With the recent launch of the Theory of Action, we have gotten clearer than ever on what building civic infrastructure actually looks like. The Theory of Action consists of a series of quality benchmarks organized vertically by the four pillars of the Strive Framework:  Shared Community Vision,  Evidence-based Decision Making,  Collaborative Action and  Investment and Sustainability; and horizontally by four Gateways:  Exploring,  Emerging,  Sustaining, and  Systems Change. The benchmarks serve as a detailed guide for the steps that a community should take in order to build and sustain a partnership that achieves improved cradle to career outcomes.
Community engagement, while called out very intentionally in specific benchmarks, is really a theme that is inherent in the work across the Theory of Action. The ways and strategies to engage the community will look differently depending on the progress of the partnership and the purpose of the engagement, but the intention to involve the community in present in every gateway in the Theory of Action. See below for where community engagement is specifically called out in the Exploring Gateway.
Community Engagement in the Exploring Gateway:
-Representation in accountability structure: Designing an accountability structure is a unique opportunity to build community voice into the structure of the partnership. Cradle to career partnerships have incorporated community voice in different ways, such as the intentional inclusion of a community leader at the leadership table. A leadership table is a group of cross-sector executive-level leaders that participate in setting the direction of the partnership. This allows for a representative of the community to be involved in decision-making and strategic direction-setting, a potential form of transformational engagement.
-Informing community about the partnership through ‘call to action’ and ‘messages’: Clarity and consistency are extremely important when trying to communicate and inform the community about this complex work. By developing messages that are understandable by a broad audience and identifying clear ways for the community to plug into the work, the partnership can keep the community adequately informed and engaged. Developing resonating messages and a process for communicating effectively is an example of transactional engagement.
-Engagement in vision: The community not only needs to be informed of the vision and work of the partnership, but they also need to own it and feel partially accountable for the progress the partnership makes in improving student outcomes. The only way to ensure that this work is supported by the community in this way is to authentically engage the community in the vision and work of the partnership. This has looked differently in communities across the network, but one important lesson to note is that an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of past engagement efforts is key to building an authentic relationship with the community going forward. Setting clear expectations about the role of the partnership (and its limitations) and making sure the engagement is purposeful and actionable are important pieces to building an authentic relationship. Depending on the strategy, engaging the community in the vision and work of the partnership could be a transactional or transitional form of engagement.
If you have example from your own community on how you have effectively engaged the community- we would love to hear of and learn from your experience!
Check back soon for the next blog in the series, about community engagement in the emerging gateway of the Strive Theory of Action! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
This past week for #PBLChat we discussed the physical aspects of space in a classroom that lend themselves to project-based learning. The archive, complete with some photos, is here.
Here are a few of our favorite tweets with our hashtag from the past week.
This is the second blog in a 6 blog series on community engagement. To read the first blog, click here.
It is clear that engagement of the community at all levels is important for the success of a cradle to career partnership, but the ways to effectively engage the different sectors of the community in collective impact work are a little less obvious. To help us think about how engagement looks differently depending on who you are engaging and for what reason, we often refer to the Community Engagement Continuum. This continuum categorizes engagement strategies into three different categories: Transactional, Transitional, and Transformational.
Transactional engagement is about informing the community and bringing about awareness of the partnership. It typically involves one-way communication through the dissemination of information and it has the potential to reach a broad audience, however the depth of engagement is very limited. An example of a transactional engagement strategy would be holding a community information meeting to inform the broader community about the work of the Partnership.
Transitional engagement is a more active form of engagement that is about involving the community in activities within the Partnership. This type of engagement typically involves two-way communication; however the Partnership often still determines the purpose which the community is mobilized around. An example of transitional engagement would be a campaign that mobilizes community members to become tutors, a strategy that data shows helps improve 3rd grade reading- a community level outcome.
Transformational engagement is the deepest level of engagement and involves integrating the community into the decision-making and problem-solving of the Partnership. This type of engagement involves equal communication from the community and the Partnership; however the number of people who can be involved in this type of deep engagement is limited. An example of transformational engagement is involving community experts and practitioners in the collaborative action networks to use data and expertise to identify what is working and build strategies to continuously improve the work. Additionally, collaborative action networks often have feedback loops to test whether their identified strategies resonate with community members who are impacted by the work, engaging both community experts and community members in the decision-making, and problem-solving functions of the partnership.
It is important to note that while it is often necessary to build trust and relationships through transactional and transitional engagement strategies before getting to transformational strategies, a combination from across the categories should be considered in building a comprehensive engagement approach. Since the different categories of engagement include varying levels of depth, reach, and involvement, this combined approach can also provide the necessary flexibility to involve the right individuals, at the right level, for the right purpose. A major lesson learned in this work has been around making sure the purpose of the engagement is appropriate for the audience and at the appropriate depth. A partnership would be able to engage a small group of teachers at a much deeper level around curriculum alignment than they would a large group of business leaders around the same subject.
Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about community engagement in the exploring gateway of the Strive Theory of Action! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
About a year ago, I started to hear a new term being thrown around education circles … agency. In most dictionaries, agency refers to an organization or entity such as a government agency. In the world of education we mean it as the capacity of the learner to act as an advocate for their own success. This includes more concrete things like turning in complete homework on time or doing your best work and less measurable things like persistence, resilience and a growth mindset.
This week's #PBLChat topic was "Co-Teaching & Collaboration". All of this great discussion and the resources shared are archived on our Storify Page .
Dave was a disengaged 14-year-old. Everything about his world suggested he would fail. He came to class, eyes glazed over, seeing little relevance in school. He was lost. That is, until a teacher found ways to reach him. A teacher who helped Dave find his voice and discover purpose and passion.
A central premise of the cradle to career approach is that this work requires the collective effort of an entire community to really achieve the systems level and institutional change that is necessary to support every child, from cradle to career. Inherent in this, is the engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community around this cradle to career vision. Part of successfully achieving authentic engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community stems from understanding who is and what is the community.
When we talk about community engagement, we often encourage individual partnerships to define what ‘community’ they are trying to intentionally engage and for what purpose. Community engagement needs to be a contextual process not only in regards of a specific community or region but also to a specific topic or challenge. We have broadly defined the community as “Individuals in the defined geographic scope who are directly affected by the quality of the education pipeline (e.g. students, parents, business and civic leaders), and therefore must be clearly understood, actively involved, and eventually satisfied by the impact of the partnership.” This definition of community can essentially encompass every individual in a partnership’s region; however the expectation is not that every person in the region will be engaged in every engagement strategy that the partnership employs. Rather, this definition of community is intended to identify who should ultimately be engaged and informed, recognizing that the strategies to achieve this broad engagement should look different for varying purposes, sectors and individuals within the community. Different partnerships across the Network have identified various community sectors such as youth, students, parents, general public, business leaders, teachers and others as the major focus of their engagement efforts. No matter what part of the community we are trying to intentionally engage, a major lesson learned has been around needing to tailor the engagement strategy for the specific audience. The strategy employed to engage youth voice in the partnership should and will look different than a strategy to involve business leaders in the work.
With the recent launch of the Theory of Action, a continuum of key benchmarks that acts as a guide to implementing the Strive framework, we have taken the opportunity to reinforce the critical role of community in cradle to career partnerships. We are also working to get clearer than ever on what community engagement is and looks like within the context of this cradle to career work.
This is the first blog in a 6 blog series that aims to further define community engagement and illustrate on-the-ground examples of community engagement throughout the Theory of Action. Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about categorizing engagement strategies! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
What do you need to know to be successful in this endeavor? While it is the starting point in all good Project-Based Units, dragging them out of young people can be a challenge. Quality Project-Based Learning Units also focus on deeper learning and facilitate inquiry and research skills needed to be successful participants in a constantly evolving workforce. This last year, my co-teacher Ryan Steuer and I grappled with the concept of creating meaningful Need to Knows for our middle school learners and we came up with two strategies to improve them.
This week our Twitter Feed was filled with "back to school" tweets and lots of inspiration. Our chat topic was "Sharing ice-breakers and beginning of the year culture building strategies". The full archive is here on our Storify Page. It is full of great ideas and has already been viewed nearly 200 times!
In other #PBLChat news we would LOVE for you to do two things!
I’ve talked with a number of communities over the years who are undertaking the work of building a collective impact education partnership, and one of the first things they are thinking about is how to manage the data collection and data initiatives of the partnership. “What exactly do you work on as a data manager?” they ask. “And what kinds of skill sets do we need to be looking for in a data manager?” So through those conversations and reflecting back on the data work when Strive was still young, I’ve put together the following “Day in the Life of a Data Manager,” split into two parts. Part II is below.
All of the outcome indicators that you would like to track as a partnership not be readily available – part of the work is directly with partners to help develop shared measures and determine the best way to start tracking them. One example from Strive’s early work was in selecting our outcome indicator for Goal 1: Every child will be prepared for school.
There were a number of indicators that we could potentially track (infant mortality, low birth weight, pre-K experience, etc). But we knew the best measure would be one that is a close proxy to the goal – and the one we landed on was “Percent of children who are assessed as ready for school when they enter kindergarten.” But this data wasn’t consistently available. We worked closely with the Success By 6® early childhood networks and the school districts to land on an assessment and begin tracking the data on a regular basis. The early childhood networks were meeting on a regular basis, and I remember that in one of the Covington network meetings, we brainstormed a list on flipchart paper of about 20 different assessments that were being used by partners. There are no common measures for kindergarten readiness and there aren’t even standard definitions of it. There are many factors that influence a child’s readiness for school including cognitive development, physical well-being, language use, approach to learning, motor development, and social/emotional skills. But we needed to land on something as a population level measure, even if the measures are imperfect, in order to advance the conversation. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” was a mantra, and we had three good measures in our three geographic areas – Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport.
