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Network in the News: Milwaukee Succeeds, Thriving Together and Northfield Promise

Mon, 2015-04-20 20:00

 Milwaukee Succeeds, Thriving Together and Northfield Promise

The news spotlight seems to constantly hit local Cradle to Career Network partnerships. As our in-house PR person, I’m continually impressed by the news I see about the amazing collective impact work happening throughout the country.

As an effort to share this work and the great stories from throughout the Network, we are kicking off a new blog series: Network in the News!

Ok, so maybe it’s not the most creative name. But “Partnerships in the Newspapers” and “Cradle to Career Chronicles” didn’t seem quite right either. If you think of a more creative name, I’m open to suggestions.

Without further ado, the first installment of Network in the News!

Milwaukee Succeeds has a new executive director, Danae Davis. With a couple video interviews and multiple profile pieces, the local media is buzzing:

Thriving Together in Phoenix has been working with schools and other local organizations to tackle the achievement gap, which was featured in the Arizona Republic.

Northfield Promise in Northfield, Minn., published a great editorial in the Northfield News, titled “We can all play a role in supporting our youth.”

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, please pass it along to We would love to share your work with our audiences.

Read “Network in the News” every week for the latest local coverage of StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Partnerships.


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Excellence with Equity

Thu, 2015-04-16 11:43

When we talk about equity, we leave out excellence and when we talk about excellence we leave out equity.

Yesterday, more than 50 Network members and community leaders attended StriveTogether’s “Role of Equity & Community in Systems Change” convening in Atlanta, Georgia. Equity is an integral part of collective impact. Implementing collective impact in a quality way means actively working to make systems more equitable and closing disparities in achievement.

Dr. Ron Ferguson of the Achievement Gap Initiative of Harvard University kicked off the day and emphasized this point with his concept of Excellence with Equity. He suggested that our goal is not (or should not be) to just get lower-performing students to perform at the same level as higher-performing students. Instead, our goal should be to have low-performing students and higher performing students both perform at higher levels than what they are now. Often, Dr. Ferguson suggests, when we talk about equity, we leave out excellence and when we talk about excellence we leave out equity. We need to find a way to achieve both if we really want to change our systems and see sustained improvement in our students’ outcomes.

This idea of excellence with equity was carried throughout the first day of the “Role of Equity & Community in Systems Change” convening as we dug in with facilitators Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz of E3: Education, Excellence, & Equity and Jarrod Schwartz of Just Communities for an interactive session focused on the “how” of equity. Three key equity areas were identified as barriers to moving towards action:

  1. Having difficult (and successful) conversations about equity
  2. Having a partnership that reflects the community (especially those the partnership is focused on serving)
  3. Disaggregating data to lead to effective and equitable strategies for improvement

Tools were provided and practiced for each issue area to ensure that partnerships are not just doing the work, they could do it with quality; with equity.

There is still a lot of work to do, both in local communities and nationally, to ensure that every child has a fair chance at success. A large piece of this work is changing the systems that perpetuate the low achievement and disparities in outcomes that we are currently seeing. Cradle to career partnerships are uniquely positioned to drive this shift in systems to not only ensure that disparity gaps close, but also that all students are achieving at high and acceptable levels. They are uniquely positioned to create systems that are excellent, with equity.


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Greater Cincinnati Education Report Card Shows Progress, But Significant Opportunity Gaps Exist

Wed, 2015-04-08 04:45

StrivePartnership 2015

Education success indicators like kindergarten readiness, fourth grade reading achievement and high school graduation are improving for students in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky. However, every child is not experiencing the same results.

The sixth annual community report card is out from StrivePartnership, the collective impact partnership in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky that has served as a model for similar cradle to career initiatives across the country. The 2015 report card highlights major progress across the region, with 91 percent of education indicators trending up. Highlights include:

  • Kindergarten readiness and early grade reading scores are up across all school districts. In particular, public school students in Covington and Newport, Kentucky have made major jumps in 3rd grade reading (17 and 13 points, respectively).
  • High school graduation and college completion have improved in all school districts. Cincinnati Public Schools has seen an eight-point jump since last year. College completion is up across all institutions for students from the urban core, though recent progress has slowed.

The StrivePartnership report card also showcases action happening across the region focused on improving education results. Stories highlight the community’s universal pre-school advocacy work, early literacy tutoring program, talent pipeline initiative and post-secondary attainment collaborative. The report card also highlights an elementary school in Covington, KY that has closed achievement gaps.

However, community-wide data identifies that a significant achievement gap exists across economic condition and race. Data disaggregated by race, gender and income shows that economically disadvantaged, black, and hispanic students are significantly behind their counterparts in key education benchmarks. The report also found there is a serious need for interventions to improve 8th grade math and ACT scores.

“Our partners have been working to improve key outcomes for our students, from school readiness rates to college completion, and they have made significant progress.” said StrivePartnership Executive Director Greg Landsman. “Yet the data are clear: too many kids are still being left behind, and income and race are driving factors. This must end, and a collective response to eliminating these inequities so that every child is succeeding is the clarion call of this report.”

Download the 2015 StrivePartnership Community Report Card

Read more about the StrivePartnership report card release from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Education for everyone: Report shows big gains, big gaps


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Phoenix rallies around cradle to career success for 250,000+ students

Wed, 2015-04-01 10:44

Thriving Together Cradle to Career Baseline Report Card

The Phoenix, Arizona community is coming together around a common vision: preparing over a quarter-million students for success in school and the workforce.

