools as social networks and considering the diverse actors that influence education and wellbeing in a community and their multiple interactions, allow us to understand schools as living and organic ecosystems. Clayton (2016) defines ecosystems in education as the intersection between a wide array of innovation actors such as teachers, school leaders, students, parents, technologists, civic entrepreneurs, designers, researchers, philanthropists and policy makers.  Moreover, the coming together of these different groups may enable the disruption of existing practices, designing new learning models, and building new learning communities beyond the traditional notion of a school.

Godfrey and Brown (2019) defined a school ecosystem frame based on three key issues: 1) the need to connect all school change ultimately to its intended educational impact on youth, and by corollary to society; 2) to ensure that elements of the system -especially at the individual school level-are not viewed reductive or in isolation; and 3) to see system change as both interconnected and working in patterns of multidirectional cause and effect. Thus, the idea of a school understood as a learning ecosystem embraces a networked and systemic understanding of all school units; a collaborative action within and across the community to increase social capital and collective learning; and finally, the innovative and disruptive component as a central focus that promotes systemic impact across the whole ecosystem.

However, transforming schools into a learning ecosystem demands principals and educational leaders to be systems thinkers and focus on relationships between people and entities that can strengthen the school purpose, aligning shared objectives, promoting trust, connecting synergies, and facilitating a shared discussion and a collective construction of knowledge. The idea of network weaving is quickly emerging around the globe as a transdisciplinary leadership perspective that embraces a relational, distributed, networked and systemic approach. Weaving is defined as an approach to leadership that intends to transit from ego to eco, relying on curating circles, hosting conversations, building trusted relationships and shepherding people with highly diverse institutions, roles, backgrounds and perspectives into meaningful collaborations that have systemic impact (Luksha et al, 2020). Moreover, weaving entails the idea of securing the health and the potential of the wider ecosystem by cultivating relationships between people, and encouraging to lead organizations as living cells. Thus, weaving as an educational leadership approach completely aligns with the networked, collaborative, systemic and disruptive purposes of learning ecosystems.

Based on what we have shared in this essay, what if schools come back and challenge school boundaries and take advantage of the community as the natural environment for students and their communities. What if teachers welcome a small number of children and families at once, and children occupy diverse spaces in the community accompanied by diverse community professionals and other volunteers. What if schools in the same neighborhood, along with other educational and social agents, map spaces and actors involved in different fields such as museums, libraries, sports fields, parks, forests, beaches and mountains. What if leaders -as gardeners- seed a rich ecosystem and then start the tasks of growing and connecting these environments, care for social relationships, and look for common educational goals to co-create new opportunities and new proposals. What if policy makers empower the local level, and invest more resources in those neighborhoods and with those families who need more resources, more professionals and new infrastructure.

At a time when educational space and time are gaining in importance as vectors of educational quality, a look at the local and community educational ecosystem can help us ideate and design a proposal appropriate to the difficult challenge we face with the reopening of schools in the months ahead. Certainly, it will be necessary to evaluate risks, but at the same time to take them in order to devise, prototype and experiment with new schooling proposals.


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1999). Environments in developmental perspective: Theoretical and operational models. In S. L. Friedman & T. D. Wachs (Eds.), Measuring environment across the life span: Emerging methods and concepts (pp. 3–28). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.

Liou, Y., Bjorklund Jr., P., & Daly, A. (2019). Climate change in Common Core policy context: The shifting role of attitudes and beliefs. Educational Policy.

Clayton, R. (2016) Building Innovation Ecosystems in Education to Reinvent School. A study of innovation & system change in the USA. Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Godfrey, D., & C. Brown. (2019). An Ecosystem for Research-Engaged Schools: Reforming Education Through Research. Oxon: Routledge.

Luksha, P., Spencer-Keyse, J. & Cubista, J. (2020) Learning Ecosystems: An Emerging Praxis for Education. Global Education Futures and SKOLKOVO.

Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 20, 2020 ID Number: 23374, Date Accessed: 8/19/2020 7:18:01 AM