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What Sets Us Apart

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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What Sets Us Apart

Bellwether is a mission-driven organization committed to improving education outcomes for low-income students by helping education organizations become more effective in their work. Our deep experience, tailored approach, and integrated service offering differentiate us from other service providers.

Our deep experience

Bellwether team members have unrivaled experience as leaders of education organizations and as advisors to executives in the public and private sectors. Our team includes former teachers, school operators, policymakers and government officials, and nonprofit leaders. Because of this direct operating experience, we understand work “on the ground” in schools, districts, and education organizations. Our Strategic Advising team members also have experience in top consulting firms including Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte Consulting, and the Boston Consulting Group. Our Policy and Thought Leadership team members have experience in The White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and in state departments of education. Our Talent team members have experience as coaches, human resource professionals, and executive recruiters.

We work only on education-related issues, so we bring a deep understanding of the critical and evolving issues that educators face. The result is that our team is positioned to generate unique ideas and to add value to client organizations quickly, with a high level of sophistication and in a way that accounts for the realities of leading complex organizations and solving difficult problems.

Through our sustained work in education we have built an unparalleled network of relationships. This provides us access to information and ideas that inform our work and help us provide the best advice to our clients.

Our approach

We understand that there is often a choice between driving strategic work internally and making use of an outside partner. There are five primary reasons that our clients choose to partner with Bellwether when taking on a new initiative:

1. Critical friend with deep context

We act as a critical friend to our clients, developing content through a collaborative process and pushing their thinking with an independent and deeply informed perspective. This is where Bellwether differs from other outside partners: we are not generalists. Because we work only in education and have top talent in policy, advocacy, strategy, and talent issues, we come to the table with deep context about trends and issues in the field—and with the talent and expertise to ramp up quickly.

2. Proven strategic decision-making process

In developing our strategic decision-making process, we adopted the private sector’s best practices, rigorous analysis, and proven approaches—and then tailored them to the cultural norms of education organizations. We continue to customize our work to meet individual client needs even as we move through an engagement. This effective, efficient method consistently yields both a high-quality end product and authentic stakeholder support for core decisions.

3. Flexible short-term capacity

We wear a variety of hats in our work, often serving as clients’ “arms and legs” on a project. Sometimes clients don’t know in advance which skills will be required to achieve their objectives, or discover they don’t have the necessary in-house talent. We provide additional policy, analytical, financial, and strategic support to activate, accelerate, and sustain momentum.

4. Data-centric approach

Bellwether delivers content based on rigorous research and analysis that is both informed by proven best practices and tailored to the unique operating environment of each client. Our data-centric approach, and the humility and questioning nature we bring to the work, lends itself well to situations where there are significant internal differences in opinion around the strategic direction of an organization.

5. Unparalleled network across education sector

Bellwether works with the most diverse cross-section of education organizations of any consulting group, and our deep and broad network enables us to quickly access expertise and experience on myriad issues. We have strong relationships with the key education constituencies, including traditional school districts, leading-edge charter school ventures, intermediaries, charter management organizations, private school management organizations, district executives, leading reform groups, high-impact education nonprofits, and funders. We also advise large national grantmakers and small, city-based philanthropic efforts. Our unique blend of work gives us exceptional visibility into the on-the-ground challenges of schools and service organizations, while also allowing us to understand and engage with the broader trends shaping the field.

Our integrated service offering

Because of Bellwether’s unique skillset, we are able to integrate exceptional strategy, policy advisory, and talent services into our work, and serve clients facing complex challenges with depth and sophistication. Our work is anchored in both innovative, conceptual ideas and in the practical on-the-ground realities of implementation and organizational growth. We know when and how to push boundaries with bold thinking – but with an eye toward results and action.

To learn more about how Bellwether can support your policy, talent, strategic, or operational needs, email us at contactus@bellwethereducation.org