Next week I will officially begin my term as the OER Program Officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It is hard for me to express my excitement and anticipation for this new experience. I am looking forward to so many things, most especially the opportunities I will have to build relationships with the many wonderful people from around the world who are engaged in the work of open education.
In preparing to interview for the position earlier this year, I scanned through the many, many successful OER projects that have been funded by my predecessors at the foundation. I was amazed at the scope and breadth of the list. As I browsed, I realized that I had personally interacted with people from several of the funded projects. This realization caused my excitement to grow even more, as I looked forward to the potential of renewing and growing my relationships with so many of my former friends and colleagues.
I think the reason the relationship factor is so appealing to me is because I have long viewed the Hewlett Foundation as much more than simply a source of funding. To those in the OER community, the Hewlett Foundation is an invaluable source of counsel, guidance, insight, networking, and direction. Money is certainly an essential resource, but it is not always the most valuable service that the Hewlett Foundation provides. To me, the Hewlett Foundation is like a parent. Through interaction with others, the foundation helps bring ideas to life, provides means to help these ideas grow and mature, and, ultimately, intends for the ideas to move out and be successful on their own in the world. Just as children would rarely think of their parents as simply their source of funding (though parents certainly serve that role for an extended term), those who receive support from Hewlett do not think of the foundation as just a fountain of cash. Instead, they look to Hewlett (and the Program Officers especially) to help them make connections, navigate the landscape, and measurably improve lives through their ideas.
I feel deeply grateful for the opportunity to play this sort of role in the open education movement. I know I have some big shoes to fill (and know I will be standing on the shoulders of giants), but I cannot wait to be fully involved again with the OER community. I cannot wait to learn and to grow together with so many great thinkers and doers from around the world. For me, this is a dream come true, an opportunity to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause.”
**The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.**
Photo Credit: Ezra Katz – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parent-left_child-right_yellow-background.svg