Job Opportunity - Vice President (Achieve Palm Beach County)

Posted 3 months ago at 4:12 pm

Job Opportunity – Vice President (Achieve Palm Beach County)

Achieve Palm Beach County is a collective impact initiative including a broad group of over 170 community leaders from more than 40 partner organizations representing various sectors (e.g., the public school district, local government, nonprofit providers, funders, corporations, and civic and business organizations) focused on improving post-secondary education access and completion for Palm Beach County Students. 

With a strategic plan that serves as a blueprint for the work moving forward, the Achieve PBC partners have defined their vision - that every Palm Beach County high school graduate completes a post-secondary credential within six-years of high school graduation that prepares them for a meaningful career with a sustainable wage.  Further, they’ve defined their mission - as collectively ensuring an integrated and effective system of supports from middle school through post-secondary that empowers students for career success.

The initial focus of work for the partners is on 1) parent engagement and support, 2) post-secondary advising for high school students, 3) FAFSA completion, and 4) scholarships, non-financial, and other supports for post-secondary students.

Through funding from numerous organizations and foundations, Achieve PBC is now ready to hire an executive leader to oversee implementation of this work. 

This position is hosted at the United Way of Palm Beach County, and a position description is attached.

To submit an application for this position, please send resume, cover letter, and salary requirements to: careers@achievepbc.org.

The deadline for applications is March 24, 2017.

Additional information on the initiative is available at www.achievepbc.org.

Executive Director Position Posted with Achieve Palm Beach County

Posted 6 months ago at 4:12 pm

A collective impact initiative has been launched in Palm Beach County, Florida, focused on post-secondary access and completion within the county.  Over the past 18 months, the community has secured broad cross-sector representation from more 160 individuals and completed a comprehensive strategic planning process.

At this time, Achieve Palm Beach County seeks an inaugual Executive Director tasked with supporting the community in implementing the work.  The Executive Director will drive the initiative from concept to execution, serving as champion, ambassador, collaborator and chief executive in building the story, the staff, the strategy and the systems to guide the detailed work to follow.

For more information, please see the attached position description.  Interested candidates should submit their applications by January 16, 2017

Lessons on Using Data for Collective Impact

Posted Friday, June 24, 2016 at 9:07 pm

Using shared measures to track progress toward goals and understand where partnerships are making progress and where improvement is needed is increasingly emphasized as essential for addressing complex issues and improving our communities. However, our understanding of exactly how to harness the power of data is limited. One thing, though, is abundantly clear: Making good on the commitment to use data is hard—and the challenges aren’t just about technology.

There’s much that collective-impact efforts can learn about using data from The Wallace Foundation’s Next Generation Afterschool System Building Initiative. This multi-year initiative involves support for nine cities where city agencies, schools, and nonprofit organizations are working to better coordinate access to high-quality afterschool opportunities for children, along with independent research to learn from their experiences. These place-based collaborative efforts in Baltimore, Denver, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Jacksonville, Louisville, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Saint Paul share features with collective impact initiatives as they work across sectorial silos to leverage resources to affect children’s lives, use data to diagnose needs, engage and sustain partner engagement, and improve the quality of services.

A new research report on their efforts, the first of two planned volumes from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago commissioned by Wallace, offers insights into what it takes to put data systems in place and use them to reach common goals. Key conclusion: While we typically focus on addressing the technology needs of data use, in reality, two other components—people and processes — are just as crucial, as shown in the diagram below.  These findings echo and expand upon the research conducted by the RAND Corporation and published in Hours of Opportunity Volume II, which found based on a study of eight afterschool systems that using MIS data can help improve access and services but that it requires careful planning.

The new Chapin Hall study finds that often, as these collaborative efforts begin, the focus is on technology, but that leaders are caught short by the challenges posed by the people and the processes that are required to transform the data into useful information. But as the triangle suggests, the components are inter-related and each is equally necessary.

As the  researchers write: ……as important as technology is, most of the factors that appear to facilitate or inhibit data use in city afterschool systems—norms and routines, partner relationships, leadership and coordination, and technical knowledge—have to do with the people and process aspects of a data system.

Not surprisingly, that’s also one of the findings from researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University, who are studying collective impact communities participating in the Ford Foundation’s Corridors to College Success initiative. In this recent brief, the researchers described “myriad challenges associated with their organizations’ capacity for data collection, data-sharing agreements, third-party data warehousing or merging, data privacy and storage, and staff capacity for meeting technical data management and analytic needs.”

