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What Sets Us Apart

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What Sets Us Apart

Bellwether is a mission-driven organization committed to improving education outcomes for underserved students by helping education organizations become more effective in their work. Our shared commitment to equity drives our dedication and urgency to finding solutions that hold promise for black, Hispanic, low-income, and other students who have been historically denied opportunity. Our deep experience, tailored approach, and integrated service offerings 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, government officials, and nonprofit leaders. Because of this direct operating experience, we understand work “on the ground” in schools, districts, and education organizations. 

We only work 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 commitment to equity, a high level of sophistication, and with an inclusive approach 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. Moreover, we are always working to become an organization whose staff share a mix of identities and experiences similar to those of the students, clients, and communities we serve. This provides us access to information, ideas, and perspectives that inform our work and help us provide the best advice to our clients. 

Our Strategic Advising team members also have experience in top consulting firms including Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte Consulting, Accenture, and the Boston Consulting Group. Our Policy and Evaluation team members have experience in The White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and in state departments of education.

Our approach

We understand that there is often a choice between driving strategic work internally and making use of an outside partner. There are six 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, pushing clients’ thinking with an independent and deeply informed perspective, and helping to steward our clients’ values and dedication to equity. 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, strategy, and operational 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 method consistently yields both a high-quality end product and authentic and inclusive stakeholder support for core decisions.

3. Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

We acknowledge the outsized role race and racism continue to play in education and society, and we seek to engage in honest reflection, and increasingly identify and address policies, practices, and behaviors that lead to inequitable outcomes for students who have been historically denied opportunity. Bellwether aspires to make conscious decisions to reflect on the equity implications of our choices and to equip our team to talk about race, equity and inclusion when it affects our work — both internally and with our clients. 

4. Evidence-driven 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. Leading with evidence allows us to surface information and encourage critical conversations about what policies and practices are working, and for whom, in order to advance educational equity and excellence. Our evidence-driven 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.

6. Beyond the echo chamber

Our viewpoint diversity makes Bellwether unique: it means we are positioned to generate creative solutions to education’s most complex problems. Our answers on complicated questions are not canned or simply reflective of the politics or fads of the day. Instead, our work and ideas are stress-tested by a team that brings different viewpoints to our work, but is united by a shared commitment to dramatically improving American education and advancing equity. By proactively maintaining an environment where divergent ideas and perspectives are freely expressed, we increase our collective ability to deliver thoughtful, relevant analyses for our clients and the education sector.

Our past and current clients come from many different points on the political and ideological spectrum. For instance, we’ve worked with the progressive American Prospect and National Education Association Foundation, as well as the conservative groups EdChoice and American Enterprise Institute. 

Our integrated service offering

Because of Bellwether’s unique skillset, we are able to integrate exceptional strategy and policy advisory 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 equity, impact, and action.

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