We are committed to...
  • encouraging diverse points of view.
  • continuous reflection and on-going improvement.
  • collegial relationships and ethical leadership.
  • independent education options for families.
  • promoting the independence of our schools.
  • quality standards without standardization.
  • assisting schools in fulfilling their missions.

Now Launching Our Fourth Round – And A New Model.

Apply to be a Futurist Fellow and Join a Team Selected To Explore What is Next for Independent Education. Apply to be a Futurist, applications open January 9 - February 17, 2017

NWAIS invites community members to apply to be recognized as the 2017-18 Futurist Fellows, the newest round and re-imagining of the Fellowship For Collaborative Innovation.

In previous years, one team was selected to explore a topic of their choosing over the course of a year, and then disseminate their learning to the rest of the NWAIS community.

This year the process will be a little different and the challenge will be significant. NWAIS invites you to imagine the future of Independent Schools through a design experience with an interdisciplinary group of colleagues.

We would like to know about innovation going on within the independent school world and adjacent to it. Within independent schools, the group could explore innovative programming, financial structures, business models, partnerships, leadership, social justice, facilities, and admissions. From the adjacent spaces, fellows could explore public schools systems, charters, for-profit proprietary schools, micro-schools, and other interesting models.

Guiding Question: How might we reimagine our current schools so that we sustain, flourish and thrive into the future. Using this guiding question, the team will develop a design question to explore over the course of the year.

In keeping with best practices, this model is learning-centered, provides an opportunity to authentically experience 21st century skills, and supports project-based learning and design thinking.

To accomplish this exciting and perhaps daunting task, Futurist Fellows will be teamed with a group of other big thinkers in the community to utilize a design-thinking paradigm to explore a subset of these big questions. Fellows will apply independently and be placed on the team.

We are actively looking for team members with a variety of skills sets, including:

  • Finance
  • Advancement
  • Leadership
  • Teachers and Coaches
  • Program and Instruction
  • Facilities
  • Inter-Organizational Partnerships
  • Equity, Diversity and Social Justice
  • Communications
  • Workforce and Faculty Development
  • Data Analysis
  • Graphic Design
  • IT and Technology
  • Governance

“Design Thinking is a mindset. It’s Human-Centered. It’s Collaborative. It’s Optimistic. It’s Experimental.” - IDEO

Not sure about how you work intersects with design thinking? Explore the many applications to education from one of the premier design-thinking firms, IDEO.


  • Applicants must be employed at NWAIS schools (more than .75 FTE)
  • Team members may be teachers, administrators or staff
  • All members from NWAIS schools must have a recommendation of their head of school and/or Direct Supervisor (this will be a written recommendation and slightly more significant than the endorsement, requested in previous years. For that reason, schools may limit the number of applicants from each institution)
  • The project will address a question that impacts NWAIS schools and be sufficiently different from work already undertaken as a part of the applicants’ work at school or in a NWAIS planning committee
  • Members of teams who have previously applied are welcome to reapply

Time Line

  • January 9, 2017: Application open
  • February 17, 2017: Application deadline
  • April 2017: Fellows will be informed
  • May 2017: Fellows will be announced
  • August 2017: First disbursement of funds ($1,000 each) and Kick-Off Retreat
  • August 2017 - May 2018: Project Development, Research and Compilation of Findings: Meetings throughout the year will be designed and carried out independently by the team. They will have access to video meeting platforms, and may choose to meet in person as well. The awards should be used to cover the costs of meetings during the year.
  • June 2018: Second disbursement of funds ($1,000 each) and concluding retreat (2 Days).
  • Fall 2018: Presentation at an NWAIS event such as Fall Educators Conference or Fall Heads Meeting.


Apply by downloading the application, completing it and submitting it to Emily McGrath, Director of Professional Development, NWAIS in a single Word document (this document may contain links to images or video answers).


Each fellow will be awarded $2,000 to contribute to the expenses of the project and to compensate team members for their time and work. The first disbursement of $1,000 will be made at the time of the award (August 2017). The second disbursement of $1,000 will be made, in the same way, at the time the product is submitted (June 2018). Award funds may be used to pay or reimburse team members for project related expenses, such as materials and meetings. It is also expected that a portion of the budget will be for stipends for the team. Typical expenses might include: travel, meeting expenses, conference registrations, research expenses, production of the team's product, substitute expenses, materials, etc.

Each team member will need to submit a w9 form to receive his or her disbursement. NWAIS will divide the award by the number of team members and provide each person with a check. Team members will be responsible for any tax-related implication of receiving the award

The cost of the two retreats and associated travel expenses will be covered by NWAIS directly, and will not need to be funded through the awards.


The team will design a product that will make their learning visible to NWAIS and its member schools and help them navigate the issue in the future. We hope that the group will have a chance to present their ideas in a workshop or presentation, as well, but the product must be something that can be referred back to over time and shared among our schools.It can be physical or digital.

Examples of products could include:

  • A list of guiding questions, with background information, for schools to consider in their strategic planning
  • An infographic which describes of the regional competitive landscape of educational opportunities for k-12 students
  • A sample business plan for a new financial model of school
  • A body of research around demographic or societal trends in education
  • A prototype schedule for a school that shifting focus to SEL or 21st Century Skills Based Curriculum
  • A toolkit to rethink time and calendars
  • Physical designs for schools that are more teacher and student centered

Recommendation and Endorsement

Each applicant also needs the endorsement of their Head of School as well as a recommendation from a colleague (who may also be your head of school).

  1. Recommendation / endorsement form (Send to All Recommenders)
  2. Endorsement form (send to Heads of School, if someone else completed your recommendation)


The group will gather in person, for a 2-day kick-off retreat, with a facilitator to develop the group into a team, grow skills around design thinking and start the designing process.Fellows will leave with a clear picture of their design questions, a work plan for the year, and a vision for their project product. All costs for travel and programming will be covered by the fellowship. The project will conclude with a final retreat (2 Days). This retreat will be driven by the Fellows, rather than a facilitator and will be a chance to coalesce the findings and create the final product.

Visit the NWAIS Fellowship
for Collaborative
Innovation Website

Upcoming Events

  • August 1, 2017
    August 9, 2017
    • Pathways Retreat
    August 10, 2017
    • NWAIS Board Retreat
  • Guiding
  • Inspiring
  • Advancing
Northwest Association of Independent Schools
5001 California Ave. SW, Suite 112
Seattle, Washington 98136
T: 206.323.6137 • dstone@nwais.org
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