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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High-quality preschool has the power to change 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

May 19, 2016
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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. Milwaukee Succeeds is mentioned in this article as a prime example of communities working together to improve outcomes for students. Norwalk ACTS is bringing together city, district and community leaders, parents, […]

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Not Your Typical Professional Development

May 18, 2016
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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 […]

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Network in the News: cooperation and collective impact

April 27, 2016
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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. The work of Cradle to Career Partnership in Tucson, AZ is featured in BizEDUCATION. A leader from Northfield […]

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How Might We Get More Students to Class?

April 27, 2016
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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 […]

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

April 7, 2016
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Partnerships are broadening their horizons while retaining their focus on the essentials. Portland, Oregon’s All Hands Raised has a Parent Equity Fund that collects funding to help schools with less-than robust parent-run groups and campaigns. ImpactTulsa is encouraging high school seniors to complete their FAFSA forms. As of March 4, roughly one-third of area high […]

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Partnerships and Public Policy

April 6, 2016
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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 […]

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Making the Case for Advocacy

March 28, 2016
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Advocacy can be a scary word. We don’t want to appear to take sides or lose our neutrality. But advocacy doesn’t have to be scary and I am willing to go so far as to say that advocacy is what cradle to career partnerships do every single day. What is advocacy? A participant at the […]

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Bueller, Bueller? Taking Attendance is More Than a Formality

March 24, 2016
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For students and teachers, taking attendance might seem like a pointless formality. But the power of those attendance numbers to change the outcome for students is huge. Students who miss more than 10 percent of regular school days are considered chronically absent, and teachers are often aware of which students are on track to be […]

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