The Three Legs of the Triangle

The nine cities in Wallace’s effort that are using data in their afterschool systems are finding paths that are deepening their capacity for data use. Their experiences as captured by Chapin Hall, we believe, can help people involved in other collective-impact and system building efforts.

  • Start small to learn what works. A number of cities intentionally started with a limited set of measures for data collection and use, and/or a limited set of providers piloting a new data system, with plans to scale up gradually. For a collective impact effort, that might mean starting the data work with one working group, learning how to enable the people, processes, and technology work together successfully before scaling across all strategic areas of focus.  
     
  • Leverage existing data expertise. Expertise came from within as well as outside the organization coordinating the initiative. Some cities are working with a research partner who participates in all phases of the development of their data systems, providing ongoing support. Others leveraged the relationship primarily for access to data, analysis, and reporting of data collected by providers. Still others did not engage an external research partner, but identified internal staff who are capable analysts who can provide these supports to the system. Many collective-impact efforts might tap research partners, or communities have research institutions, committed to developing knowledge to positively affect lives.
     
  • Provide ongoing training. System stakeholders learned that they needed to provide ongoing introductory trainings in using both the management information systems and the data to enable use.

Taken together, these lessons suggest that cities should acknowledge upfront and plan for the challenges of data use and that there are steps they can take toward success, namely prepare and provide ongoing support for the multifaceted interplay of people, processes, and technology.

What do you think? Share your comments and questions below:

Conversations with Experienced Backbone Leaders: Project U-Turn

Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 10:44 pm

This is the second in our conversation series with experienced backbone leaders. (see this blog post describing the series.)

In this conversation, we spoke with Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN). PYN serves as the backbone organization for Project U-Turn, which aims to galvanize collective commitment and action to address Philadelphia’s dropout crisis. Project U-Turn has contributed to impressive results over time, such as a 14% increase in high school graduation rates since 2002 (source: Project U-Turn website). They have also helped more than 9,800 youth reconnect to education and/or employment pathways, and leveraged and/or realigned $230M in public and private funding to support dropout prevention and re-engagement services.

If you have questions for Chekemma, please pose them in the comment box below, and she will do her best to respond. Thanks, and enjoy!

Highlights from my conversation with Chekemma:

  • Project U-Turn has seen an increase in overall graduation rates of 14% since 2002, but Chekemma remains focused on closing gaps across race and ethnicity, and with system-involved youth
     
  • Chekemma offered a simple way to think about how Project U-Turn creates change: understand and unite around the problem, agree upon a shared goal and a way to measure it, reimagine new and existing investments
     
  • As Project U-Turn’s scope broadened, they included more and more diverse stakeholders to address different parts of the dropout crisis
     
  • Project U-Turn has released some influential reports, and are very intentional about involving system leaders and youth to vet the reports’ data before publication
     
  • Project U-Turn’s sustainability will depend on a) champions in the community stepping up to fill leadership transitions, and b) “strong collateral and data,” which can be a source of continuity in the face of transitions
     
  • Equity has always been part of the Project U-Turn conversation, but the national conversation around equity gives Project U-Turn and its partners permission to discuss it more directly than before.


David: What are you most excited about today regarding Project U-Turn?

Chekemma: Quite a few things! We recently released the report A Promise Worth Keeping: Advancing the High School Graduation Rate in Philadelphia, which looks at the effects of our prevention and intervention efforts over the last 4 years. The report shows we’re making gains supporting youth with foster care and juvenile justice systems with graduation rates increasing 16 and 20 percentage points respectively for the two groups.

I’m also excited about our continuing efforts to increase high school graduation rates. Graduation rates have increased significantly since Project U-Turn began, going from 52% to 65%. However, while rates are increasing for African American and Hispanic males and those in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems (some with double digit increases), they still lag behind peers. I’m excited to see progress, but it’s energizing to see how much more work we have to do.


You’ve had some very positive impact. In general, how did that change come about?

First, we had to understand and unite around the dropout crisis: what the challenge was, who was affected, and how we can work together differently. Once we had that understanding, we wanted organizations to take that microscope back to their own systems and get clear on how they’re contributing to the solutions or the problems. Importantly, we agreed not to blame each other.

