Community Success By Design

education, graduate, career

The popularity of collective impact grew exponentially during the economic downturn in 2010 and, as authors Jeff Edmondson and Parvathi Santhosh-Kumar explain in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, it’s easy to see why.

It was a way to do more with what we already had–offering hope for achieving results at the scale we desired despite our feelings of constraint.

However, potential flaws with this concept began appearing as organizations focused on turnkey rather than long-term solutions, and a belief grew that the backbone organization staff could accomplish the majority of work on their own.

It’s in response to these flaws that StriveTogether, a national movement to improve educational outcomes in communities across the country, began to refine and restructure its standards. All community partners committed to tracking six core outcomes (listed below) in order to change the focus of the network from debates on the process to its original intent: achieving results at scale.

StriveTogether Core Outcomes.png

“To achieve improvement at scale and create better and more equitable systems, we need a host of partners across sectors working in alignment to meet the unique needs of a child,” said Jeff Edmondson, StriveTogether Founder and Executive Director.

Luzelma Canales of the RGV Focus in Rio Grande Valley said, “We see what we do as making sure success–graduating from college–happens by design, not by chance.”

To reach every young person cradle to career, added Edmondson, “We have to strengthen the connections and partnerships across a community in smarter ways to anticipate needs and respond accordingly, continuously improving and implementing strategies that intentionally accelerate outcomes and narrow disparities.”

Four Pillars of Collective Action

StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, supports dozens of communities that share four pillars of collective impact:

  1. Shared Community Vision: All participants have a shared vision for change, as well as a common understanding of the problem and how they will work collectively to solve it.
  2. Evidence Based Decision Making: Partnerships make decisions based on local data that shows areas of need and promising practices that are already working for kids.
  3. Collaborative Action: Community members come together to use data to collectively move outcomes.
  4. Investment and Sustainability: Partnerships initiate or redirect resources (time, talent and treasure) toward data-based practices on an ongoing basis, and engages the community to ensure long-term sustainability.

From work with dozens of cities around the country, Edmondson has learned one of the key insights thus far is that “communities need to create a culture and build the capability to use data not just to prove what works, but to improve how they support children each and every day.”

StriveTogether facilitates results-based leadership in two-day convenings for cross-sector leaders in the Cradle to Career Network. Leaders work in small groups focused on addressing adaptive challenges each have encountered as they work to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities.

Using the results-based leadership approach pioneered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, leaders in Racine Wisconsin started with data analysis; community leaders looked for the story behind the data. They explored their mental models about how outcomes are created and made action commitments.

In Dallas, the StriveTogether results-based leadership training sessions changed the way Linda Johnson, Executive Director of College and Career Readiness for the Dallas Independent School District, approached her work. She said, “The training allows me to plan meetings that produce higher-level, critical thinking among the participants due to a knowledge of adaptive and technical challenges and the inclusion of powerful questions.”

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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