1. Is KDNLC a program, project, coalition, collaborative, network, or something else?

The KDNLC is a coalition and an impact network. The coalition is formed to achieve the common goal of learning how education systems transformation occurs, with a view to improving access to holistic learning for children and young people. It is an impact network, a network that brings individuals and organizations together for shared action and collaborative purpose because it convenes stakeholders who aim to create powerful social change.

2. Why the KDNLC?

Children and young people today face complex challenges including the climate crisis, conflict, authoritarianism, and the pandemic’s social and economic impacts, compounded by historical injustices such as gender-based violence, economic inequality, and racism. Yet, global education systems inadequately prepare them, particularly those in marginalized settings, to navigate these issues and drive positive change. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, progress towards skill development has faltered, with a persistently narrow focus on the competences that young people need.

More than ever, children and young people today need education systems that support their (re)engagement, socio-emotional well-being, and the development of an evolving set of critical thinking, creative and collaborative skills. Education leaders must collaborate locally and globally to transform these systems.

In recognition of the collaborative nature of this work, the Center for Universal Education at Brookings is convening a global movement network (a form of an impact network that connects many other impact networks together creating a network of networks) that will connect actors across education ecosystems, foster collaborative research, cross-context connections, and communication strategies to drive systemic change.

Steering the direction of this larger movement network is its leadership coalition: the Knowing-Doing Network Leadership Coalition (KDNLC), an impact network that will bring the 10 selected organizations together with CUE at Brookings for shared learning and collaborative action. The KDNLC will coalesce the network-of-networks and facilitate the establishment of shared agendas, foster and deepen connections and coordinate the network’s internal systems such that participants can advance collective work to transform education systems both in their local contexts and globally to better serve, engage, and prepare all children and youth for the world they will lead.

3. Who leads the KDNLC?

The eleven leadership members of the coalition will co-create the research agendas and objectives for the KDNLC and take the lead on various aspects of the learning and doing journey.

The KDNLC organizations are:

KDNLC Organization Name Region Country
Creative Center for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) East and Southern Africa Malawi
Dignitas Limited East and Southern Africa Kenya
Dream a Dream South Asia India
Enseña Peru Latin America Peru
Fundacion para el Impulso de la Educacion y la Cultura Reimagina Latin America Chile
Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) West and Central Africa Ghana
Pakistan Coalition for Education - Society for Access to Quality Education (SAQE) South Asia Pakistan
SmartStart Early Learning (RF) NPC East and Southern Africa South Africa
The Society of Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development Latin America Mexico
Via Educacion Latin America Mexico
The Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution North America United States
  • General coordination and grant management support is provided by the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education.
  • The Brookings Institution is responsible for the financial oversight for the KDNLC. The funding for this initiative has been generously provided by the LEGO Foundation.
  • The KDNLC team at CUE is responsible for the methodology design for the leadership network. Please see more details below.

As the KDNLC works together over time, it will evolve to serve as a leadership coalition connecting other global networks working on education systems transformation.

The following CUE staff members are on the KDNLC Team at Brookings:

  • Dr. Modupe Olateju, Fellow
  • Grace Cannon, Senior Project Manager
  • Rohan Carter-Rau, Research Analyst
  • Quintin Gay, Intern

The Brookings KDNLC team is partnering internally with the CUE staff listed below, as well as with external consultants to create the methodology for the KDNLC in support of its gatherings, network development, and co-constructed research agenda for the first year of the project.

CUE staff supporting the core KDNLC team with methodology design:

  • Dr. Jennifer O’Donoghue, Senior Fellow
  • Sarah Osbourne, Assistant Center Director
  • Arushi Sharma, Engagement Manager
  • Mashhood Bhat, Impact Manager

External consultants supporting the KDNLC team:

  • Brendon Johnson, Fito Network
  • Carri Munn, Converge Network

4. Whom does the KDNLC seek to impact or serve?

KDNLC’s work is centered on transforming education systems so that all children and young people develop the full breadth of skills they need to co-construct a more equal, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Education systems involve various stakeholders, including learners, teachers, families, school leaders, community members, civil society organizations, policymakers, funders, and governments. Working together, these system actors hold the potential to transform their education systems at local, regional, and global levels. Each of these stakeholder groups in the education ecosystem—including the 11 organizations that comprise the KDNLC—is potentially served by KDNLC’s work to strengthen spaces for collaboration, exploration and experimentation locally, improve the generation and use of relevant evidence, and establish mechanisms for ongoing communication and engagement.

