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Network in the News: community building and back to school

Tue, 2016-08-23 14:20

Happy Student

StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are building a sense of community around back to school, civil relationships, and election issues.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.


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Not Just Old Wine in New Bottles

Mon, 2016-08-15 14:47


Adriane Johnson-Williams, founding facilitator for the Seeding Success partnership in Memphis, TN, is exploring what it looks like to truly do the work of collaborative action. Through stories of challenging conversations and genuine relationship building, she shares her experiences working to change behaviors and practices in pursuit of better and more equitable outcomes at scale. A native Memphian committed to improving outcomes in her hometown, she now works in philanthropy.

“This isn’t new.”

“We’ve been doing this for years.”

“This is just the next step.”

“You’re building on what we’ve already been doing.”

These same things have been said for decades in school reform—centuries if you look closely enough. There is a cyclical process where someone has a bright new idea, turns the lives of practitioners upside down, and eventually fades away. Those who are able to wait out the new sexy thing can just get back to their normal lives in due time.

Does that describe collective impact? Is this effort to pull people together across sectors to focus on improving community-level outcomes simply old wine in new bottles?

I didn’t really know the answer to those questions at the outset of my work with Seeding Success in Memphis, TN, but I did know that what had been happening wasn’t working. I also knew that outcomes reflect individual behaviors. It would be a massive lift to get people to see the failures of whatever approaches they were using as their individual and collective responsibilities.

People would have to trust us before we could hold up mirrors and expect them to act differently, but how do you build trust in the midst of so much cynicism?

In addition to defining trust as action, it’s important to know more about who is in the room and why. I found that at Seeding Success, there were essentially three types of people: opportunists, survivors, and workers.

  1. The people who disappear after a few meetings are opportunists. They leave once they realize there is no immediate money on the table. The opportunists who hope to reap the benefits of doing something funders like are going to stick it out. They’re ultimately survivors.
  2. The survivors are there to ensure nothing too dramatic or disruptive happens. They often judge others’ contributions but make few of their own. In my experience, they attend meetings regularly and stay in the network.
  3. The workers are already inclined to be self-reflective. They see that things aren’t working and are more willing to consider that they may have a role. The workers are where you focus. Don’t grieve the opportunists. Respect the hustle and fear of the survivors. They each have something to offer. But put in additional effort with the workers.

Our Third Grade Reading Collaborative Action Network (CAN), began with a fair number of opportunists, but it was our survivors and our workers who went on to serve as a critical laboratory for the entire partnership.

I made the choice early in my work with the CAN that instead of trying to get more people to the table or working to convince naysayers, I would support the workers in their pursuit of change. At the time it seemed small, and it wasn’t always forward moving, but now that investment is proving to have been the right choice: summer programming in Memphis may be poised to reduce summer learning loss for thousands of students because just a few workers were willing to try something new.


Adriane Johnson-WilliamsAdriane Johnson-Williams, Ph.D. was the founding facilitator for Seeding S uccess, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career partnership in Memphis, TN. She now works in philanthropy. She is a native Memphian committed to improving outcomes in her hometown.


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This Change Was Made For You and Me

Thu, 2016-08-11 13:46

Albany Promise

Guest post by Juliette Price, Director of The Albany Promise, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Partnership.

Communities and individuals, from California to New York, are working every day to change adult behavior to improve the outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable students.

But this work can be lonely. At this year’s StriveTogether Expert Convening, five cities from across the nation—Albany, Minneapolis, Tacoma, Marin and Cincinnati—got together to share their triumphs and tribulations, tips and lessons learned and collectively move our field forward focused on their efforts at targeting strategies to close the achievement gaps in their communities.

Each community brought a singular case study from their partnership’s work in order to take a deep dive into why a particular strategy worked and identify the key elements to delivering on the promise of improvement. Every case study was radically different—some communities focused on high school graduation rates, others on summer learning loss—but common themes quickly emerged as key to ensuring targeted strategies led to improvement.