The Thriving Together cradle to career partnership, a member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Networkmade news this week in Arizona with the launch of it baseline report. A key milestone for all communities focused on cradle to career collective impact, Thriving Together’s baseline report outlines community goals and strategies, and provides data and insight on how the initiative will help young people improve their educational results and transition to a career.

Thriving Together connects more than 200 leaders from 60 local organizations, including higher education, social services, community groups, business and industry, government leaders and parents. The goal of the partnership is to bring together resources from across the community to improve key education milestones for students. Thriving Together will initially initially focus its efforts on improving results in 3rd grade reading, 8th grade math, high school graduation / college readiness, and college enrollment and attainment.

Download Thriving Together’s baseline report to learn more about cradle to career collective impact work in Phoenix!


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Communities Explore Cradle to Career Collective Impact

Fri, 2015-03-27 10:13

StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening March 24-25 Indianapolis, IN

Communities across the country are looking to cradle to career collective impact as a successful way to create a common vision and drive action to improve education results for every child.

Over 140 individuals from over 40 communities in the early stages of developing a cradle to career partnership traveled to Indianapolis, IN March 24-25, 2015 to learn strategies from StriveTogether staff and Cradle to Career Network members. Attendees discussed how to create a community wide visionuse data to define community-level metrics, engage investors, create a cross-sector leadership table and develop a baseline community report card. In addition, attendees received one-on-one coaching from Cradle to Career Network members and StriveTogether staff.

#ExploreWhatWorks: View our Storify roundup of social media posts from the 2015 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening:

[View the story "2015 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening" on Storify]


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Communities Making Sure “Our Kids” Means Every Child

Thu, 2015-03-26 09:37

Our Kids Means Every Child

In 2001, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam provided a wake-up call to the nation about dwindling civic engagement in Bowling Alone. Now he has released a new book that exposes a related, but even more devastating crisis: the vast and growing opportunity gap between rich and poor children. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis combines individual stories with rigorous evidence about changes in the economic and social landscape—trends that increasingly reserve upward mobility for those who are born into relative wealth.

At the heart of this chasm lies a pivotal indicator of future success: educational attainment. If you are born to parents who have a college education, you have a very good chance of graduating from college yourself. But if your parents didn’t make it past high school, statistically your fate has likely been sealed to that future as well. This was not always the case. In decades past, a high school diploma was a ticket to a decent job in manufacturing or other industries, and the children of those families had a good chance of going to college—indeed, it was the expectation of the times that children could do better than their parents. Today, sadly, that is far from a foregone conclusion.

The facts of growing opportunity and income gaps are not news. What is significant about Putnam’s new work is its focus on the dangers these gaps pose to America’s future. The economic impact of this state of affairs is increasingly unsustainable: Putnam cites estimated costs of child poverty at $500 billion annually—a number that will only grow if the income and opportunity gaps continue to widen.

Perhaps even more important, he puts at the center the moral imperative to view all children as our kids. Putnam writes that when he was growing up, when his parents talked about “our kids” they meant all of the kids in their town. Not our offspring, our kids—all of the children in the community. While there is much to be learned from Putnam’s book, I believe this may be its most transformative contribution.

This shift toward seeing all children as our kids is at the heart of StriveTogether’s cradle to career collective impact work. It is the inspiration for building cross-sector partnerships that create accountability and mutual responsibility for the success of every child.

Today our communities suffer from an epidemic of distrust that undermines change. One student Putnam’s research team interviewed, Mary Sue, captured her sense that people in general are not looking out for her best interest by simply stating, “Love gets you hurt. Trust gets you killed.” She has learned in her life that trusting others to look out for her only leads to harmful outcomes.

The lack of trust is most pronounced in low-income communities, but it transcends all sectors and segments of society. We’ve seen distrust derail progress so many times that we’ve adopted the mantra raised by leaders in Milwaukee who observed, “Partnerships move at the speed of trust.” Cradle to career collective impact requires adults to model trust in one another, to transform how we work together and to prioritize what is best for children above all else in decision making.

The 61 communities in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network are further testing their ability to trust one another by putting equity at the center of their work, tackling pervasive disparities and the root causes of inequitable outcomes. In Dallas, having brought robust data and expertise to the table, and scaling proven interventions, The Commit! Partnership is seeing a significant increase in third-grade reading proficiency, regardless of socioeconomic status. And in Portland, Oregon, partners in All Hands Raised focuses on specific actions to eliminate high school graduation rate disparities. The results? An unprecedented five-point reduction in the graduation gap for students of color.

Every single member of the Network would note we have a long way to go. But the success stories help build the trust needed to show we can as communities work differently to achieve better outcomes for kids. And along with building trust, these communities have made that fundamental shift toward mutual responsibility for every child’s success, anchored in the moral imperative that all children are our kids.


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Albany Shares Collective Impact Lessons with New Cradle to Career Partnerships at Exploring Communities Convening

Wed, 2015-03-25 11:49

StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening

The Albany, New York, community had a vision for a different education system and a brighter future for local kids. With Albany Promise cradle to career partnership and the support of committed local leaders like Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Mark Bobb-Semple of Urban Arts Experience, change is happening.