Second, we needed a shared goal. We knew that we wanted to measure graduation rates, but there were still some dissonance about how to calculate it (e.g. 4-year vs. 6-year graduation rates). Having an agreed-upon graduation rate as our north star was important.

Third, we looked at how to reimagine investments. We knew that new investment wouldn’t solve the problem, so we also tried to reimagine how existing dollars could be invested.


Can you give me an example of reimagining existing investments?

E3 Power Centers are a pivotal service delivery mechanism. (E3 Power Centers offer a holistic approach to preparing out-of-school youth and youth returning from juvenile justice placement to achieve long-term educational, career, and personal goals). Through 2005, E3 Power Centers were funded by the Department of Labor Youth Opportunity Grant. Since then, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has invested in E3 Power Centers to provide access to educational alternatives for the juvenile justice population, something DHS had never done before.

The Philadelphia School District has also invested in re-engagement strategies, including Accelerated High Schools, even while the district was going through a financial crisis. The District has now established the Opportunity Network, led by an Assistant Superintendent, to set priority to and increase high-quality options for off-track students and out-of-school youth.


How has Project U-Turn’s organizational structure evolved?

The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) serves as the backbone to Project U-Turn. In this role, PYN convenes, guides vision and strategy, supports aligned activities, and mobilizes funding. This work is coordinated by PYN’s Senior Associate of External Affairs and is overseen by the Executive Vice President.

When we began Project U-Turn, we formed a small steering committee of decision-makers. We eventually became part of a broader economic imperative for the city. With this broadened scope, it was challenging to have a small group of people (the Steering Committee) directing activities without understanding many details of the work. So, instead of a small steering committee, we’re bringing together a more diverse set of partners. Some of these partners have been there since the beginning, while others (e.g., the District Attorney’s Office, employers) are new. As we understand the system young people must navigate after they complete high school, we’re increasingly involving those parts of the system. We’ve had various working groups throughout the years that have focused on different things; we adapt to the need.

As these structures have evolved, it has been helpful to have a consistent goal across all these structures – a North Star of high school graduation rates. From this North Star, we define specific targets for policy, new interventions, and so on. While there’s always a lot of exploration and reflection, the goal remains consistent.


Project U-Turn has released some influential reports. How do you use these reports and the data therein to advance your cause?

The most recent report called From Diplomas to Degrees looks at a cohort of 9th graders through their early 20’s to investigate degree attainment and other important issues. In preparing to release this report, we took some critical steps:

First, we presented data as it became available. The data went before a committee and was vetted so that we came to a common understanding of what the data is telling us. We asked “what concerns you about the information?” and “What alternative explanations are possible?” We also included youth in the vetting of the report.

Next, we vetted the data with leaders in the system. Of all the things we do to advance partnerships and align to the common goal, vetting reports with system leaders prior to publication is the most powerful approach we have. These sneak peeks serve to:

  • Give leaders the opportunity to reflect on what they can do with the new information
     
  • Ensure that no one is surprised later on. It’s important for these leaders to know that the data are driving our work
     
  • Build trust and change the tone from “this is your report, not mine” to “this is OUR report”
     
  • Give the report writers a better context


We know about Project U-Turn’s progress against the drop-out rate. What systems-level changes have you seen since Project U-Turn began?

We’ve seen many introductions and scaling of new practices. For example:

  • We have created a Reengagement Center
     
  • We have integrated low literacy support into community settings and in alternative education pathways
     
  • The School District reorganized themselves to better support opportunity youth, with the newly established Opportunity Network and Assistant Superintendent to focus on opportunity youth
     
  • The Education Support Center now tracks kids’ academic records, so we can understand their academic history even when they move from place to place
     
  • Policy changes have occurred, such as reforming the discipline codes in schools, putting early warning education systems into place, and training middle school faculty to look at data to see who is at risk of dropping out
     
  • Overall, there is increased willingness across sectors to be reflective about what they can do to contribute to this population


How has Project U-Turn been able to sustain its momentum?

To sustain the initiative, it can’t be just my job. In Philadelphia, there is a real sense of communal ownership around moving the needle. We are incredibly fortunate to have long-term partners at the system, program, and community levels. There are real champions, and the sustainability is dependent on them. We have also benefited from having a mayor who understood the dropout challenge. We are experiencing a mayoral transition now, and we are proud to have the new Mayor’s support behind this important work moving forward.

