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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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Network in the News: cooperation and collective impact

Wed, 2016-04-27 14:25

RGV Focus

What do collective impact, cross-sector cooperation, and making a difference in the lives of children have in common? Well, a whole lot. And they’re just a few of the reasons StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members are making headlines.

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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How Might We Get More Students to Class?

Wed, 2016-04-27 09:14

San Antonio Kids Attend to Win

In education, challenges are complex, often chronic, and sometimes seem insurmountable. But what if we tackled these challenges with a “How Might We” approach?

As IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, explains in his blog, The Secret Phrase that Sparks Creative Solutions:

“How assumes that solutions exist and provides the creative confidence needed to identify and solve for unmet needs.

Might says that we can put ideas out there that might work or might not—either way, we’ll learn something useful.

We signals that we’re going to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas to find creative solutions together.”

Over the next 12 months, five communities across the U.S. will ask “How might we decrease chronic absenteeism in our school districts?” They’re part of StriveTogether’s second Impact and Improvement Network, which will focus on improving academic outcomes along the Kindergarten to 12th grade continuum. And they will work together to understand the causes of chronic absence in their schools and to develop and test interventions to reduce the number of days students miss.

Fast FactsLearning + Action in the K-12 Impact and Improvement Network

Participants in StriveTogether’s Impact and Improvement Networks receive professional development in continuous improvement, equity, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results-Based Leadership. This Impact & Improvement Network, however, will also incorporate aspects of design thinking (also known as human-centered design) to enable communities to better understand the needs of those they serve and involve students and families in the design of creative interventions. “How Might We” is one of many design thinking techniques used to spur innovative solutions.

The training is not conducted in a vacuum. Research indicates – and intuition confirms – that adult learning is most effective when it is applicable and connected to one’s day-to-day work. And at StriveTogether, we have a bias towards actions that are connected to the result you aim to achieve. That’s why the Impact and Improvement Networks pair learning with action.

Each community team has selected a K-12 outcome to apply their learnings towards. San Antonio, Texas (P16 Plus) and Waterbury, Conn. (Bridge to Success) will focus on early grade reading while Albuquerque, N.M. (Mission: Graduate), Austin, Texas (E3 Alliance), and Thornton, Colo. (Adams County Youth Initiative) will hone in on high school graduation. All five communities will work to improve a common factor that contributes to academic success – attendance at school.

Why Attendance?

Attendance is a predictive indicator, which means it is an early signal to educators if a student is at-risk of falling behind. Research shows that missing as few as 2 days of school per month– for any reason – negatively impacts a student’s academic performance. The five communities in the K-12 Impact & Improvement Network have identified chronic absenteeism as a priority and key driver of student success, particularly for certain subsets of their student population (e.g., special education, low income, Pre-K, grade 12, Native American, or African American students).

In addition, attendance is an advantageous data point for this kind of national learning network. It is a common metric collected across states, which allows communities to share what they’ve learned and tackle challenges together regardless of geography. More importantly, however, attendance data is available regularly. Schools collect it daily, and it is available for analysis weekly. This allows for “rapid-cycle continuous improvement.” Because you get fresh data often, you can try out an intervention – what we call a small test of change – and see, within a week or two, if that strategy had an impact. You then decide if you want to adopt, adapt, or abandon that strategy depending on its effectiveness.

About the K-12 Impact and Improvement Network

The K-12 Impact and Improvement Network launches this week and runs through September 2017.

We are excited to partner with Attendance Works, who will serve as a content expert and coach for our communities, and with Design Impact, who is our thought partner on the integration of design thinking strategies into our continuous improvement process. This work is made possible by the Lumina Foundation.


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Network in the News: funding, FAFSA, and school designs

Thu, 2016-04-07 20:14

FAFSA applications are due soon.

Partnerships are broadening their horizons while retaining their focus on the essentials.

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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Partnerships and Public Policy

Wed, 2016-04-06 13:51

Mission Graduate

Guest post by Heba Atwa-Kramer, Director of Community Impact at United Way of Central New Mexico, backbone organization for StriveTogether Cradle to Career partnership Mission: Graduate.

Our board recently challenged us to consider ways we could use public policy engagement to support our investment in the community and programmatic work. The timing of this request and the StriveTogether Policy & Advocacy 101 training was perfect. I was able to gain valuable knowledge and skills to help me respond to our Board’s challenge. United Way of Central New Mexico (UWCNM) intends to engage in public policy to support and protect our grant making and programmatic work, like our cradle to career education initiative, Mission: Graduate.

This year we are launching three multi-year grants that will fund projects that work to implement three of Mission: Graduate’s collaborative strategies: summer learning loss, reduction in chronic absences, and adult transitions to college. As a first step toward advocacy, UWCNM and Mission: Graduate recently partnered with the City of Albuquerque, the Early Childhood Accountability Partnership, and  the University of New Mexico Center for Education Policy Research to provide an opportunity for our donors, volunteers, community members, and lawmakers to learn about summer learning initiatives in our community. The event focused on the findings of the Utah State University five-year study on New Mexico’s K-3 Plus program, a program that seeks to reduce summer learning by providing qualifying students an additional 25 school days during the summer.

Educational events like this will be the flagship public policy offerings of UWCNM as we explore our capacity for further advocacy. We hope to use our access to research and the lived experiences of our agency partners and their consumers to provide valuable policy-related information to our donors, volunteers, lawmakers, and community members.

We are in the early stages of public policy engagement but as we deepen that engagement, the training’s effective mix of technical and legal information, coupled with capacity-building materials, will serve as a valuable resource. I have used the knowledge I gained at the training to facilitate the foundational process work, while keeping in mind the elements that will help drive our work forward in a meaningful and thoughtful manner. I will use both the technical information and capacity-building resources as we move from the planning phase into action and advocacy. I strongly encourage organizations seeking to increase their understanding of public policy, and their capacity for public policy-related work, to consider attending a future training.

Heba Atwa-KramerHeba Atwa-Kramer is the Director of Community Impact at United Way of Central New Mexico (UWCNM). She is part of the team that thinks about how to maximize the impact of UWCNM investments in her community, and staffs the organization’s complementary public policy work. In this role, Heba has the opportunity to spend every day working to improve the health, education, and financial stability of central New Mexico.


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