Mayor Sheehan and Mark traveled from Albany to Indianapolis this week for the StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening to share insights from Albany Promise with early-stage cradle to career partnerships from across the country.

“We have an entire system that is failing,” Mayor Sheehan said during a panel discussion on creating a community-wide vision. “We all have to own our piece and take collective responsibility.”

When the collective impact work in Albany first kicked off, leaders focused first on bringing everyone whose work impacted youth to the table, Mayor Sheehan said. “We celebrated what they were doing and talked about where they fit on the cradle to career continuum.” Once everyone was at the table, then Albany Promise started talking about how to improve results for kids through collective impact.

Today, according to Mayor Sheehan, when the City of Albany looks at funding different entities, it now considers cradle to career criteria. The city asks if the entity is involved in the Albany Promise partnership, if they are sharing data, and if they have considered how they can be a part of the collective impact initiative. From early childhood to college readiness, the entire community is starting to own their piece and is seeing results. The community now has a standard kindergarten readiness assessment and a teacher training package that is leading to improved results for the youngest Albany kids. And, a new community-wide college prep day resulted in increased SAT participation from 53 to 82 percent.

Though these improvements may not seem very dramatic, members of Albany Promise know that small improvement is needed to move a bigger outcome, such as kindergarten readiness or post-secondary enrollment. The partnership has also learned that, by sharing small successes with the community, it can build momentum and keep people engaged in the collective impact process.

“The dial didn’t move for over 20 years in Albany,” Mark said during the panel discussion. “Now it has moved and we had to celebrate it. It’s only going to get better.”


Over 140 individuals from over 40 communities joined the StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening this week. Throughout the convening, attendees were able to learn strategies from StriveTogether staff and Cradle to Career Network representatives from Albany Promise, Higher Expectations for Racine Youth, Impact Tulsa, Milwaukee Succeeds, Raise DC and Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.

Creating a community-wide vision was just one of several core collective impact strategies discussed in Indianapolis. Sessions also explored how to agree on community-level metrics, build accountability structures, create a cross-sector leadership table, develop a baseline report card and engage investors. In addition, attendees received one-on-one coaching from Cradle to Career Network members and StriveTogether staff.

We are grateful for the Cradle to Career Network members who took the time to share their knowledge and experiences at the Exploring Communities Convening and on a regular basis. Together, each community is helping to build momentum nationwide to improve education outcomes for every child.


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New Report Cards Unite Communities & Showcase Successes

Mon, 2015-03-16 13:12

Norwalk ACTS is one of a dozen Cradle to Career Network members with a new report card out this quarter

Releasing a community-wide report card is an essential step to kick-start conversations and get people involved in cradle to career partnership work. By combining student outcome data with an open report about the state of the community’s education system, community report cards help collective impact partnerships celebrate success, illuminate priorities and drive people to take action together.

During the last few months, over a dozen StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members have released new community report cards with data from the 2013-2014 school year. Some of these are baseline reports to educate community members on how kids are doing and goals the entire community will work to achieve. Others are the community’s second or even third report card, providing updates on progress toward goals.

While each of these publications tells a unique story, we see encouraging common approaches and promising results across the Network.

Cradle to career partnerships are reporting on results, and being transparent with data and progress toward goals. They are informing their communities about action that is showing promise, celebrating successes and sharing best practices. And, they are sharing stories of impact, instead of just charts and graphs.

Of the communities who have released more than one report card, we are also seeing encouraging results for kids, including decreases in opportunity gaps and increases in kindergarten readiness, reading proficiency, high school graduation rates and post-secondary enrollment and completion stats.

Check out these great examples of data-driven collective impact partnerships driving change across the country:


90% by 2020 Anchorage United for Youth | Anchorage, AK


The Albany Promise | Albany, NY


All Hands Raised | Portland, OR


Boston Opportunity Agenda | Boston, MA


The Commit! Partnership | Dallas, TX


Fresno Area Strive | Fresno, CA


Graduate Tacoma | Tacoma, WA


Mission: Graduate | Albuquerque, NM


Norwalk ACTS | Norwalk, CT


The Roadmap Project | Seattle, WA


Thrive Santa Barbara | Santa Barbara, CA


Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative | Charleston, SC


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Leaders Can Pave the Way for Effective Student Data Sharing

Wed, 2015-03-11 20:00

Decision makers, not data people, get information moving. And they do it when it’s in their own best interest.

This blog is part of a series on seven principles of effective data sharing, including contributions from StriveTogether’s Geoff Zimmerman and the Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) Chris Kingsley. Read Chris Kingsley’s introductory post on DQC’s blog.

When the leadership table was formed for 90% by 2020: Anchorage United for Youth, cradle to career partnership staff quickly realized how valuable this cross-sector group of leaders can be. They learned that this powerful group of leaders can help pave the way data utilization and community-wide commitment to improving education outcomes.

90% by 2020 launched Anchorage’s first community report card last fall. In a recent interview about this key milestone, Senior Director of Education Impact Kameron Perez Verdia told us he learned about a successful approach to community conversations from a local CEO on their leadership team. “His main takeaway was that we need to make it about them and not about us,” Kameron said. “How does this work impact you as a small business owner? How does this work impact you as a parent? How does this work impact you as a teacher or construction worker? He was really thinking about taking the key messages around outcomes and data and utilization of community resources, and making these conversations about the key people he was talking to. That’s where it becomes really powerful.”

