Folk School Alliance Community of Practice

The Folk School Alliance Community of Practice (FSA CoP) will soon reach its two-year anniversary.  In the spring of 2018, the Folk Education Association of America, Fielding Graduate University alumni and a student, and several folk school administrators formalized methods of interaction for folk school leaders.  Funding provided through a Fielding Graduate University Inclusion Council grant allowed the above partners to facilitate meetings and provide online connection platforms.  Over the last two years:

  • the FSA CoP Facebook Group has built a membership of 123 individuals representing over 100 North American organizations that practice forms of folk education;
  • over twelve synchronous online meetings have taken place;
  • one regional face to face gathering happened Minneapolis (fall 2018);
  • school to school relationships have been created and strengthened;
  • school development and organization resources and tools have been shared;
  • six national and international presentations on the North American Modern Folk School Movement have been provided;
  • national and international relationships have been spurred;
  • two academic and many journalistic articles have been published; and

…countless interactions and supportive conversations have made a difference in advancing the work of folk school administrators and educators. 

Through these Folk School Alliance Community of Practice (CoP) activities the Folk Education Association of America and its partners have made significant gains toward a strategic plan priority; “to build a cohesive and collaborative network of Folk Schools which will support new school development and sustainability of existing schools.”

Folk school founders, administrators, and staff make up the membership of the CoP.  Through the multiple asynchronous and synchronous communication methods, these folk school leaders have found comradery and support along with a significant pool of problem-solving experience and resources.  Where once they may have felt alone when asked, “What’s a folk school?” they now have a group where the focus becomes, not what are you, but what do you do and how do you do it.  Topics posed and discussed within this community have spanned from logistical concerns such as securing insurance to those addressing inclusion and barrier reduction. 

Funding and Organizational Development

Categories of opportunities for Folk Schools (Arts, Economics, Historic Preservation, Social Cohesion, Community Development, Agriculture, Creative Placemaking, Mental Health Promotion, Rural Community Development, Environmental Educ, Human Agency & Resilience, Outdoor engagement, etc.)

  • Fundraising Events
  • Strategic partnerships with other organizations
  • Infrastructure building
  • Capacity Building (Donors, Foundation support, Grants and Resource Development)
  • Developing Strategic Plans (Needs of the participants, needs/desires of the donors)
  • Financial goals and annual planning
  • Folk School to Folk School partnerships

Membership

  • Membership Models
  • Membership Incentives and their impact
  • Membership management software

Instruction

  • Supporting the development of instructors
  • Growing the pool of instructors
  • Art and craft instructional practices

Programming

  • Programming drivers
  • Folk School vs. Craft School
  • Rural vs. Urban schools and impact on programming
  • Course offerings management software

Housing

  • Housing issues for instructors and participants
  • Air B&B, Tourism Bureau and Hotel Partnerships, State Parks, etc.
  • Housing management software

Human Resources

  • Volunteers and volunteer Coordination
  • Connecting with AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps
  • Teacher Contracts
  • Onboarding instructors
  • Independent Contractors vs. Employees
  • Staff and instructor background checks
  • Instructor pay and benefits

Folk School Models

  • Nonprofit vs. LLC
  • Challenges and benefits of a ‘brick and mortar’ school
  • Challenges and benefits of a distributed partnership school model

Insurance

  • Directors & Officers (D&O)
  • School
  • On-site vs. Off-site
  • Liability and liability waivers
  • Workers Comp Policies

Outreach and Marketing

  • Community engagement strategies, training
  • Community involvement
  • Creative Marketing: Low Cost/High Impact
  • Folks schools advancing inclusion of underrepresented groups

External Organizations of Interest

  • American Craft Council Connections
  • International Folk School Summit
  • Association of Danish Folk High School’s
  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • American Association of Adult and Continuing Education