TandemED was originally conceived by Co-founders Brian Barnes and Dorian Burton in a 2013 course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education focused on supporting students to develop their levers to transform the education sector. For some time prior to the course, they had wrestled with what they perceived to be a predominant public school-centered approach to community development. This view of community development began to be problematic to them given that, outside of school hours, public schools were so disconnected from the daily lives and contexts of the actual youth, families, and residents whom they served. They realized that in order for youth to be successful in public schools, the communities in which they reside must be viewed from an asset-based perspective and entrusted to instill them with meaningful purpose to engage the learning environment. This critical element could not come from the school. In addition, from research, they understood that youth must also believe that they are smart, confident, and capable, and that that they can be successful in school should they have a purpose to do so.
This birthed the theoretical approach, subsequent strategies and actions that evolved into TandemED (originally named Faith-to-Connect). They went on to refine this idea and a strategy and entered the inaugural HGSE Education Entrepreneurship competition, and were selected as one of the four winners, receiving $15,000 in startup funding and a residency at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Together, along with one of Brian's best childhood and adult friends Toks Adeshiyan, they formed as official Co-Founders and began to further develop TandemED alongside interns, critical friends, and their networks from their former professions and the Harvard community.
Exactly one year later, in the spring 2014, the internationally recognized and competitive Echoing Green Competition for Social Innovation publicly selected TandemED as Finalists. Although they fell short of winning in that year, the recognition from this accomplishment placed TandemED in line sight of many educational innovators and organizations. One of these was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who viewed their philosophy and approach as uniquely situated to complement the K-12 educational investments that they were making in key cities via their Empowering Effective Teachers initiative. With their financial backing to pilot the TandemED approach, they pursued a pilot in one of the cities in the Gates portfolio which they viewed as ripe and that already had the stirrings of real authentic community leadership - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This community allowed TandemED to work with them to invigorate Black youth and community members through a campaign design and delivery process, which this site previews. TandemED excitedly looks forward to continuing to grow and have the opportunity to work with other communities and cities throughout the United States and abroad to implement this innovation.