In September 2006, Professor Edmund W. Gordon convened a study group designed to build on his earlier work on supplementary education (Gordon et al. 2005). Earlier in 2006, he had invited Professor Hervé Varenne to join him. Varenne had been working on a special issue of the Teachers College Record he was guest editing and to which he contributed a foundational article (2007). In that issue he had brought together a group of young anthropologists to explore what a broad view of education might yield. He invited Gordon to write some comments for the issue. This was the beginning of the cooperation between Gordon and Varenne. Together with many others, they initiated or developed several projects introduced on this site.

In his 2005 volume, Gordon had focused on the range of programs designed by any number of non-school based institutions to help directly in the academic achievement of students as measured by schools. In his special issue, Varenne explored the theoretical foundations for a theory of education that directly faced the reality that most personal transformations are the product of familial, communal, and indeed personal, work that mostly proceeds outside direct political controls. A series of ethnographic papers about people in various situations around the world illustrated what can be revealed about education when one refocuses one's attention away from schooling and its problematics.

By the end of this first meeting of the study group a consensus emerged for exploring further all educational activities in which people of all ages and station engage in--whether or not there is direct evidence that these activities help with school success.

On this basis several projects were initiated including now directed by Varenne in close collaboration with Gordon.