Buy-in Is Everything

Posted on January 28, 2008

Include as many representatives as possible in the process of change, argues James P. Comer (bio).


We often think about the design, but the design is only on paper, and if you don’t train the people to implement and then support them in the implementation, then the design is not worth anything. And so it’s critically important.

What we’ve tried to do is to bring people out of their settings whenever possible and provide a design that is practical and allows them to experience exactly what it is they’re going to go back and try and get others to experience. We’ve used the approach where people learn the model, our model, and then they go back and teach that model to people in their home programs.

We started with an entire year, a facilitator from the school district we were going to work in coming and spending time with us, learning, being a part of it, and then going back. When she went back, her colleagues said, “Well, you had that wonderful sabbatical year at Yale, now change us.” That was a challenge. They weren’t a part of it.

So the next time out what we did was to bring colleagues that he or she was going to be working with, a small group, representative of all the people in the school and brought them for a small part of the training and the local facilitator for a longer period, a month, and three, four days for the smaller representative group. Much more successful.

But the key was having everybody involved and somewhat knowledgeable about the experience so that you could get quicker buy-in at the local level. Buy-in is everything. If you don’t get buy-in from your local colleagues, then forget it.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.

Comer School Development Program


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