Conversations around student data can be extremely challenging. And, many community organizations are unsure how to even begin to develop data sharing partnerships across organizational boundaries. When schools and local community organizations effectively share data, schools can better understand which community partners are serving students and help to align partners and resources. And community organizations have better information on the kids they are serving, which can help improve programming.

StriveTogether and the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) recently released Data Drives School-Community Collaboration: Seven Principles for Effective Data Sharing, a new resource to help communities implement complex data partnerships. A data sharing playbook for community partnerships, this resource contains seven key lessons about how to begin and grow a data-driven initiative with schools and other community partners. It also includes several case examples and resources to help guide communities.

Pave the way with leaders and decision makers is first principle for effective data sharing in the playbook. Decision makers, not data people, get information moving. And they do it when it’s in their own best interest.

Leaders involved in data sharing need to advocate for the use of data for continuous improvement, and for the legality, urgency and value of data sharing for the partnership. And to get there, just like the CEO in Anchorage did, each community needs to build these partnerships by understanding what’s in it for each of them.

It’s in this spirit that we need to pave the way with leaders and decision makers to create the structures for sustained data sharing across sectors. Sustained data sharing is the only way that communities will be able to know what practices are leading to improved outcomes so they can align existing resources to practices that are getting results.

Engaging Key Sectors - What  it in it for them?


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Moving Toward Big Results in Education with Data and Continuous Improvement

Wed, 2015-03-11 20:00

Big Results in Education with Data and Continuous Improvement

They’re doing something right in Portland, Oregon. In just three years, the graduation gap for students of color has gone from 14.3% to 9.5%. And in several large high schools, the gap is gone. How you ask? By paying attention to local data and moving toward what works.

Lisbeth Schorr of the Center for the Study of Social Policy and Anthony Bryk of the Carnegie Foundation recently published a blog on Huffington Post called, “To Achieve Big Results From Social Policy, Add This,” and my inbox immediately filled up with messages celebrating their message. Schorr and Bryk said:

“There is enormous variability in the impact of social interventions across different populations, different organizational contexts, and different community settings. We must learn not only whether an intervention can work (which is what randomized control trials tell us), but how, why, and for whom – and also how we can do better.”

The work of All Hands Raised in Portland, OR is a great example of how cradle to career partnerships across the country are doing this today – using real-time, evidence based learning to continuously improve both interventions and outcomes.

All Hands Raised made racial equity in education its main goal. Through a powerful process and courageous conversations about achievement gaps, this community is moving toward proven practices based on what the data shows them. When data showed that chronic absenteeism hurt early grade reading outcomes, partners in Portland, OR focused their attention on practices that would increase attendance. With this and other effective data-driven strategies, Portland has begun to steadily chip away at the achievement gap it seeks to eliminate.

Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated use of data in these communities, every day we are seeing new signs of student impact like this. And, we’re learning how to help partnerships expedite progress.

Early access to both programmatic and student outcome data can effectively pinpoint what leads to better outcomes. And, communities can go much farther if they start by building trust that data will be used as a flashlight, not a hammer.

Real change can happen when communities come together, focus on data and build on what really works for kids. We’ll continue to learn from these experiences to develop social interventions that focus resources on what works. With these lessons, we’re in a strong position to make the case for those efforts, and to truly move the dial on our children’s future.


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StriveTogether Signs on to National Student Data Privacy Principles

Mon, 2015-03-09 20:00

Student data privacy principles

Effective data use provides critical information communities need to personalize education for every child. Cradle to career partnerships, place-based initiatives and school districts all across the country are finding ways to do this every day, and are working hard to make sure every child has access to the right resources to help them succeed. This work requires a commitment to share data across organizational boundaries, while making sure the privacy rights of individuals are respected.

Today, the Data Quality Campaign and Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) are launching Principles for Using and Safeguarding Students’ Personal Information, a first-ever effort by major national education associations to articulate commonly held principles that should guide the use and protections of student information.

Developed in partnership with leading national education organizations representing parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, state boards of education, chief technology officers and many others, these principles are intended to articulate the education community’s core beliefs and a commitment to building transparency and trust. They emphasize safeguarding data requires more than just compliance with the law. It requires building a culture of privacy at all levels.

StriveTogether is one of many leading national educational organizations to sign on to these student data principles. We believe that committing to these principles will enable the effective use of data at scale to improve results for all students.

These principles, focused at the school district level, are very much aligned with the Student Data Privacy Best Practices StriveTogether released last month for community-based organizations and cradle to career partnerships.

We applaud the Data Quality Campaign, CoSN and all educational organizations that are committed to protecting privacy and using data to ensure we collectively support each child with the right resources, from cradle to career.


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ImpactTulsa to Share Lessons Learned with New Cradle to Career Partnerships

Thu, 2015-03-05 03:00

StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening March 24-25 Indianapolis, IN

Nine leaders from Tulsa, OK, including superintendents from the area’s four largest school districts and investors committed to supporting Tulsa youth, traveled to Chicago last March to learn more about collective impact. This team represented ImpactTulsa, one of 43 exploring communities from 19 different states who came together at the 2014 StriveTogether Exploring Communities Convening.

