Civic leaders, educators, and community organizers have gathered to take part in StriveTogether’s “2014 Exploring Communities Convening” national conference. The conference helps communities from across the country develop a cradle-to-career approach to improve education attainment. Nearly 150 representatives from more than 40 communities and three countries are in attendance. Chicago, as the conference backdrop, is at the center of some of the nation’s boldest initiatives in education reform.
According to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Education Elizabeth Swanson, convenings are a natural byproduct of thinking deeply about how to improve early childhood communities, K-12 and city and community college systems. The work quickly spills beyond government walls and naturally extends into nonprofits and philanthropic organizations. To keep things manageable Chicago “reached out to StriveTogether and started to think about how to take this work and organize it through the collective impact model,” said Swanson. “And we have really seen tremendous results even in our first year to 18 months of really digging in.”
StriveTogether works with communities to organize a new civic infrastructure through collective impact – a total community effort to close educational opportunity gaps and improve student outcomes by aligning existing programs through shared, measurable goals and achieving systemic change to support every child, cradle-to-career. Community leaders attending the convening are at the early stages of building a cradle-to-career partnership and are working to meet the Exploring gateway quality benchmarks in the StriveTogether Theory of Action. Participants have opportunities to share and network with others doing like work and facing similar challenges and leave with concrete ideas on how to move the work further faster in their communities. Topics include: Stakeholder Engagement, Understanding Outcomes and Indicators and Strategic Communications. Peer sites and StriveTogether Strategic Assistance staff are also available to provide coaching to teams.
“Contrary to what some might believe, this is not a neat and tidy — or simple — process. Learn from our collective experience – the pitfalls, the strategies to build momentum and community engagement; engage with our staff and partners – and you should leave here today with a good solid roadmap for the journey in front of you,” encouraged Jeff Edmondson, managing director of StriveTogether.
Four sites from the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network led the opening plenary session on how they worked through and met the Exploring quality benchmarks in the StriveTogether Theory of Action: Thrive Chicago; Big Goal Collaborative; Milwaukee Succeeds; and, Achieve Brown County.