  • Clearly define the problem: The outcomes partnerships want to move are complex. For example, successful college enrollment is the confluence of many events. By just focusing on summer melt—the last three months before college enrollment—you can start to make noticeable gains towards your goals quickly.
  • Scope small: With very large geographic areas such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, sticker shock can set in when you see that there are 29,000 high school students in the partnership’s footprint. By selecting four high schools to begin working with, the partnership focused on just 5 percent of the student population, enabling them to start testing immediately.
  • Design with the end user in mind: The partnership in Marin County, CA is focused on raising FAFSA completion rates and opted to build the intervention directly into the school day, enabling them to reach students where they already are instead of adding a new layer of service.
  • Build buy-in into the process, don’t seek it: It was clear that we all struggled with issues surrounding buy-in from partners. Seeking buy-in simply doesn’t work—co-creation does, and including the right partners at the right level of buy-in is key.
  • Bet small, then go big: With over 70 million students in the United States today, scale is the name of the game. But innovation causes disruption, and unknowns are easier handled when a new process is piloted with a small number of students. Every time a new process is executed, we learn more about the situation and use continuous improvement to augment impact as we scale.

We may be scattered across the country, but our collective expertise in improving outcomes for kids is continuously reinforced when we share our lessons learned, from sea to shining sea.

Learn more about targeted strategies and what you can do to bring attention to and eliminate disparities at the StriveTogether National Convening in Memphis, Tennessee September 20-22, “Rise Up: Education Excellence for Every Child.”

Juliette PriceJuliette Price serves as director for The Albany Promise cradle to career partnership in Albany, NY. She previously worked in higher education, teacher education, and statewide education policy, focusing on using evidence-based interventions to improve the lives of students and families across the state of New York.


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Network in the News: third-grade reading, math boot camp, and more

Tue, 2016-08-09 20:00

Eastside Pathways

Network members are making news and changing the outcome.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.

Photograph courtesy of Eastside Pathways.


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Trust is (Also) an Action

Thu, 2016-07-07 12:17

Adriane Johnson-Williams, founding facilitator for the Seeding Success partnership in Memphis, TN, is exploring what it looks like to truly do the work of collaborative action. Through stories of challenging conversations and genuine relationship building, she shares her experiences working to change behaviors and practices in pursuit of better and more equitable outcomes at scale. A native Memphian committed to improving outcomes in her hometown, she now works in philanthropy.

The first time I facilitated a Collaborative Action Network meeting, I knew I was in a room full of people who wanted dramatic change in our community. I assumed that all we had to do was clarify our roles and get to it.

I was wrong.

The idea that “collaboration moves at the speed of trust” is commonly shared in conversations about collective impact. Its twin, “change happens at the speed of trust,” is also commonplace. Both suggest that trust has to be built before work can begin, so, how do you bring people together to build trust without doing work?

To avoid losing collaborators due to inaction or trying to force people to do complex work before they are ready, it’s worthwhile to remember that trust is not just a noun. It is more than a thing that is built; it is also a verb.

Here are three elements to consider when beginning (or shifting) work within groups.

1. Define trust as an action.

Bryk & Schneider’s “relational trust” is built on respect, personal regard for others, competence, and personal integrity. There is no way to build relational trust without everyone demonstrating that they respect each other, will treat others well, are competent in their roles, and can operate with integrity.

Although I entered rooms with degrees and a solid professional history, I intentionally called out my lack of knowledge in the specific outcome on which a network was focusing. My position in the space was about facilitation. The people in the room were the experts. They held the knowledge. It wasn’t an easy posture to maintain (and I failed often), but I was intentional and explicit about respecting their role in the work. This work is their work, not ours. Using Results Based Facilitation (RBF) helped us make accountability a regular part of every meeting. Participants reported on their action commitments and explained what facilitated or impeded their progress. And when staff made errors, we owned up and were committed to modeling integrity and accountability.