At the Exploring Communities Convening, ImpactTulsa and other teams just starting to bring their communities together to improve education outcomes for kids listened and learned from advanced partnerships on a similar path. Throughout the two days, they learned from StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members, discussed action steps with StriveTogether staff and explored the Theory of Action, StriveTogether’s nationally recognized collective impact approach.

This proved to be a critical milestone in ImpactTulsa’s journey, accelerating their pace through the Theory of Action and propelling them towards implementing key steps for sustainable cradle to career civic infrastructure.

“Had it not been for the Exploring Communities Convening, there is no way our partnership would have progressed the way it has,” ImpactTulsa COO Monroe Nichols told me.

After attending the Exploring Communities Convening, the delegation went back to Tulsa with a deeper understanding of what it takes to implement collective impact with rigor. Armed with new knowledge and shared direction, the partnership thoughtfully crafted foundational components for their work, including a community vision of success for every child and indicators to measure progress. ImpactTulsa also actively engaged the community and wrestled with the topic of equity.

These accomplishments enabled ImpactTulsa to become the 52nd community partnership to join the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network in October 2014. Shortly after joining, ImpactTulsa reached another key milestone with the release of its first annual community report card, showing the deep commitment to and shared accountability for improved results for children in their community.


The amount of progress the partnership has made in only one year is impressive and inspiring. But what’s even more astounding is how ImpactTulsa has intentionally implemented the Theory of Action within their local context.

This month, representatives from ImpactTulsa will return to our annual Exploring Communities Convening in a completely different role than in 2014. They will share lessons learned from their work in Tulsa with other communities interested in pursuing quality collective impact.

“I am extremely excited to share our Tulsa experience in coaching sessions this year,” said Nichols. “We learned so much in 2014 and our students are better for it. It is humbling and thrilling to share that experience with others as we all work to uplift excellence in education and student outcomes across the country.”

We look forward to connecting with more emerging partnerships March 24-25 in Indianapolis and witnessing more communities take steps toward building a community-wide vision for supporting every child, cradle to career.

Learn more and register for the 2015 Exploring Communities Convening


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Collective Impact Irony

Mon, 2015-03-02 19:00

To achieve collective impact, individuals and organizations should align to community goals.

The “collective” in collective impact is critically important. No doubt. All of us – across sectors and every corner of the community – need to work together to achieve population level results. But we are finding something interesting to be true: Each individual and organization is equally important to achieving the impact we all desire. Individual and organizational action is in many ways the key to collective impact.

We find that people often come to tables convened in the name of collective impact with the wrong mental model. They may think they are coming to an advisory board where they can weigh in and provide some guidance. Or a nonprofit board where they provide guidance to an executive director. Or maybe even a taskforce where they will make recommendations and help implement some solutions. None of these will work for us to move the dial at scale. This work can’t be deputized to an individual. And it can’t even depend on us working in perfect concert around a powerful set of actions.

Sustainable impact depends on the willingness of each and every individual and each and every organization to think differently about what they do every day. And most importantly, each must be open to changing what they do to make sure they are aligned with agreed upon outcomes, using data on what works for kids to guide their actions.


This is a completely different mental model. It means partners are coming to the table to weigh the collective interests of the community equally with their individual and organizational interests when making decisions.

That is partnership. That means an investor will align with the collective outcomes and make decisions that align with peers focused on a similar outcome. A practitioner working with children will share programmatic data with the confidence peers will do the same so everyone can improve together. An elected official will remove barriers to aligning precious public resources behind what works. A faith leader will mobilize her congregation to advance practices that get results for kids. And an educational leader will share accountability for results while working with partners to build on what works and improve what does not .

Coming to the table to achieve collective impact means doing the hard work collectively, but even harder work individually and organizationally. Isn’t it ironic?

Read more about individual, collaborative and shared community measures in our new data sharing playbook, Data Drives School Community Collaboration.


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Expert Convening Navigates Policy Change

Thu, 2015-02-26 10:29

StriveTogether Expert Convening on Policy Change

I’m writing this post from Phoenix, Arizona, the site of StriveTogether’s Expert Convening: Understanding the Role of Policy to Impact Outcomes. Last year we inaugurated our Expert Convening series with an amazing gathering of cradle to career partnerships to discuss driving impact with data. This year we’re building on that success by bringing together an equally impressive group of partnerships to discuss the important role of policy and advocacy in cradle to career collective impact work.

Because achieving system change requires policy change, StriveTogether’s Theory of Action includes benchmarks around policy and advocacy work. This can be a particularly challenging area for cradle to career partnerships since it involves navigating intricate political systems, bureaucracies, and conflicting agendas. That’s why we wanted to spend time focusing on both the successes and pitfalls in this arena within our network, and harvest learning that will help accelerate change for all communities.

The goals of this convening are 1) to generate knowledge on how partners are addressing policy change at the institutional, local, and state level and 2) to provide opportunities for partnerships learn from each other about the policy and advocacy arena.

Five partnerships were invited to participate and share their experiences around influencing and shaping policies that create better outcomes for students: Commit! Partnership in Dallas, Texas; City Heights Partnership for Children in San Diego, California; StrivePartnership in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Northern Kentucky; Learn to Earn in Dayton, Ohio; and Promise Partnerships of Salt Lake County, Utah. In addition to partnership staff, participants include state and local officials and policymakers who work closely with the partnerships—so we have a wealth and diversity of valuable perspectives to capture knowledge in this important area.

