Literacy, Complexity, and Community
Jose L. Cruz and Mark Narkus Kramer will explore how community programs are a critical connector in the increasingly complex challenges of literacy for all. This conversation will be held on Zoom on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. This program is part of the Catalyzing Conversations & Webinars series offered at Plexus Institute.
Jose Cruz is CEO of the San Diego Council on Literacy. The organization has a network of 30 affiliated literacy programs that serve about 180,000 residents a year. Because of the differing skills and expertise available in the affiliated programs, the network is able to serve people of all ages, with a wide and complex array of literacy and reading needs, without charge. Some of the programs focus on the needs of immigrants, refugees, the homeless, and individuals transitioning from incarceration. Some individuals ask for help because they are in jobs that require additional or better literacy skills. Some are learners adapting to new cultures, and some are library patrons who love books and want to read literature with greater fluency.
Cruz has spent more than three decades organizing collaborative effort for literacy in California and nationally. He is a board member and co-chair of Pro Literacy, an international nonprofit that helps adults read and write. He is the host of the Council’s “Literacy for All Radio Show.” In addition to the Council’s many community activities, it is helping the Molina Foundation distribute thousands of new books to children across the U.S. Cruz earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Southern California in 1979.
In a career that began more than three decade ago as a high school English teacher, Cruz taught English literature and basic writing skills to classes that included many youngsters from families newly arrived from Southeast Asia. Many of his students had limited proficiency in English. This experiences led Cruz to recognize the profound resource gap between children who become skilled readers and children who struggle. He believes that’s a problem that can be solved.
The Plexus Approach to Supporting Effective Learning
The Plexus approach to supporting learning and teacher effectiveness is to build APD competence in a community of practice in each school and across the district. The APD process is one of collective and individual inquiry focused on community building to elicit existing and latent solutions to long-standing, recurring problems. Working solutions are tested, verified for efficacy and shared. The process of discovery is more important than the solutions themselves as it opens the possibility for sustained improvements by changing how people solve problems together. We look to create conditions that promote self-organization among groups of people who are dealing with complex, compelling challenges.
Plexus Institute continues to apply principles of Adaptive Positive Deviance to large and small projects in fields that include healthcare, business and education. There is a continuing need to develop small experiments and support continuous actions taken in various communities that can be leveraged for scale.