A flexible and powerful platform for self-reliant schools

The leerKRACHT Foundation began 2012 with the grand ambition to elevate Dutch education to a higher level. The foundation’s transformation programme creates a culture of increased learning enjoyment for students, more work satisfaction for teachers and improved education. The leerKRACHT approach, in which teachers learn from each other and improve education together with their students, is currently operational in 615 schools providing primary, secondary and vocational education.

leerKRACHT supports its transformational approach in several ways, including meetings, learning modules, impact measurements and knowledge exchange. To that end, the foundation uses a collection of separate systems. To replace it, leerKRACHT wanted to created a single powerful and flexible platform that could handle the foundation’s growth and would enable member schools to work more independently. LeerKRACHT found Salesforce who opted for Gen25 as its implementation partner.

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The business goal

leerKRACHT wants to improve education in schools day by day through a one to two year concentrated transformation programme. The approach is based on the ‘train the trainer’ methodology where teachers coach their colleagues. The foundation wants to enable schools and their teacher coaches to do this more independently by using their own methods through a platform that makes all means available online.

“Our approach is based on a simple idea: putting the teacher on a pedestal”, says founder Jaap Versfelt, who quit his partnership at McKinsey to realise his dream. “For education to be good, there is really just one important factor: the quality of the teacher. They will get even better when they can collaborate as professionals and learn from each other. Our approach facilitates that process. We are growing so fast at the moment, we are working towards operating on a regional scale. That means our coaches can work with schools in their region more independently, without our constant involvement on the national level. For example, schools now have access to materials like our impact measurements, which we had to send them via email in the past. This saves time and enables us to concentrate on our main task: assisting schools.”

The technical goal

Since its foundation, leerKRACHT has worked with separate systems for each aspect of the programme, from Access to Sharepoint. Those had to be bundled into a single new platform.

“The existing solutions worked fine on a small scale”, explains Versfelt, “However, for 615 schools, 13,000 teachers and over 320,000 students, they weren’t adequate. Because we were looking for scaleability to be able to serve thousands of schools in The Netherlands, former Bol.com CEO Daniël Ropers advised me to consider Salesforce. A very useful tip, but we wanted to maintain an extremely simple environment. Our own coaches and the schools’ teaching coaches are not highly experienced IT users. The teacher coaches moreover, only visit our platform once every two to three weeks. We didn’t want to hand them complicated operating manuals as the systems they have to deal with from schools can be anything but simple. We definitely did not want it to resemble a traditional Salesforce environment with all the options and possibilities you’d want in a sales system. To that end, Gen25 invested a lot of energy in design. Bringing together data from many separate systems was another major challenge. In addition, the continuous improvements made to our approach involve regular system changes. For that reason, we needed a highly flexible platform. That’s exactly how Gen25 designed it for us.”

“We translated our primary needs into user stories according to the simple principle that if it works, I would be able to do this or that with it."

How we work

leerKRACHT and Gen25 set out with the foundation’s user stories as a starting point. Then, leerKRACHT’s wishes were translated step by step in the Salesforce Community Cloud.

“We translated our primary needs into user stories”, Versfelt continues, “according to the simple principle that if it works, I would be able to do this or that with it. We then met to see how we could bring our wishes and the potential of Salesforce together. There were some things we didn’t even realise were possible, which was an obvious bonus. It was a step by step design process. I have to say: Gen25 really studied our transformation approach and then put a lot of thought into giving it a powerful form within Salesforce. Working with Gen25 was a pleasure. They are great people who not only collaborate, but also think ahead.”

How we collaborated

The way in which Gen25 worked for leerKRACHT is not strictly agile, but works fine for the foundation.

“We worked with sprints, but not those from the books”, Versfelt explains. “Our approach works in ‘blocks’ from three to ten weeks, defined in collaboration with Gen25. Subsequently, we contacted one another weekly or sometimes almost daily about each block. Some impatience can arise, but it is always a process from thought to building working software. It’s always like that with Gen25: if it works, it works really well.”

What more will Gen25 do

The leerKRACHT platform based on Community Cloud is continuously evolving. The foundation has both short term and long term wishes.

“We are very happy indeed with the platform”, Versfelt concludes. “Our coaches are surprisingly positive about it too. They call it highly professional. Of course, there are always other wishes. In the short term, we want to realise support for the rapid spreading of our approach by the platform. This is presently not the case, although the evidence is clear: leerKRACHT grew from 15 schools in year one to 615 at present. In the longer term, we would like to see more self-reliance from the schools, including adopting our approach in the way they see fit. This will definitely test the flexibility of the platform.”

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