Strong collateral and data are also very important to us. While relationships are unpredictable and dependent on personalities, data can be neutral.


What challenges have you faced to sustain the initiative?

One challenge has been to have conversations about equity. It’s tough, because someone has to keep beating the drum, but I have a lot of drummers! There’s not a formula to having equity conversations, but we’re fortunate that people understand it as a priority.

Another challenge is that policy change can be slow, especially when building relationships with folks and getting them to understand the complexity of the issue. So, we make it a priority to bring new leaders up to speed.

The chief sustainability challenge is having consistent, long term funding commitments. This is not a 2 or 3-year problem, and the investment needs to match the type of change you are seeking.


How has your approach to equity evolved?

With Project U-Turn, equity has been part of the conversion, but not the driver. There are clear disparities across race, geography, and to a certain extent, gender. So, equity has always been there, but national efforts on equity have given permission and latitude to bring the issue more to the forefront in a way that people are willing to hear. This is a valuable conversation and it gives us a license locally that we did not have before. When the Superintendent or Mayor stands up and says that equitable education is the civil rights issue of our time, then you have someone’s arm to lock with.

It’s more difficult to talk about the role of privilege – where does it hide and how do you check your privilege? That’s sobering and personally uncomfortable. It’s tough. We’re asking the question and setting up a structure for people to explore. We’re familiar with the impacts of inequity, but we are uncomfortable when we talk about privilege and how that plays into inequity. The distribution of power, privilege, and wealth all matter.


How do you have conversations about equity and privilege?

We have gone from a neutral facilitator to a transparent facilitator. We have a perspective, and we can still facilitate without hiding that. That was a huge shift for us.

We had to start by looking at ourselves – having the challenging conversations with our staff, checking our approaches and asking if we were contributing to the problem, if privilege was hiding in our approaches, and so on. Taking the hard look in the mirror was critical.

We work with a lot of people who understand this work differently. You have to understand and respect where people are coming from. The key is about respecting people’s boundaries and expectations, and that includes when there is disproportionate impact on the community, and to meet them where they are. You have to go deeper to understand better. This happens one person at a time, and it’s slow work. You need optimism, energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, and rigor. That’s how you make change happen. You might have to look back in five years to see that things have changed.


What do you think? Share your questions and comments below.

View more in this interview series

Equity Leaders Fellowship: Focus on Equity & Excellence in Education

Posted 1 year ago at 4:12 pm

Are you interested in more effectively integrating equity into your collective impact effort to improve educational outcomes?

Education-Excellence-Equity (E3) and Just Communities are pleased to announce our second annual Equity Implementation Fellows Program. This 14-month program offers knowledge, skills, and tools to leaders of collective impact initiatives that will help them incorporate equity into every aspect of their collective impact effort in ways that produce measurable impact.

See attached PPT overview and application materials.  For questions or more information, contact us at:

Just Communities - Jarrod Schwartz:  jschwartz@just-communities.org

E3 - Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz:  juancarlos@e3ed.org

www.just-communities.org

http://www.e3educate.org/

Sustaining Momentum in Collective Impact – A Story from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas

Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 7:14 pm

We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far. - Ronald Edmonds

That quote encapsulates the challenge and the commitment of RGV Focus--to ensure all students in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) of Texas earn a degree or credential that leads to a meaningful career. RGV Focus is a collective impact initiative spanning the four southmost counties in Texas. Leaders from K-12, colleges/university, community based organizations, workforce organizations, and philanthropy come together regularly to develop and monitor strategies to--through education and employment--transform a 4,300 square mile region, which is 90% Hispanic, with a median household income of $12,500 (half the state average), and a median age of 30 (compared to 34 for Texas and 37 for the US). The population in the RGV is the population traditionally served the least--low income and ethnic minority (though the Hispanic population is now the majority population in Texas public schools).

In its fourth year (from planning to implementation), there could have been factors that interrupted or ended the work. To the contrary, leaders have remained committed--more than 100 people from 40 organizations are engaged. A few things come to mind that are key to sustaining the momentum of RGV Focus (and perhaps other collective impact initiatives).

We have a critical mass of students.