To develop a deeper understanding of how partnerships are approaching policy change, each community created a process map unpacking the different stages of creating a specific policy change. Dayton’s Learn to Earn partnership mapped its goal of getting a state policy change to incentivize quality preschool programs, emphasizing the importance of focusing on policy from the beginning and getting the right people at the table to leverage change.

One of Learn to Earn’s key strategies has been to hire a lobbyist, chosen after a rigorous selection process with a search committee that included a former governor and other political insiders. Also key to Dayton’s success in the policy arena is its strong relationship with county government—including Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman—a participant in this convening.

Some of the other insights I heard today included the importance of data in making the case for policy change, and the influence of relationships on removing barriers to improving education outcomes.

Jesse Moyer, KnowledgeWorks Director of State Advocacy and Research, was also on hand today to reflect on the discussions and provide a national context. He said cradle to career partnerships are uniquely positioned to influence policy. “You are in a perfect spot to effect change, by first getting the data together around what works, and then convening people across sectors.” Jesse also advised participants to truly pay attention to the priorities of different stakeholders and then see where the alignment lies. “Policy isn’t this mythical thing,” he said. “Ultimately it’s a reflection of society’s priorities.”

After the first day of this convening, I’m confident that we’ve already begun to demystify this process by learning how communities are approaching policy and advocacy work. This powerful learning exchange will be a big shot in the arm as we build resources to support our whole network to accelerate toward system-level change.


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My Brother’s Keeper: Inspiring Action around Equity

Thu, 2015-02-19 11:05

My Brother's Keeper

“When goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” Taj Atkinson, a teenager from Newark, NJ, referenced this Confucius saying during opening remarks at last week’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Community Challenge National Convening at the White House. Taj’s rousing remarks lifted audience members to their feet and kicked off an exhilarating day with over 200 municipal leaders from across the country.

I had the privilege of representing StriveTogether at the event, joining MBK leaders as they converged on Washington to discuss how to mobilize local leaders around cradle to career strategies to improve life outcomes for boys and young men of color – and, ultimately, for all young people.

Welcomes from Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder were followed by compelling remarks about equity from Angela Glover Blackwell, the founder of PolicyLink. Blackwell shared an illustrative example of how focusing on equity helps everyone: When advocates for people with disabilities worked to install ramped curbs on sidewalks across America, the beneficiaries were not just people with disabilities – weary parents pushing strollers, hasty travelers with rolling luggage and many others also benefited. Blackwell said, “When you solve problems for the most vulnerable, you solve problems for everyone.”

Addressing equity is a critical component of collective impact efforts happening across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network as well as among communities who have accepted the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge.

I moderated a panel on operationalizing collective impact for MBK leaders, elevating the practical implementation challenges associated with building the civic infrastructure needed to sustain cradle to career partnerships. I was joined by representatives from Mission: Graduate in Albuquerque, NM; a Promise Neighborhood in Chula Vista, CA; and an Innovation Delivery Team in New Orleans, LA. Each highlighted common themes on the importance of shared outcomes, a focus on using data for continuous improvement, the need for clear accountability structures, and the obligation to change the behavior of adults to improve the systems supporting every child.

Even before the panel on collective impact, it was remarkable to hear speakers throughout the day call out local StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member partnerships as examples of promising efforts making an impact – I heard shout-outs to The Commit! Partnership, Mission: Graduate, Portland ConnectED, Raise DC, and Thrive Chicago.

The My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge Implementation Guide (available to communities who have accepted the MBK Community Challenge) highlights the key principles underpinning the StriveTogether Theory of Action and outlines the four gateways to building the civic infrastructure to achieve proof point. It’s heartening to know that our Network members are truly leading the way, providing a roadmap for how to drive systemic change with rigor and ultimately increase opportunity for every child from cradle to career.


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For the Love of the Community

Fri, 2015-02-13 09:37

The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network works for the love of community

I don’t know if you have ever been to Cincinnati in February, but imagine grey, dull and slushy and you’re pretty much there. Sometimes, staying in bed on these less than pleasant mornings sounds like a better alternative than trudging into the office. On days like this, I think of sunny San Diego, but probably not for the reason you might think.

Last October, StriveTogether held our National Cradle to Career Network Convening in San Diego, which gathered together over 50 partnerships from around the country to learn from each other and discuss action that is working in their communities. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a few sessions, but the one that sticks out the most for me was “WHY We Do It” led by the Big Goal Collaborative from Northeast Indiana. In this session, we were encouraged to think of why we come to work each day and the responses from the people in the room were moving:

Community, Education, Opportunity, Children, Future, Change, Believe...

While everyone’s answer differed, what came through loud and clear was the love everyone had for their community. But this love is not a slap-a-bumper-sticker-on-your-car type of love. This love is compelling these people to leave their home every day to work (sometimes thanklessly) toward improving educational outcomes for every kid in their community. It is not just love, it is passion. And this passion is leading them to take action.

These folks are pioneers and innovators. They are bringing together all sectors of their community to make the changes needed to support every child from cradle to career. They also realize that creating and sustaining a more equitable system requires playing the long game. Their passion is strong enough to sustain them to endure the relentless pursuit of progress.

And it is working.