In the context of the network, a significant beneficiary is the network itself. The organizations are joining together to help each other and support the causes they are working on. It’s a learning journey for the participants of the KDNLC. The organizations will benefit from:

  • Receiving the financial support of the grant;
  • Being part of a peer learning network; and
  • Elevation of their voice on the global research and policy stage.

5. How will the KDNLC work with other education networks or network-building initiatives?

The KDNLC is a global impact network of civil society organizations who are collaborating to advance knowledge and practice in education systems transformation in at least 10 different country contexts in regions across the world so that children and young people can access holistic learning opportunities. With most of its membership composed of CSOs located in the geographic Global South, the evidence generated by this network, and the exemplars it will offer, will provide an important complement to evidence generated by other regional and global initiatives and actors working across multiple contexts in the Global South and the Global North.

The KDNLC will seek to engage with other local, regional, and global networks, partnering to:

  • Create shared understandings of how impact networks can address pressing social issues in the education sector
  • Create opportunities to advance the systems transformation work being carried out across multiple networks
  • Amplify the work and voices of local and regional networks as they execute their mandates
  • Strengthen capacity for evidence generation and use in a way that is equitable and participatory
  • Provide a globally recognized platform for convening education network-building initiatives and thus advance the efforts of partners, especially across the Global South
  • Connect organizations working on various aspects of systems transformation to each other and to the broader global ecosystem.

6. What does “locally defined priorities” mean?

All 10 civil society organizations in the KDNLC are working in their local contexts defined as below.

The KDNLC members will define research and policy questions regarding education system transformation to support holistic learning and conduct their research in their local areas.

Learning will be shared across KDNLC members with the goal of refining research to practice in all local areas.

See KDNLC Key Terms and Definitions that includes the definition of a local organization:

Local Organization: For the purposes of the KDNLC, “local organization” refers to CSOs that are headquartered and have a primary focus on working within a specific national or subnational education jurisdiction. This could be, for example, at the national, state/province, municipality or district level depending on where education policy authority lies.

7. How were the KDNLC organizations selected?

Selection criteria were informed by a focus group of global CSOs in CUE’s networks.

There were two primary stages in the selection process: 1) the Expression of Interest and 2) the full application phase.

Internal and external reviewers were trained in the use of rubrics and evaluation tools used in each stage.

Each application was reviewed by multiple reviewers and significant variance in scoring triggered additional reviews.

Sixteen external reviewers – identified by CUE and CUE’s partners as having knowledge and experience in the education research and policy space as funders, civil society leaders, and researchers, with understanding of both local and global dynamics and conversations relevant to education systems transformation toward breadth of skills – evaluated a group of 32 semifinalist organizations.

To ensure the fairest process possible, CUE asked both reviewers and applicants to proactively identify conflicts of interest during the review process.

To ensure geographic diversity, CUE sought to maintain regional distribution in the selection process throughout various stages, starting from the initial expression of interest, extending to the invitation of applications, and culminating in the final selection of the ten organizations.]

Please visit a summary of the selection process here: KDNLC Selection Process.

8. Where can I access the knowledge products released by the KDNLC?

The Brookings website will host all knowledge products from the KDNLC. These products will document:

  • KDNLC group learning on education systems transformation toward holistic learning;
  • Learning from localized contexts of KDNLC members; and
  • Learnings on how a diverse network fosters social change at local and global levels.

9. How does the KDNLC plan to measure the impact of its work?

The KDNLC will co-construct a research agenda together in year one of the project and share goals, research, and learnings.

CUE will look to measure impact on the following key goals:

  • Social actors strengthen and maintain understanding of systems transformation related to inclusive breadth of skills.
  • Civil servants and school and community-based practitioners effectively implement, evaluate and provide feedback on policies and practices related to inclusive breadth of skills.
  • Policymakers adopt and resource evidence-informed and effective policies related to inclusive breadth of skills.

