The StriveTogether Theory of Action™ guides the Cradle to Career Network in building the civic infrastructure required to improve outcomes for youth and families. The nationally validated framework is the foundation of the Network’s approach. Over the years, the Network has taken a continuous improvement approach, revising the theory of action periodically to reflect insights from work on the ground. The theory of action is now undergoing its fifth revision to strengthen the focus on racial and ethnic equity and systems-level change, with revisions launching at the Cradle to Career Network Convening in October 2021.
Leading the revision process are nine network members and two StriveTogether staff. The workgroup members are engaging with individuals in their organizations to develop the revisions and are relying on survey data from youth, families (with 130+ respondents) and partners to center community voice in the process. Each month, the group is refining key definitions or pillars within the theory of action. The group has made considerable progress since it launched as part of the Racial and Ethnic Equity Action Team in February 2021.
Read on for updates and next steps!
Defining systems transformation
Place-based work addresses the unique needs of people in specific locations through collaboration and locally developed solutions. Clear communication is critical to accomplishing these goals. With that in mind, the theory of action workgroup first focused on refining the definition for systems transformation.
Here is the updated definition:
In Systems Transformation communities, the civic infrastructure exists where all Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and families and those experiencing poverty have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, from cradle to career. This is a result of partnership with system leaders in making fundamental and institutionalized shifts in policies, practices, resources and power structures to eliminate structural racism and advance equitable outcomes.
In this definition, the workgroup prioritized that systems transformation is led by the people — namely, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and families and those experiencing poverty — and that it is attentive to who is doing the work. They also named the elimination of systemic racism and improved equitable outcomes as the goals of this work.
Defining policies, practices, resources and power structures
What exactly do we mean by policies, practices, resources and power structures? These terms can be broadly interpreted, so to that end, the workgroup developed operational definitions for each:
- Policies: Laws, regulations and other rules guiding individual or institutional actions adopted by institutions and/or local, state and federal governments. In transformed systems, policies are aligned with the interests of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and families and those experiencing poverty.
- Practices: The everyday actions and decisions of individuals and institutions. In transformed systems, these actions are informed by Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and families and those experiencing poverty to address the root causes of structural inequities.
- Resources: Cultural, financial and social assets among a group of people or accessible to them. In transformed systems, asset use is guided by and responds to the interests of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and families and those experiencing poverty.
- Power structures: The ability to make things happen. In transformed systems, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and families and those experiencing poverty have formalized roles and/or are central to decision making about how policies get developed, how practices get implemented and how resources are allocated in the community.
Looking ahead: Revising theory of action benchmarks and criteria
With a strong foundation of clear language, the workgroup is now revising the theory of action benchmarks and criteria. Beginning with the shared community vision pillar, the workgroup is paying specific attention to racial and ethnic equity and a focus on systems-level change. Check back for more updates as they’re announced.