Sixty percent of the RGV’s 400,000 K-12 students are represented by their superintendent at the leadership table; more than 70% are represented in the action groups, and more than 80% have been included in regional strategies. One hundred percent of the RGV’s 70,000 postsecondary students are represented at the leadership table. Critical mass is important because we’ve demonstrated you can collaborate over a four county region; because hundreds of thousands of students are involved in the four county collaborative effort; and because it is a profound transformative effort in the region, leaders want to be part of it. For the superintendents and presidents, RGV Focus provides “top cover” for challenging the system with bold innovation and change, meaning there is more political safety for doing something very different--even daring--because they are working as a group. There is typically safety in the average...in doing what everyone else does. What everyone else does is usually the status quo. In the RGV, though, what everyone else does is systemic transformation.

We have a structure that mitigates leadership turnover and gives new leaders something to plug into.

Leadership changes are expected. The RGV has experienced changes among superintendents, but what we couldn’t have anticipated in 2012 was the dissolution of two legacy state regional universities and the creation of a new state regional university. Another higher education partner, the Harlingen campus of the Texas State Technical College System, also experienced local leadership change as well as a change from being an autonomous campus to becoming part of a singularly accredited statewide system. The backbone staff, though, coordinates an intentional onboarding process for new leaders who join the work. The onboarding includes the RGV Focus history, key decisions and inflection points, a review of the current status, and future plans. Peer leaders often participate in the onboarding to provide a view from a counterpart. We want new members to be able to contribute immediately at their first meeting.

We had several early, but not necessarily easy, wins.

One of the wins involved sweeping changes to high school graduation requirements. The legislation required school districts to work with a higher education partner to develop a course for high school seniors who tested as “not college ready” at the end of their junior year. Students who successfully complete the course are to be placed into credit bearing courses upon enrollment in higher education. The legislation, though, did not define successful completion nor did it require the courses to be portable to higher education institutions beyond the partner that helped develop the course. Texas has approximately 1,200 districts and 1,600 high schools. Theoretically, there could have been that many versions of the college readiness course. Because key decision makers are at the table in the Rio Grande Valley as part of RGV Focus, however, the superintendents and presidents decided there would be one English language arts class and one mathematics class that would be fully portable across the region. The backbone staff worked with the regional education service center, which is a partner in the initiative, to convene regional faculty design teams. The courses were developed and piloted, and high school faculty received professional development to teach the courses and assess students’ work. The same courses are now taught in 33 of the RGV’s 39 school districts, making it possible for students to receive credit for the course regardless of which of the region’s higher ed institutions they attend. This approach wasn’t taken in any other region of the state, but it has now been adopted by the neighboring education service center region meaning the course is fully portable across the larger south Texas area.

A second early win was realized when the first RGV Focus regional scorecard was published. In a region often associated with deficits, we learned that the RGV matched or exceeded the state average on six of nine key education measures we chose to benchmark our progress (e.g., high school graduation rate, FAFSA completion rate, direct enrollment into higher education, higher education completion rates). On our second scorecard, the RGV matched or exceeded on seven of nine measures. We’re not satisfied with meeting the state average, though. At the outset, our backbone staff lead us through a process to establish goals that would transform the region--goals that would take us beyond typical incremental increases.

Collective impact is hard, different work. In light of organizational changes or sweeping state policy changes, it would have been a typical reaction to pull back and focus on members’ “home” organizations. Because of explicit, intentional choices, though, leaders remain engaged, and the work continues. We are focused on all RGV students, and one of our leaders reminds us that all means each, which means 100%. That’s our challenge and commitment.

What do you think?

The field is fortunate to have many varied collective impact initiatives. It would be great to hear from you. What is your experience moving from initiating to sustaining this work? Do you have good examples of what it takes to sustain collective impact?

Backbone funding

Posted 3 years ago at 4:12 pm

We have a pretty healthy collective impact organization in the Arizona in the Arizona STEM Network.  Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) is acting as the backbone organization.  The Network has been funded by a single funder and we are looking to diversify that funding base.  One of the first steps if for us to learn how other backbone organizations are funded.  I was hoping that some community members might be willing to help.

- Do you have separate funds and fundraising for the backbone organization?

- Do the members of your collective impact group contribute to funding backbone infrastructure?

- What is your primary source of backbone funding (Govt, Foundation, Business etc)?