The speed of trust was defined by the staff’s ability to respect the groups enough to ask them to do their best work and hold each other accountable for the outcome to which they had committed. There was not a single “trust-building” activity in any network meetings – we built trust and momentum through the work and how we conducted ourselves.

2. Know thyself.

Identity matters when it comes to building trust. Who we are informs how people will respond to us and how we will react to others. Being aware of context and being honest with yourself and collaborators is a good place to start.

I am a black female native Memphian who left my hometown and returned after 25 years. I have some credibility given the neighborhood where I started, but I’m essentially a stranger. At the same time, I challenge all sorts of stereotypes and low expectations of black women in Memphis. To some people I am family, to others I’m the help, and to others I’m the enemy. To be effective I have to manage those identities whether I claim them or not.

When asked to substitute facilitate for my executive director, a young white man, I encountered some resistance from the white women who were leading the effort. One attempted to micromanage the design process; another tried to facilitate over me. I had to firmly, but professionally, assert my role as facilitator and my commitment to better outcomes for children.

Knowing myself and how I am perceived by others allows me to be authentic and consistent. Everyone, regardless of how they categorize me, can always trust me to be me, which means I bring the most effective me into every space.

3. Do your homework.

Collective impact efforts are about bringing together people who have been contributing to the work for years, sometimes decades. Any room is likely to have existing relationships and experiences that could facilitate or derail efforts at any time. Identifying and preparing for potential threats and barriers to trust is essential to keeping things moving forward.

The level of analysis that has been necessary to navigate early childhood in Memphis rivals preparation for contentious political races. The landmines are countless. Interpersonal dynamics in this sector were instructive on how different people and groups can enter collaborative spaces. Taking the time to meet separately with various factions and develop relationships with people by asking about their work and learning about their concerns helped me to design more effective meetings and avoid those landmines.

I began my work assuming the existence of a shared understanding—whether of the problem or the solution—was sufficient to move work forward, but I have come to understand that trust matters. Lack of trust is still no excuse for inaction. It is simply a reason for acting differently and supporting others to act together.
Adriane Johnson-WilliamsAdriane Johnson-Williams, Ph.D. was the founding facilitator for Seeding S
, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career partnership in Memphis, TN. She now works in philanthropy. She is a native Memphian committed to improving outcomes in her hometown.


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Network in the News: summer programs, grants, and celebrations

Tue, 2016-07-05 15:21

Summer programs and outreach events inspire communities.

StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are taking advantage of these long days to make headlines while making an impact in their communities.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.


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A Team of Rivals

Wed, 2016-06-29 20:26

Collaborative Action

Adriane Johnson-Williams, founding facilitator for the Seeding Success partnership in Memphis, TN, is exploring what it looks like to truly do the work of collaborative action. Through stories of challenging conversations and genuine relationship building, she shares her experiences working to change behaviors and practices in pursuit of better and more equitable outcomes at scale. A native Memphian committed to improving outcomes in her hometown, she now works in philanthropy.

When I joined Seeding Success in Memphis, TN, I was the third employee: the facilitator.  I, a black woman, would be the person managing relationships with the most diverse group of people involved in the effort.

Memphis, TN is a majority black city and our county-wide work focused on a majority black population. We had recently gone through a period of intense racial conflict around creating a county-wide school district. What had been two school districts – Memphis City and Shelby County – became one school district, and after months of legal battles, was fractured into 7 districts. The conflict exposed an antipathy for black children and families living in poverty and a preference for racially and economically segregated schools that core to the identify of this deeply southern city.

The Memphis context may be distinct, but the work of improving cradle to career outcomes is similar across the nation. We are often talking about racial and economic inequalities that overlap, and, in my experience, these conversations tend to happen in rooms filled largely with white people leading collective impact efforts across the country.

