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Murmuration: Emma Bloomberg’s Obscure Nonprofit.

November 30, 2019

Murmuration is an organization located on Wall Street in New York. Its obscure website offers no information about who is running the operation. However, Murmuration does advertise a “change-driving,” ed-reform mission:

Murmuration transforms how political campaigns, advocates, and organizers identify, engage, and mobilize people and communities.

Our focus is on driving change and accelerating progress toward a future where every child in America has the opportunity to benefit from a high-quality public education.

And how do the unnamed, Murmuration change-drivers propose to drive said change?

We provide sophisticated data and analytics, proprietary technology, strategic guidance, and programmatic support to help our partners build political power and marshal support so necessary changes are made to improve our public schools.

Our precise, predictive intelligence and easy-to-use tools are used by practitioners and funders, on their own and working together, to make informed decisions about who they need to reach, what they need to say, and how to achieve and sustain impact.

Of course, in typical ed-reform fashion, its *for the kids*:

We envision a public school system that ensures every child across our nation – regardless of race, income, background, or the zip code where they live – receives an education that prepares them to lead productive, fulfilling, and happy lives.

We believe public servants must recognize that providing a great education to every child is necessary to our prosperity, and be willing to invest in real, systemic and sustainable change which may come at a political cost.

We want our political systems to function and benefit from a rich discussion of the important role of public schools.  We want everyone who is impacted by public education to participate (or be represented) in the discussion and decision-making process.  And, we want the voices of those most reliant on our public education system to be heard.

WE are dedicated to “public schools” and “public education.”

YOU just don’t get to know who WE are.

But YOU can apply to work for us. Just check out the Murmuration career page:

Murmuration works with organizations who are building political power and driving change so necessary changes are made to improve our public schools.

Our partners are the leading practitioners and funders of efforts to elect people who believe our public schools should be safe, learner-centered, and well-resourced, so they can serve the needs of each individual student, irrespective of background or circumstance.

Our team includes experts and innovators in data, analytics, and strategy. We are former teachers, organizers, data scientists, nonprofit executives and political campaign veterans, and we are looking for people whose passion and expertise can help improve our work and realize our vision.

Our collaborators include best-in-class providers of campaign technology and services for electoral, organizing, and advocacy work.

Murmuration is always looking for people whose passion and expertise can help improve our work and realize our vision. Let us know if you are interested

According to its 2014 tax form, the “social welfare” nonprofit (501c4) Murmuration was started in May 2014, with Enoch Woodhouse listed as “principal officer.”

As per his Linkedin bio, Woodhouse has strong ties to former DC Public Schools (DCPS) chancellor/Teach for America (TFA) alum, Michelle Rhee, and her husband, controversial former Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson, via St. Hope charter school in Sacramento, California; Rhee’s ed-reform creation, StudentsFirst, and, finally, via DCPS.

Next, Murmuration’s 2014 tax filing lists Emma Bloomberg, daughter of billionaire NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, as Murmuration’s president. Also on the Murmuration board is Brian Johnson, who is on staff with Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a TFA spin-off organization.

The 2014 tax form identifies Bloomberg and Johnson as both being connected via LEE:

DIRECTOR EMMA BLOOMBERG SERVES AS DIRECTOR FOR LEADERSHIP FOR EDUCATIONAL EQUITY, INC. DIRECTOR BRIAN JOHNSON IS MEMBER OF THE STAFF OF LEADERSHIP FOR EDUCATIONAL EQUITY, INC.

In 2014, total revenue was $573K, all in the form of “contributions and grants.”

One year later, in 2015, fledgling Murmuration’s total revenue shot up to $29.8M. This is not Walton or Gates money. Moreover, these millions do not appear to be coming from other ed-reform nonprofits, and given that Emma Bloomberg’s father is a billionaire who spends on ed reform (see here and here for examples), it is likely that this rapid cash infusion notably derives from the Bloombergs.

