JC Penney Afterschool Fund supported a grant to the United Way of America and the Forum for Youth Investment to help local United Ways undergo community-wide visioning around out-of-school time (OST) using the Ready by 21 Framework. The pilot grant required two local United Ways to participate in community-wide youth development data collection, program mapping, as well as learn new ways to get leaders from all sectors to work together in the community.
This capacity-building money is a boon to local United Ways and can help target and move an agenda for a pressing community need, such as increasing OST supports for children and youth. Although, this work has the potential to be leveraged across all local United Ways only if both United Way of America and Forum for Youth Investment understand the process that both sites embarked on, what worked and what could be improved.
United Way and the Forum asked Collaborative to document the important lessons learned by telling the story of these two local United Ways.
In close collaboration with the United Way of America, the Forum for Youth Investment and the two local sites in Richmond, VA and Kansas City, MO, Collaborative:
Reviewed project materials about the grant, as well as materials from both local sites.
Developed an interview guide to structure the conversation in a way that would help pilot grant leads be reflective and open about the grant and how it impacted their organization and the community.
Identified fourteen individuals (seven in each community) to interview.
Wrote a report that included how the local effort unfolded, successes and challenges experienced, results achieved due to the efforts in each community, and lessons learned for other collaborative efforts.
United Way of America and the Forum for Youth Investment can use this specific feedback about what worked and what needs to be improved to make this partnership and community-level work increasingly successful. As Collaborative began learning about the work from the different sites, we were able to pull themes and common threads to help United Way better understand how its local organizations are situated in communities and able to impact and drive change. Eventually, United Way and the Forum can think about how to replicate this model across the nation, and through this report they have tactical, specific improvements and recommendations for moving the work forward.
The Kettering Foundation wanted to know how local education funds (LEFs) in six American cities implemented community forums to determine how the achievement gap is defined and expressed in public education systems, and the causes and possible solutions for closing this gap. The Foundation had created tools for moderators and participants of community forums, and sought to understand how these tools in practice surfaced important themes.
By supporting forums in six cities-Washington, DC; Corpus Christi, TX; Minneapolis, MN; Bridgeport, CT; New Orleans, LA and San Francisco, CA, the Foundation sought answers to the following key questions:
How do people in communities rename the issue known as the academic achievement gap?
What is happening in the six communities as a result of the public dialogues?
What are the challenges associated with using public dialogue to engage communities to address the achievement gap issue?
Since late 2007, there have been 25 community forums about the achievement gap in these six cities, engaging over 1,500 participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including those of Somali, Hmong, Hispanic, Korean, Native American, White, African American and Chinese descent. Educators, superintendents, principals and teachers participated in the conversations.
Collaborative attended at least two forums in each of the six participating cities and also conducted more than 20 follow-up interviews with educators, parents and students impacted by the achievement gap discussions.
Collaborative analyzed findings and compiled a report of key themes and future potential steps for the Kettering Foundation to take when seeking to engage communities in deliberations about aspirations and actions for educational quality.
Collaborative's efforts helped to reveal the nuances and understandings used in different communities when it comes to deliberations on the achievement gap. We found that communities repeatedly narrowed the focus from a broad academic concept of an achievement gap to more personal and local framings.
For example, minority students in Bridgeport compared the actions of White students to their own. Administrators in Minneapolis noted that members of ethnic groups who participated in conversations expressed a concern that the White power structure did not understand or honor their stories and did not help their children reach their full potential. This resulted in conversations around how to help all children reach their full potential.
Ultimately, the Kettering Foundation received a thoughtful analysis of themes from nationwide discussions, and an understanding of how their materials worked in practice to support local dialogue that leads to change.
The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) wanted to increase user registration and activity on Arkansas IDEAS, its premiere online professional development portal for educators.
Our approach was to create a series of promotional materials, Web site content, and implementation strategies that the ADE could distribute to a variety of prospective users.
Our first step was to create materials that demonstrate the benefits of IDEAS to district and school administrators. Once they understood the value of the online portal, they could then promote it within their district or school. We created a promotion plan and an implementation strategy that ADE staff could use to talk about and promote IDEAS with administrators at the district and school level.
Next, we developed an implementation plan for administrators, to help them introduce and promote IDEAS in their school or district. The plan is accompanied by supporting resources including IDEAS talking points, sample email language, a PowerPoint presentation and a promotional poster. We recommended all of these resources be available to administrators in a centralized location on the IDEAS Web site.
To measure the impact of these promotional activities, we recommended that ADE staff track their efforts and monitor Web site traffic and email click through rates to track ongoing promotional efforts against goals. The intent is to be strategic about outreach efforts and to consistently monitor, adjust and improve the process to achieve desired results.
The National Academy Foundation (NAF) is an acclaimed national network of high school career academies predominately based in urban districts. These schools-within- schools have rigorous, career-themed curricula created in partnership with current industry and educational expertise. NAF's work has shown that work-based learning opportunities are essential to helping youth succeed as adults in the world of work.
NAF sees high school internships as one component of a continuum of work-based learning experiences, and believes that it should be the pinnacle of years of carefully planned work-based learning opportunities. However, no standards for high school internships existed to clarify the kinds of high quality experiences that youth, school personnel and partners, and employers should aspire to when creating, implementing and evaluating internship experiences. NAF needed a clear document stating the gold standards for high school internships.
Collaborative Communications Group worked with NAF and its partners to create a standards document that would be useful to youth, schools and employers. NAF began the process by convening a Career Academy and Internship Task Force of national experts in work-based learning. Collaborative provided direction on the meeting agenda, materials and purpose; attended and documented the meeting in Oakland, CA; and identified the most relevant themes from the daylong discussion. We also attended a convening of employers in the Los Angeles area and gatherings of educators and intermediaries who deliver work-based learning activities to further test the identified themes.
Our process of creating the standards document included receiving continuous feedback from NAF staff, the Task Force and the field. When a change in scope resulted in the need for a slightly different product, we adeptly changed our approach to deliver a document that would be most useful to the organization in continuing to solicit feedback and funding to obtain support nationwide.
Collaborative produced Preparing Youth for Life: The Gold Standards for High School Internships, a document that lays out the vision for high school internships, and pushes the discussion about how to achieve this vision in practice. NAF is using it as a tool to lead internal and external discussions about expectations for high school internships at all stages of implementation.
This project also helped Collaborative continue to grow our partnership with and knowledge of NAF. We have compiled educational resource maps in New Orleans and Los Angeles, and for the state of California.
The Aspen Institute, in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, formed The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. The 17-member group of media, policy and community leaders convened to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs. The result of their work is the report Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.
Initially, Aspen invited Collaborative to design the print report, yet the project soon expanded when it became clear that both the Aspen Institute and the Knight Foundation wanted to drive national dialogue around the information needs of communities and move people to take action. They knew they wanted more than a simple online PDF and were open to a variety of online approaches.
Collaborative began the project with the print design, creating a piece that balanced large amounts of text with compelling pull quotes and images that reinforced the text. Next, we developed an online platform that closely resembled the look and feel of the print piece. This interactive solution has a built in commenting feature that encourages users to discuss publicly specific recommendations put forth in the report, share ideas and challenge assumptions. The report site is also connected to Aspen's broader social media strategy, through blog posts, Twitter feeds and other online connections. Both the print piece and the online platform are available in English and Spanish.
The Knight Commission launched the report at a high profile event held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The print piece was available for distribution and Commission members were able to encourage participation in the online dialogue.
Collaborative received the 2009 Summit International Award in the category of Public Service/Advocacy Web site for this work.