Since the start of this month, several partnerships (including The Road Map Project in South Seattle and King County, Graduate Tacoma in Tacoma, WA & 90% by 2020 in Anchorage, AK) have released their reports to the community announcing progress. They also recognize that even if they have not made the progress they had hoped for, they have the data to help find the best practices to test and scale across the community. They are combining this passion with a logical and measured approach to rise to the challenges that have stymied so many well-intentioned people for so long. Passion plus analytics equals results.

So when all the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey, I find myself California dreaming. I think of the people of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network and am inspired to get out of bed. Your passion fires up my passion. Together we can and will change the system.


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Data: A GPS for Student Success

Tue, 2015-02-10 13:05

Effective use of data can ensure every child is on the path to success

When I was a child we would spend hours in the car with my father as he looked for a destination we had never visited before. He was confident that since he knew the general area of where we wanted to go that he could find the right path. Unfortunately, without clear directions, this meant we would do some unexpected sightseeing. Perhaps not surprisingly, I followed a similar pattern for many years as I shuttled my four kids to events around the city. After having to apologize to too many coaches and hosts for being late, I finally invested in a GPS. Amazing how much time I saved to get the right destination.

It may be a difficult topic to approach, but data on student performance and – more importantly – programmatic data on the impact of services can have a similar influence on education. For years, we have known the destination we hope all kids to reach: we want them to thrive in education, career and life. But we only know the general direction to get there. In fact, we have a system that meets the needs of about half the student population, leaving far too many to fall off the path.

Effective use of data provides the information needed to personalize education so every child is on the most expeditious path to success. Imagine the power of this opportunity. If teachers, parents, grandparents, coaches, social service providers, non-profit organizations and all professionals working with youth are armed with information to help tailor the learning journey of every child, we are much more likely to arrive where we intend to go. More importantly, children are much more likely to achieve their dreams.

Fortunately, we have learned a great deal about how to effectively use the power of data. In partnership with the Data Quality Campaign, we have established 7 principles for the effective sharing of student data. These principles are based on lessons from members of the Cradle to Career Network who are working to use data more effectively every day.  StriveTogether has also developed a set of best practices for protecting student privacy when sharing data. These get to some of the very real issues President Obama raised recently related to privacy and respect for personal information. And those working on the ground are finding ways to do just that:  make sure we are respecting the rights of individuals while also giving them the best possible opportunity to succeed through access to the most relevant and useful resources.

I resisted buying a GPS for some time. Now I could not be happier that I did because I can get to where I’m going so much more efficiently. We should challenge ourselves to use education and programmatic data as similar tools for our kids. Children and our society as a whole will benefit from making sure we do everything possible to help them succeed.


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Collective Impact and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Wed, 2015-02-04 08:56

It's time for federal policy makers to support collective impact

Communities across the country have adopted collective impact as a framework to improve outcomes for students from cradle to career. These communities have established cross-sector partnerships, brought leaders to the table around a common vision, used evidence-based strategies and data to drive outcomes, and advocated for each student’s equal opportunity to succeed.

Now it’s time to encourage federal policymakers to support these efforts.

This week, KnowledgeWorks, StriveTogether’s parent organization, released complete recommendations for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.

Federal policymakers have a unique opportunity to uphold a commitment to equity while empowering states, districts and local communities to innovate so every student has access to high-quality education.

This includes collective impact.

KnowledgeWorks’ recommendations include three solely focused on collective impact. These are based on experiences from StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members:

  1. Remove barriers to effective implementation of collective impact
  2. Maximize impact and sustainability of school improvement efforts
  3. Launch an Education Pay-For-Success Initiative to support strategies that improve education outcomes for children and youth.

The House and Senate are moving quickly to pass ESEA Reauthorization bills this spring and hope to begin conference negotiations soon after to find common ground between the two proposals.

Engage in this process by contacting your representatives and senators. Share these recommendations with your partners and stakeholders. Voice your opinions on social media.

The next few months are a critical time for K-12 education reform and healthy dialogue is needed to determine the future of the education system.


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Capturing the Community’s True Investment

Thu, 2015-01-29 10:17

Cradle to career partnerships budgets should capture the community's true investment

Cradle to Career partnerships are not a single organization, but a mosaic of actors who come together to collectively advance a cradle to career agenda in their community. In our previous blog Capacity for Impact we explored how each partner and community member’s contributions to the partnership help create and sustain the capacity of the partnership to impact outcomes for kids. For this reason, the capacity provided for by all partners should be reflected in the partnership’s budget.

A partnership budget should reflect and quantify both the fiscal support (financial contributions) and in-kind support (loaned or donated staff, time, goods or services) from all of the contributing partners. This budget is different from the budget of the anchor entity supporting the partnership (fiscal agent), which traditionally only reflects the investments and expenses that are funneled through the anchor. It may not fully capture the fiscal and in-kind donations of every organization supporting the Cradle to Career partnership.

Cradle to career partnership budgets should capture fiscal and in-kind donations  of every partner

Building a budget that is inclusive of all partners and contributors can help the partnership effectively engage investors for additional or sustained support, as well as help to keep partners who provide in-kind support at the table.

A partnership budget can be used as a method to strategically engage investors and explain the value of the partnership to stakeholders. Partnership budgets that demonstrate the support and investments from all sectors of the community can help build the confidence of investors in the sustainability of the work by. Along this line, recognizing in-kind and other supports can help illustrate how the partnership aligns initiatives rather than duplicating programs. This can also provide clarity to investors who may be unfamiliar with collective impact work.