In 2015, Murmuration spent $1.2M on its “service accomplishments,” as follows:

  • MINSIGHTS: MURMURATION INVESTS IN BUILDING INTEGRATED TECHNOLOGY FOR OUR PARTNERS TO MAKE DATA ON THEIR SUPPORTERS ACTIONABLE AND ACCESSIBLE. ($683K)
  • DATA ANALYTICS: MURMURATION SUPPORTS PARTNERS IN USING THE DATA THAT THEY HAVE TO BUILD ANALYTIC MODELS THAT ULTIMATELY ASSIST PARTNERS IN MOBILIZING THEIR CONSTITUENTS. ($248K)
  • CIVIC ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM: MURMURATION PARTNERS WITH LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS TO AMPLIFY THE VOICES OF PARENTS AND FAMILIES IN EDUCATION AND TO SUPPORT THEM IN BEING ACTIVE CIVIC PARTICIPANTS. ($270K)

Chief operating officer (COO) Woodhouse was paid $105K in total compensation (40hrs/wk).

Total expenses amounted to $2M, which means Murmuration ended 2015 with almost $28M in assets.

In 2016, Murmuration added only $396K in contributions and grants even as it spent $5.1M, including $1.4M on Minsights, $1.2M on Data Analytics, and $1.2M on its Civic Engagement Program, which it could do because of its 2015 multi-million cash cushion.

Also in 2016, the number of officers/highest compensated employees increased to five, including Woodhouse and, now, Emma Bloomberg:

In 2017, Murmuration received another $3.5M in contributions and grants as it spent $5.4M, which brought its end of year net assets to $21M. It spending chiefly centered on its Minsights data integration technology ($2.4M), with Data Analytics in a far second place ($835K) and Civic Engagement Program and even farther third ($471K).

Also in 2017, total compensation for Woodhouse, Bloomberg, Haskins, and Laver increased; and Joel Piper was added:

  • Emma Bloomberg: $240K (40 hrs/wk)
  • Enoch Woodhouse: $274K (40 hrs/wk)
  • Elizabeth Haskins: $141K (40 hrs/wk)
  • Conor Murray Laver: $304K (40 hrs/wk)
  • Joel Michael Piper, data scientist: $162K (40 hrs/wk)

Murmuration: “We have the money, so we can purchase the change.”

That is not how murmuration works.

The name, “murmuration,” refers to “hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.”

In the world of supply chain management, murmuration often involves one organization trying to control multiple stages of the supply chain— a control that “leads to unrealistic expectations,” as self-described “supply chain management evangelist” Flako Feldchen writes:

Supply chains still process and share information poorly today

The answer today is often central orchestration and tighter control of trading partners by the OEM across the entire four-tier supply chain. This requires high investments into visibility technology, but also a need for firefighting, process control, and legal negotiation efforts, as well as buffers on all levels of the network.

But not only does this strategy involve high effort, it also leads to unrealistic expectations, because capacity at the fourth-tier supplier is not necessarily related to the customers’ customer. In addition, the further down the supply chain, the less trust there is between the OEM and the supplier. Finally, overlapping interests by other trading partners, who want to lead and orchestrate the network, will increase complexity. Therefore, the concept has significant limitations.

According to Feldchen, a key to effective supply chain management appears to be “all individuals contributing in the same way to the benefit of the larger group” that is itself “not consciously know about multi-tier control or a single orchestrator” but that instead follows “simple rules,” again, to benefit the group.

In other words, for the likes of this ed-reform Murmuration venture to be successful, it cannot operate in the very top-down, ed-reform-bent billionaire-funded fashion betrayed by its tax information yet hidden from the public on its website.

Some closing thoughts for Bloomberg, Woodhouse, and the other, would-be-hidden murmurators:

You can create a vague website for a nonprofit funded by millions in ed-reform cash, but you must have stakeholder buy-in at all levels to succeed in a symbiosis wholly foreign to the top-down purchasing power characteristic of market-based ed reform.

A lopsided money-dump into various organizations that you think will advance your nebulously-stated goals cannot work, and hiring individuals who see your organization not as a calling but as a job cannot work. Some of the key people you’ve already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries have already left, and your nonprofit is only five years old.

Assuming that the “political power” you are attempting to purchase will “drive change” completely harmonious with your goals and with the goals of other politically-powered change drivers you choose to fund will likely produce fragmented outcomes.

Murmuration is not fragmented, yet that it the best you will get for your millions: Ed-reform fragments.

And yet, all is not lost.

What you are trying to accomplish is still for the birds.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

3 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Brilliant. And timely, And built around a fundamental misunderstanding of the phenomenon of murmuration. You did it. You did it again. This is a real winner.

  2. Thank you. They multiply like …rabbits? Or birds?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Emma Bloomberg’s New Ed-Reform Gig, Called “Murmuration” | Diane Ravitch's blog

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