10. How will the KDNLC network help in transforming education when so many local organizations are already working on it?

As the leadership coalition of a larger impact network supporting education system change, the KDNLC’s goal is to elevate and center the learnings and agency of local organizations. The KDNLC will leverage the Brookings platform to bring local learnings to the global stage, providing a space for knowledge sharing and contextualization. It will harness a global movement on systems change as part of the larger network-of-networks.


Key terms and definitions

1. Civil society organization (CSO)

CSO is defined for the purposes of the KDNLC as a formally registered, nongovernmental, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization (including research entities) or voluntary citizens’ groups that operates in the social sphere and is separate from the State and the market.

2. Local organization

For the purposes of the KDNLC, “local organization” refers to CSOs that are headquartered and have a primary focus on working within a specific national or subnational education jurisdiction. This could be, for example, at the national, state/province, municipality or district level depending on where education policy authority lies.

3. Education systems transformation

“Education systems transformation” (EST), for the purposes of the KDNLC, refers to efforts to rebuild education systems to bring all components of that system into alignment around a clear and shared purpose.

Building from systems thinking, EST works to:

  • Engage actors across the education ecosystem (in schools, school districts, education ministries, families, communities, civil society, and the private sector).
  • Identify how different elements of the system impact and move in relation to one another.
  • Understand the social, political, economic, and technological factors in local contexts that can either enable or constrain action.
  • Incorporate both the visible/hard elements of systems like people and resources as well as the invisible/soft elements like beliefs and culture.

For the KDNLC, CUE is looking to partner with organizations working on systems transformation in support of inclusive and holistic learning for all children and young people. For more, please see: “Transforming education systems: Why, what, and how.”

4. Holistic learning or breadth of skills

Holistic learning supports children and young people’s intellectual, physical, emotional, social, cultural, and moral development. A holistic approach supports the development of the whole child instead of one that focuses only on academic achievement.

Similarly, “breadth of skills” refers to the full range of academic and socio-emotional skills children and young people need to thrive—from foundational skills such as mathematics, literacy, and writing to creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. A breadth of skills approach is essential to navigating, adapting, and thriving in today’s rapidly changing world.

For more, please see: “Visualizing the breadth of skills movement across education systems.”

5. Global South

For the purposes of our work with the KDNLC, CUE views the term “Global South” as a social-analytical category and not as a geographic descriptor. As such, we recognize the term is not static and does not refer to a specific list of countries, but rather to systemically marginalized and under-resourced contexts across the world. This definition builds off a recognition of the legacies of colonialism, racism, and capitalism that continue to drive unequal access to resources and opportunities between regions and countries globally. At the same time, it acknowledges the growing gaps in wealth and power within countries that must also be addressed.

Our focus on Global South contexts in the selection of the KDNLC means that we prioritize partnering with organizations located in and working with economically, socially, politically, and/or culturally marginalized communities across the world. In so doing, we aim to challenge the structures and processes that generate, sustain, and reproduce poverty, inequality, and exclusion locally and globally.

6. Children and young people

While the definition of children and young people can vary from context to context, the primary focus of this work will be on education systems that support holistic learning for children and youth which we roughly understand as 0-9 and 10-24, respectively, in schools, communities, and families. This project will not have a primary focus on tertiary education.

The following definitions are from the book “Impact Networks,” 2021, by David Ehrlichman

7. Networks

Webs of relationships connecting people or things.

8. Impact network

A network that brings individuals and organizations together for learning and collaborative action for a shared purpose. The Knowing-Doing Network Leadership Coalition (KDNLC) is an impact network.

  • Learning network: A form of an impact network that primarily facilitates the flow of information and knowledge.
  • Action network: A form of an impact network that facilitates connection and learning in service of coordinated action.
  • Movement network: A form of an impact network that connects many other impact networks together, creating a network of networks. The KDN is slated to be a movement network.

9. Global network (note from the CUE team)

For CUE, a “global network” builds relationships and connects actors across two or more regions of the world. A global network may consist primarily of organizations based in the geographic Global South, Global North, or be a mix of Global South and North organizations. Often, a network is referred to as a “Global South Network” based on the predominant geography of its participants when, by its very nature, it is a Global Network. The KDNLC aspires to be a global network.