StriveTogether’s new paper, “The Role of Investors: Lessons Learned on Critical Roots that Drive Quality Collective Impact,” focuses on how investors can best contribute to the work of cradle-to-career partnerships. Read it here.

Throughout my career, I’ve played both a funder and an investor role in collective impact work. I’ve seen examples of good – and not-so-good—investors and the impact they can have on the work, outcomes and community as a whole. The new StriveTogether paper calls on investors to adopt and embrace a different mindset and become actively engaged with community partners on initiatives focused on long term solutions to difficult community problems. This is a much different role than that of a “funder” who writes a check and sits back waiting for a report.

As a business leader in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to co-chair the start-up of the local cradle-to-career partnership. There, I saw the importance of being not only an investor, but a leader who committed to the shared outcomes and used my cross-sector contacts to help build the civic infrastructure needed to achieve the desired results. I couldn’t just sit passively at the table or write a check; I needed to dive into the work along with the rest of the community partners.

That’s what quality collective impact is about: Working with people for people. Investing in the work can’t be just about the money. It’s about advocacy and action—rolling up your sleeves to work on the ground with other cross-sector leaders who are dedicated to shared outcomes.

Now, as CEO of KnowledgeWorks, I once again have the opportunity to embrace the role of investor, supporting the work of the local StrivePartnership and the national StriveTogether organization, a KnowledgeWorks subsidiary. As a long-term investor in StriveTogether, KnowledgeWorks has made the commitment to invest in collective impact work, giving the StriveTogether team an opportunity to dive deeper and provide a level of quality that is critical to the success of the work.

Our sustained commitment has also encouraged other foundations and funders to partner with StriveTogether on work throughout the country. The future of this work relies on investors embracing a new mindset, diving in and rolling up their sleeves as full partners dedicated to achieving shared outcomes.


StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, works with communities nationwide to help them create a civic infrastructure that unites stakeholders around shared goals, measures and results in education, supporting the success of every child, cradle to career. Communities implementing the StriveTogether framework have seen dramatic improvements in kindergarten readiness, standardized test results, and college retention. For more information about StriveTogether, visit



The forum, which took place last week, focused on “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”

It’s no secret that communities can boost education initiatives through innovation and community partnerships. For years, we’ve been doing this work through our subsidiaries, EDWorks and StriveTogether.

And now, the White House and U.S. Department of Education (ED) are not only noticing, but also expanding efforts in this work. They are calling on communities to work together toward ambitious college success goals through shared plans and commitments.

Last week, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace, EDWorks President Harold Brown and StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson traveled to D.C. to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and attend an ED working session, “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”

albany and duncan

The Albany Promise, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member, talks with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about their on-the-ground work.

The session invited 10 communities, including three StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members, to Washington, D.C. for breakout sessions and conversation, all revolving around college access, continuous improvement and collective impact. They discussed how to break down silos and barriers to collective impact, ensuring that school districts aren’t working in isolation, but rather collectively with the entire community. Communities were asked to take what they learned during the event to identify goals and key commitments that will help their community improve college access and success.

“The event highlighted challenges and opportunities in bringing together K-12, higher education and community leaders to focus on key objectives and priorities,” Brown said.

Visiting with community partnerships during the day, including several StriveTogether cities, Duncan heard about their on-the-ground work. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell also participated throughout the day.

Here are some insights from the day in D.C.:

  1. Collective Impact | There is a growing awareness that we need to move from collaboration to collective impact. To deepen resources to help them understand the complexity of moving to true collective impact communities learned more about tools like the StriveTogether Framework and Theory of Action.
  2. Data to Inform Continuous Improvement |Data can be empowering if used correctly. The White House and ED are stressing the use of data – not to “admire the problem,” but to improve outcomes over time. “They didn’t speak of evaluation, but of continuous improvement,” Edmondson said.
  3. Cross-sector Leadership | Everyone recognizes the need to work together toward common goals. Attendees were an impressive cross-sector of community leaders, including superintendents, business leaders, and college leaders. “There was a strong presence of cross-sector leadership that could really begin laying some important groundwork,” Pace said.

Participating communities included: Albany, New York; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Providence, Rhode Island; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Camden, New Jersey; Rio Grande Valley/McAllen, Texas; Riverside County, California; and Baltimore, Maryland.

KnowledgeWorks— through its subsidiaries StriveTogether and EDWorks— plans to work with the White House and ED to support communities, while helping to mobilize additional communities to join the nationwide effort to improve college access and attainment.



Race to the Top Flashback

by Jesse Moyer August 7, 2014

Last week, several of my favorite blogs wrote about Race to the Top’s (RTT) five-year anniversary: Education Week’s Politics K-12 and Rick Hess Straight Up. Because the data on the program is still inconclusive, I think it’s too soon to tell whether the program “worked” or not. What I do think is interesting to look […]

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Welcoming Bridge to Success to the Cradle to Career network

by Judy Peppler July 15, 2014

  Waterbury, Conn., had cause for celebration last week. With engagement from business, philanthropy, civic, non-profit, faith-based, early childhood, k-12 and post-secondary education, healthcare, parents and students, the entire community has bridged cross-sector gaps and joined hands to support their students from cradle to career. Last week, I attended a Bridge to Success Community Partnership […]

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StriveTogether Expert Convening: Exploring What Works

by Mary Kenkel July 9, 2014

What better way to learn about moving local-level student outcomes than asking people who are striving to move student outcomes in local cities across the country? That’s exactly what StriveTogether has organized during their first-ever Expert Convening, which takes place today and tomorrow in Salt Lake City, Utah. During the next two days, StriveTogether and […]

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Eyes on Iowa: Imagining Student-Centered Education

by Mary Kenkel July 3, 2014

Is climbing a rope really an effective measurement of physical endurance? I may be dating my public school education, but these are the kinds of questions educators are asking. With a growing movement in competency-based education and personalized student learning, innovators are exploring the future of education and our ability to provide meaningful learning opportunities […]

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