Seeding Success’ work was, unsurprisingly, launched and led by a white man. Our continuous improvement director was a brilliant and outspoken white woman. Although we got along well, our team was at our core a team of rivals. The differences between the three of us could have ruined us, given our ideas and experiences regarding race, gender, culture, and epistemology (our way of knowing), but they didn’t. What happened?

We had to acknowledge our differences and adapt.

As a member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, we learned from and critiqued the Theory of Action, a rational document that privileges empiricism. The Theory of Action lends itself well to having a white man stand in front of a room of mostly white male corporate leaders to convince them that action needs to be taken and to invest in that action. It lends itself well to having a woman stand in front of a diverse room of educational leaders to impress upon them the need to partner with people from other sectors. What the Theory of Action alone does not do, however, is lend itself well to a black woman, no matter how well she understands the data, to convince a group of mid-level managers or frontline staff of color that they have any role to play in interrupting what they see as a fundamentally white-controlled space.

In the United States, white men and black women exist at polar opposites of every social and economic hierarchy. And a team with a male leader and female staff paints a gender portrait of hierarchy that is familiar and appealing, or painful, depending on the audience. On the surface, our team was a volatile mix, but we were committed to being open about that volatility. Because we were open, were able to speak frankly about how we were replicating race and gender dynamics while also trying to challenge them.

I doubt we could have handled this challenge ourselves. Thanks to our participation in the StriveTogether Leadership Program in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we were introduced to results based leadership and the power of adaptive leadership. We were given permission to consider different ways of adapting our approaches to our various audiences. We were guided to interrogate our own team relationships and the role our identities played in our team dynamics. This informed how we could make progress in changing our local systems in the context of the realities of the lived experiences of community members.

The gift of our team was that we were able to play out potential conflicts in private before we stood before our various audiences. Our volatile mix was our strength. At the same time, our image was and is a hindrance in challenging the local norms. We are left with more questions than answers:

  • What work must white male leaders do to interrupt structural racism in their communities while sitting firmly in their privilege as leaders of complex work?
  • How do women of color avoid being pigeon-holed as the community-facing team members, the relational people, while taking advantage of their connectedness to their communities?
  • How do white women navigate the race and gender landmines of history and context?
  • What roles are men of color playing in collective impact work? How do their identities and roles overlap?
  • In what ways do more complex combinations of identity play into this work?

The actual members of the Memphis team have changed, but the face of the team is essentially the same. As the work is embraced across the community, the challenges have become even greater as the appeal of the terms “collective impact,” “collaboration,” and “outcomes” have hidden the complexity of the work. What our team members have learned about identity, leadership, and equity is not easily translated. As rivals, the work becomes doing, being, teaching, and learning all at the same time.

Adriane Johnson-WilliamsAdriane Johnson-Williams, Ph.D. was the founding facilitator for Seeding S
, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career partnership in Memphis, TN. She now works in philanthropy. She is a native Memphian committed to improving outcomes in her hometown.



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Systems Change is About Every Child

Mon, 2016-06-20 09:36

Pensive Child

We’re on a quest for better and more equitable outcomes for every child in every community – and we believe that through our vision of changing systems, we will achieve education excellence with equity. Cradle to career partnerships across the nation have pioneered new ways of working to change behaviors, beliefs, practices, and policies in service of better outcomes.

But better outcomes are not enough.

We know that our current systems effectively serve some, but not all, of our learners. Every StriveTogether partnership that breaks out their data by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, geography, disability status, and other variables can point to gaps in achievement among different demographic populations. This work is about changing systems in our communities to produce reliably excellent outcomes for every child.

To achieve the vision, communities have an obligation to create more equitable systems and eliminate disparities. We’ve seen signals of progress: San Diego involves youth and parents in decision-making. Dallas County integrates a focus on rigor, relevance, and relationships to infuse equity into the partnership’s strategies. Racine is facilitating frank conversations about implicit bias and racial inequity to inform kindergarten readiness strategies. And Tacoma has made significant gains in the graduation rates among every racial demographic.

