For the SEL team in Portland Public Schools (PPS), the process for selecting SEL programs raised some compelling questions: How could they ensure that the programs selected aligned with the district's needs and priorities—particularly its commitment to equity and social justice? How could the process itself demonstrate and deepen that commitment? What could the district learn by taking their time with the process, experimenting with shared decision-making, and deepening the interconnection between SEL and equity?
In their effort to answer these questions, the district’s SEL team developed a new, promising approach to program selection—a process rooted in meaningful, sustained collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. This need for a collaborative process was particularly compelling in PPS. The district had made great strides in centering equity, but in this majority-white district, some stakeholders felt their voices were not heard. The SEL team wondered how they could design a process that would contribute to choosing the right programs while bringing more voices to the table, sharing decision-making power, building trust in the process, and offering one more way to center the district’s work on equity.This was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and should not be attributed to the funders.