Zack’s favorite thinkers and doers (people or organizations)

Listed here are people and organizations whose work is innovative, important, and well-executed.

Sustained Dialogue Campus Network

Sustained Dialogue seeks to bring diverse groups of people (and sometimes people in direct conflict) together to learn from each other, mutually broaden their perspectives, and develop relationships that allow them to solve important problems in innovative and lasting ways.

The Future Project

The Future Project places a “dream director” into schools who works with students and staff to develop their dreams and work to transform those dreams into reality. Students are supported by mentors as they work to bring about the changes they wish to see in their schools and communities. Together, these people transform the culture of a school into a place where people are empowered to pursue their passions and creatively make a positive impact in the world!

Reach Incorporated

Led by Mark Hecker, Reach Incorporated empowers low-performing high school students by training them to tutor and mentor low-performing elementary school students, to benefit the tutees AND the tutors!

Dan Meyer, dy/dan blog

Dan Meyer is a math educator. He facilitates a very active online community of people who explore how to make themselves better educators. In particular, Dan has a Three Acts paradigm for math questions:

Act 1: Provide intriguing situation (often visually) and ask for student input on questions that emerge from the situation that they are curious to answer (if designed carefully, the task will naturally lead students towards a certain set of questions). Students must decide on the information they’ll need to be able to solve the problem and make some estimates before being given the information (which is shown to them, often visually).

Act 2: Students explore and practice the skills they’ll need to solve the problem and settle on an answer.

Act 3: Students are able to authentically see if their answer is right, usually in a visual way (answers in the back of the book are not a compelling enough resolution). Ideally, this visual resolution leads naturally to some extensions….

Lots of examples are available here.

From Dan:

Many math teachers take act two [listed above] as their job description. Hit the board, offer students three worked examples and twenty practice problems. […] It’s clear to me that the second act isn’t our job anymore. Not the biggest part of it, anyway. You are only one of many people your students can access as they look for resources and tools. Going forward, the value you bring to your math classroom increasingly will be tied up in the first and third acts of mathematical storytelling, your ability to motivate the second act [with Act 1] and then pay off on that hard work [with Act 3].

The Arbinger Institute

The Arbinger Institute is a think-tank and consulting firm that helps people and organizations solve problems by more deeply exploring how one’s own thoughts and actions may inadvertently be escalating the problem. Arbinger is most known for publishing The Anatomy of Peace and other related books.


AmeriCorps is a federal program which empowers diverse groups of young adults to give a year of community service to strengthen communities in the areas of education, poverty, the environment, etc. In addition to the direct impact on their communities, corps members develop lifelong passions for civic engagement, learn about deep and interconnected community issues (and solutions), and develop lasting relationships with fellow corps members and community organizations. The Franklin Project is pushing to make it the norm for all recent HS or college grads to a do a year of service!


Mathcounts is a national math competition program for middle school students. Students practice working through intriguing math questions as a team, developing mathematical skill, intuition, and teamwork. Students then compete against people from other schools at in-person math competitions locally (with the opportunity to advance to state and national competitions if most successful). Recently, in addition to the competitions, Mathcounts has also worked to broaden the appeal of non-competition math clubs and “new-media” explorations of math.

AshokaU Campus Network

AshokaU is an offshoot of Ashoka, an organization that is “the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale.” AshokaU works with universities around the world to help them design programming to empower students (and faculty) to develop as social entrepreneurs. It works to change people’s mindsets about the purpose of higher education: not just to learn and research, but also to create innovative and impactful positive change around the world!


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