StriveTogether’s Theory of Action has always offered some guideposts to help communities toward more equitable systems.

  • Engaging a broad array of community voices and focusing on eliminating locally defined disparities are two of the guiding principles that partnerships intentionally focus on as they move from building a partnership to impacting outcomes.
  • To advance progress toward systems change, cradle to career partnership must make achievement gaps visible to the community through publicly sharing their data on race, ethnicity, income, and other factors – encouraging everyone to share accountability for narrowing achievement gaps.

From a clear call to action at the 2013 National Convening in Dallas, TX to the tireless efforts of the Race, Class, and Culture Workgroup and the insights of partnerships participating in the Equity Fellowship and StriveTogether’s Results Based Leadership offerings, our partnerships have challenged us to take an even stronger public stance in service of equity.

Now, our updated systems change indicators offer a clear stake in the ground on behalf of the children and families in most need of differential supports based on their unique conditions – such as race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, and ability – to reach their full academic and social potential. We are committed to supporting partnerships in building capability to achieve better and more equitable results. We are raising our bar of quality even higher: it’s not enough to maintain or improve outcomes. To truly change systems at scale, cradle to career partnerships need to take intentional steps to narrow disparities and create better and more equitable systems to support the success of every child, cradle to career.


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Network in the News: Awards, Workshops, and Graduations

Wed, 2016-06-08 20:51


StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are celebrating graduation and the start of summer, but they aren’t missing a beat when it comes to working for true community impact.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.

Photo courtesy of The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State.


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Middle School Shouldn’t Be a Make or Break Moment

Tue, 2016-06-07 13:15

Matt Pope

While I’m as guilty as the next formerly-awkward teenager to want to forget the braces, bad hair, and questionable fashion of my 13-year-old self, the middle school years cannot be undervalued as a critical time for child development. It’s in middle school that many students begin to take ownership of their learning and their academic future, and according to a 2008 report by the college admissions testing company ACT, “the level of academic achievement that students attain by 8th grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school.”

It was this belief — and the data behind it showing that the middle school years were not working for students in their community — that prompted E3 Alliance, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career partnership in Austin, TX, to launch RAISEUp Texas: a three-and-a-half year demonstration project aimed at implementing an evidence-based model for “whole-school transformation” in six middle schools serving 13,000 students.

Matt Pope, a former math teacher and assistant principal at Simon Middle School in Kyle, Texas during the launch of RAISEUp Texas, now leads the project. Pope is an #ImpactAgent for middle school transformation after going “all in” on school change, and it’s paid off in incredible ways for middle school students.Simon Middle School went from being on the state watch list for underperformance to ranking in the top 10 middle schools in the state in closing performance gaps for struggling students. Among many accolades, the school was named a “2014 National School to Watch” by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform.

You can read more about Pope’s work and what’s next for RAISEUp Texas in our latest #ImpactAgent story, a campaign that aims to celebrate people and organizations who have changed the way they do business every day, based on data, to improve the lives of students from cradle to career.



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How Do You Know Your Education System is Changing?

Mon, 2016-06-06 20:27

Collective Impact

It’s easy to think of a system as a series of cogs and wheels: mechanical components that work together to get something done. In reality, the systems we work within are more diverse, complex and robust than anything we could imagine. They’re comprised of people with different perspectives, motivations, and behaviors. This means that changing those systems requires a new way of working, and a system of changed behaviors, practices, and policies that lead to deeper impact.

The StriveTogether approach is about positively improving the educational experiences of every learner from cradle to career. We believe that no matter what a student looks like, where they come from or what challenges they may face, they deserve fair access to resources and opportunities that can help them reach their goals in life.

We also believe that this kind of change cannot happen unless we remodel the systems that exist today.

Collective impact partnerships in communities across the country have shown that education equity can become reality, supporting every child from cradle to career. Though changing systems is a long, continual process, these communities are seeing early wins by illuminating disparities, shifting student supports and testing ways to improve.