Often, only the fiscal support provided to the partnership gets quantified into the budget. However there is huge value and investment inherent in in-kind contributions. Here are some benefits communities in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network have realized through recognizing in-kind contributions:

  • Partners feel more connected to and engaged in the partnership by having their contributions recognized. Partners of Milwaukee Succeeds have noted that it makes them feel like they have ‘skin in the game’ and keeps them engaged in the work of the partnership.
  • Partnerships can leverage in-kind support to garner additional support from existing or new partners. ROC the Future in Rochester, NY leveraged contributions from partners that had already invested in the partnership using their clout to engage additional partners.
  • Partnerships can show the community that it is a broad based effort involving multiple community partners. All Hands Raised in Portland and Multnomah County, OR, has published two “chapters” in the story of their shared work, which are excellent examples of reflecting the contributions of their partners to the work of the partnership.
  • Provides a true reflection of the capacity needed to implement Cradle to Career work. Thrive Chicago has created a budget that quantifies support from the anchor entity and in-kind support from partners to showing how much of an impact in-kind support can have monetarily.
  • Helps the partnership build trust with sections of the community that they may not have a direct connection to. The Commit! Partnership in Dallas County, TX, produces an annual Giving Profile to capture the education-related investments made by its regional philanthropic community.

Budgets are moral documents that reflect the priorities of their creators. Capturing and recognizing partner and community contributions to the partnership show the value they place in the partnership and likewise, the value the partnership places on them. This reciprocal trust and significance is what builds the path for new and sustained investments of time, talent and treasure.


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The Capacity for Impact

Tue, 2015-01-20 19:00

Systemic change requires cradle to career partnership capacity

Changing an entrenched system is hard work. Any person engaged in cradle to career partnership work could tell you that they are not only focused on changing the education system. They are also working to change several other systems, such as policy and philanthropic giving, to make them work more equitably and effectively for every child. Sustainable systemic change requires community-wide support, focused on building the partnership’s ability to make that change. More simply put, systemic change requires partnership capacity. Capacity is what gets stuff done.

To build the required capacity, cradle to career partnerships have employed two strategies: (1) engage investors to secure fiscal donations to support the work; and (2) engage partners to secure in-kind donations that support the work by providing resources, services, staff, etc. Because supports come from different community coffers, it is important for partnerships to quantify and communicate all of the contributions from all partners in the budget, not just the monetary support that passes through the anchor entity.

After analyzing partnership budgets from across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career network, we found that capacity is not a static need, but grows as the partnership progresses in its work to build the infrastructure needed to change systems.

When partnerships quantify all of the contributions of the community, we expect the capacity needs of a cradle to career partnership to look like this:

Capacity grows as the partnership progresses in its work to build the infrastructure needed to change systems

  • In the early stages of building a cradle to career partnership, the work is largely focused on relationship building and partnering; the infrastructure needed to support this new way of approaching education reform is just starting to come together. Various committees of cross-sector partners are being formed to carry-out specific work (like communications or strategic direction) and shared outcomes are being identified that the community will agree to hold itself responsible for improving. In StriveTogether’s Theory of Action, this work happens in the later stages of the Exploring Gateway, and early stages of the Emerging Gateway. In these stages, we see partnership budgets averaging between $300-500k. This generally includes the support of 1-2 staff members to bring together partners and build community awareness of why the systems are in need of change.
  • As the partnership starts to collect and disaggregate data on their shared outcomes, the need for improvement, and action that spurs this improvement, becomes clear.  Partnerships start to launch collaborative action networks, groups of practitioners and experts that come together to work collectively on improving one of those shared outcomes. This work often happens in the later stages of the Emerging Gateway of the Theory of Action. At this stage, partnerships’ budgets jump to around $600-800k and staffing is typically increased to 4-5 staff.  This growth can be attributed to the capacity needs added by forming and launching 1-3 collaborative action networks in addition to the data work and relationship building that occurs in this stage.
  • Once much of the structure of the partnership is created (committees, partners, collaborative action networks), the work starts to really focus on action and improving the shared outcomes. There is a deeper focus on data, especially programmatic and student-level data, and the collaborative action networks that were launched in the previous stage are starting to dig into improving the outcome which they are focused on. The collaborative action networks use a rigorous process of continuous improvement to constantly look at data to see what interventions have an impact and then make improvements on their services to students. Partnerships are also focused on starting to change systems in the community by changing behavior. This requires achieving policy changes, mobilizing the community, and constant communication. All of this advanced work happens in the Sustaining Gateway of the Theory of Action, where partnerships often have the capacity of 7+ full time employees and a budget of at least $1 Million.

Once again, it is essential to note that partnerships do not have to raise funds for all of this capacity. Investment doesn’t always have to be in the form of dollars. One of the most important assets a community has is its people and the ability to mobilize them to support practices that move outcomes. Whatever form capacity takes, fiscal or in-kind resources, what is most important is that the capacity is built, sustained and mobilized to have the most impact.

The capacity provided by all partners should be reflected in the partnership budget as it allows partnerships to adequately track investments and expenses for the work. Look for my next blog that explains how a true partnership budget is different from an anchor entity budget and why they are so important.


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