Cincinnati is using a brief assessment tool called the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment – Literacy (KRA-L) which helps teachers identifies early reading skills. It is an assessment that has been adopted by the state of Ohio. Newport started out using the Developmental Indicators for Early Learning (DIAL-3) screen tool. The DIAL-3 provides scores for motor, concepts, and language. Covington started out using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS). The DIBELS measures letter naming fluency and initial sound fluency.
The work of a Data Manager could involve getting into the weeds on all these measures with the members of the collaborative action networks, where necessary, helping to sort through the various measures. The partnership can highlight the discrepancies in the ways school readiness is measured, and help advance the conversation around the importance of good data and in pushing toward common measures. Covington and Newport agreed on and began reporting a common measure (the Dial-3) a couple years after the initial baseline report. And just recently, the state of Kentucky adopted a new statewide assessment that all districts in the state will be using.
As mentioned earlier, there are three primary areas where I found myself spending time on any given day: digging into data, building relationships and consensus with stakeholders, and supporting the data needs of collaborative action networks. A short list of competencies for a Data Manager would include:
- Knowledge and demonstrated success in data collection, management and analysis; knowledge of education and community data resources
- Ability to build relationships and work with key partners to develop a comprehensive community accountability system that incorporates data across the cradle to career education pipeline
- Ability to address and overcome uncertain and complex issues to achieve desired results
- Plans for the collection, analysis, and reporting of data to measure the partnership’s impact and to facilitate evidence based decision making and continuous improvement
- Develops and cultivates relationships with community partners and stakeholders, including data and research professionals in education, business, faith, nonprofit, philanthropic, and civic sectors
I'm still on the NTAC cloud nine. There's just nothing as energizing as spending five days with a thousand-plus teachers who come together to learn, connect, share and push one another as we look toward the coming school year. That week felt like the best kind of family reunion you could imagine — filled with old friends and welcoming new teachers.
The American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath once wrote, “...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” As an English facilitator, I know writing is a powerful tool towards self-confidence. Writing should be an exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. Unfortunately for some high school students, writing has become a dreaded task—a desperate attempt at a word count.
I’ve talked with a number of communities over the years who are undertaking the work of building a collective impact education partnership, and one of the first things they are thinking about is how to manage the data collection and data initiatives of the partnership. “What exactly do you work on as a data manager?” they ask. “And what kinds of skill sets do we need to be looking for in a data manager?” So through those conversations and reflecting back on the data work when Strive was still young, I’ve put together the following “Day in the Life of a Data Manager,” split into two parts. Part I is below.
As a Data Manager for a cradle to career partnership, there are three primary areas where I found myself spending time on any given day: digging into data, building relationships and consensus with stakeholders, and supporting the data needs of collaborative action networks.
Evidence based decision making is an underpinning of a collective impact partnership, and one of the first things to tackle after establishing the shared vision and goals is to establish a set of shared outcome indicators to help measure progress toward the shared goals. And so a data manager needs to dive head first into the data itself and really understand all the sources, variables, and caveats to how the data may be collected and presented. We started with a list of over 75 potential measures, and so the data manager really needs to understand the data landscape in order to be able to help steer the data team and partnership in getting to consensus in narrowing that list down. The manager also needs to become the local education data “expert” – and help build credibility for the partnership by being one of the go to people for questions related to education data and results in the community.
Building relationships and consensus, however, is just as important as the data analytic skills. A partnership’s Director and local champions will definitely help with the relationship building among partners and advocating for data transparency – but the Data Manager also has to be able to forge relationships with the key data partners and build trust with them. One of our first efforts was to form a Data Committee comprised of all the data experts from key partners at the table – the school districts, postsecondary institutions, early childhood professionals, and other community data experts. As a committee we came to a list of ten shared outcome indicators together, using a set of criteria that we developed, to take back to the Executive Committee as a recommendation.
It is important that this process is done with your key partners as opposed to it feeling like you are producing a report about your key partners. And so establishing relationships and building trust are key ingredients in this – and landing on the indicators is a back and forth process of presenting ideas and getting feedback until you have built something together that everyone feels ownership of. As a result, when we released the first report, members of the Executive Committee could speak with confidence about it knowing that they had truly helped to create it.
Coming next: Working with networks to define indicators where no clear ones exist, and key competencies of a Data Manager