Stories from communities give evidence this change is happening. From reducing chronic absence in San Antonio, Texas; to creating new public funding for pre-school in Dayton, Ohio; to changing the teaching and learning approach for middle schoolers in Austin, Texas – systems are changing to support better outcomes for students.

Through our work, we’ve gained a better understanding of what it actually means to sustainably change behaviors, practices and policies to support student success. We’ve recently updated the Systems Change Gateway of the Theory of Action to reflect the learnings we’ve acquired over the years. Built on lessons from StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Members, the StriveTogether Theory of Action offers quality benchmarks that distinguish this work, not only from traditional collaboration, but also from other collective impact approaches

We’ve learned that systems change requires the entire community to change or adapt in ways that best support learners, and we wanted the indicators to better reflect this collective effort. The new indicators in the Systems Change Gateway essentially provide a more comprehensive picture of sustainable systemic change throughout a community:

  • Organizations, institutions and community members align their work to support the cradle to career vision
  • Partners effectively communicate in ways that demonstrate shared accountability for results and build community engagement
  • Student-level data is accessible and used regularly by relevant partners to inform actions to improve outcomes and narrow disparities
  • Partners use a variety of data to continuously improve and implement strategies that intentionally accelerate outcomes for populations facing persistent disparities
  • Collaborative action efforts are sustained to improve outcomes and narrow disparities
  • Community members are involved in the co-development of solutions to improve outcomes
  • Public and private dollars are targeted to spread and sustain data-driven practices
  • Partners consistently build capability and staff are supported with sustainable funding to implement the evolving partnership strategy
  • Public and organizational policies change to support improvement of community level outcomes and narrow disparities

Our new indicators make room for the diversity we expect to see in the unique work partnerships take on to change systems, and allow for flexibility while staying focused on the impact that is vital to see real, sustained change.

The actions that must be taken to change systems look different in every community. Cogs and wheels may come in standard shapes and sizes, but people and communities don’t.


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Success by Design, Not by Chance: Building Capability to Achieve Results at Scale

Mon, 2016-05-23 13:08

Building Capability

While facilitating a planning session with a group of communities  as part of the Corridors of College Success Initiative, Luzelma Canales of the RGV Focus partnership in Rio Grande Valley made a profound summary statement that captured the heart of their work:

“We see what we do as making sure success – graduating from college – happens by design, not by chance.”

I had to sit with that insight for a bit. Success by design. What would that look like? What does that mean? We know a few things about how to get there – access to data, community ownership, building and sustaining the civic infrastructure that allows for truly personalized learning. But none of this can happen without building the capability of community leaders to drive real change.

Much has been made of the big data movement. As we noted in a recent piece, access to data and analytics is critical, but it is not enough to change how individuals, institutions, and systems operate to support the right pathways for all students to reach their full academic and social potential.

Evidence-based decision making is not sufficient to get to “success by design.”   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. This can and does happen for a few lucky children. But if we want to reach “every child, cradle to career,” 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.

How can we begin to work together to achieve better results?  We have much to learn from the health care sector and specifically the Institute for Healthcare Improvement on how they work with teams to cure diseases. They know how to turn data into actionable information to make better decisions. And they realized that in order to use this data, people require something much more purposeful and intentionally designed than traditional professional development: people need experiential learning and coaching, grounded in real work that can help them to build the necessary skills to get better results.

For the last 3 years, we have been working to build the capability of leaders across sectors to build and sustain the civic infrastructure required to improve community level outcomes through our Theory of Action. Building on that strong foundation, our big bet at StriveTogether over the next three years is to strengthen the capability of leaders across sectors at all levels to work together to use data to inform actions to change systems to get better results at scale. That will be the heart of all our work with the Cradle to Career Network. We have a learning framework to help develop a common understanding of the capabilities that must be cultivated in leaders working to create better and more equitable systems for every child.

Together, we’re building the muscles needed so every child in every community can achieve success by design, not by chance.


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The Power of Preschool

Thu, 2016-05-19 21:00

Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman

High-quality preschool has the power to changes lives, and provides a critical foundation for student success. That’s why when civic and business leaders in Montgomery County, Ohio learned that fewer than two out of five children entering kindergarten were truly ready, they decided to invest in increasing the number of children attending high-quality preschool in their area.

Championing the cause was Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, who saw the impact of high-quality preschool first hand for her own children. Relying on national data as well as local research into the long-lasting benefits of high-quality preschool, she and others are hard at work expanding a pilot program in Kettering, Ohio to parts of Dayton, Ohio, with hopes to bring universal preschool to the whole of Montgomery County within 10 years, increasing the number of children enrolled from 600 to 2,250.

You can read more about Lieberman’s work in StriveTogether’s latest #ImpactAgent story, a campaign that aims to celebrate people and organizations who have changed the way they do business every day, based on data, to improve the lives of students from cradle to career.


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Network in the News: Summer Learning, Employment, Graduation

Thu, 2016-05-19 10:15

Student at Computer

Summer’s nearly here, and with it StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are rallying around summer learning opportunities, high school graduation, and everything that comes after.

If your partnership has been featured or mentioned in your local news, send it along to We would love to share your work with our partners, stakeholders and friends.


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Not Your Typical Professional Development

Wed, 2016-05-18 20:12

Results-Based Leadership

Aligning partners across sectors and changing individual and institutional behavior is hard work. “Giving the work back” was the theme of one of StriveTogether’s recent convenings, Results Based Leadership: Building Capability for Local Leaders, the first of two capability-building convenings this year involving 28 cross-sector leaders from seven StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network partnerships: Achieve Brown County in Brown County, WI; Thrive Chicago in Chicago, IL; Marin Promise in Marin County, CA; Success of All Youth in Oak Park/River Forest, IL; Promise Partnership of Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, UT; Impact Tulsa in Tulsa, OK; and the Westbrook Children’s Project in Westbrook, ME.

What does it mean to give the work back? Rather than a professional development opportunity spent listening to long lectures and watching endless PowerPoint Presentations, the capability-building convening was an experiential learning opportunity in which participants themselves took on the work of identifying solutions to the big challenges they face in their work. After a day and a half of small group activities focused on addressing the adaptive challenges each have encountered as they work to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities, participants left feeling empowered and eager to apply what they learned to accelerate their work back home.

Four ways collective impact leaders can help communities move from talk to action:

  1. Keeping results at the center enables collective impact partnerships to identify which partners and sectors need to be involved to improve an outcome at scale. Partnerships often focus on the involvement of a handful of partners at the table rather than taking a holistic approach to consider all community voices and resources to improve a particular cradle to career outcome.
  2. Achieving better results at scale requires aligned action across individuals, organizations, and systems. To change systems from cradle to career, partnerships need to support leaders across sectors in working together to produce measurable improvements.
  3. Reflecting on how formative experiences shape your own approach to equity and inclusion reveals critical insights that inform how community partners can work together to take action to address the root causes of disparities. While partners need not agree on the reasons why inequities persist to work effectively together, uncovering your own perspectives and being able to recognize your own assumptions and biases can have major implications for what actions partnerships take.
  4. Understanding the story behind the curve – uncovering the root causes of current conditions and trend lines – is a critical precursor to identifying and refining strategies to improve outcomes. In the social sector, we often quickly move from identifying a problem to jumping to solutions. Diagnose the right problem first before taking steps to identify the diverse set of strategies that will have the reach, scale, and impact to achieve the ambitious results you seek.

By the end of this summer, almost half of the partnerships in the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network will have had exposure to the foundational skills and competencies of Results Based Leadership. We’ve already seen some great progress, and we can’t wait to see even more accelerated impact on improving outcomes and eliminating disparities!


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