There are national education grants for school systems to improve student success. There are national neighborhood grants for districts to improve families’ economic success. There are national county and multi-county grants to improve people’s health conditions. At times these efforts stumble over each other as they try to put together collaborations of the same handful of local institutions – but each effort has the potential to make a big difference and each requires agreement by those leading entities. If we don’t change the way we work, we will get the same results we have always gotten.
Being Strategic/Aligning For Success
Based on some important lessons learned, United Way Worldwide has offered up 5 types of alignment required for success. Below is their message to communities trying to improve the success of their children. And it applies to all efforts to work together.
1. Aligned Leadership
Bring together key cross-sector leaders to embrace an ethic of “shared accountability and differentiated responsibility” to commit to a common vision, establish common standards regarding the use of data, and advocate for what works.
2. Aligned Outcomes
Establish a common set of eight to ten outcomes that leaders at all levels – from executives to practitioners – agree must be improved over the long-term and share trends in these outcomes over time to help focus partners on the most pressing needs.
3. Aligned Action
Once key outcomes are identified, practitioners must come together to review related data and identify practices that get results inside and outside the school walls. These practices can then be adopted by existing services and systems to rapidly scale impact, instead of simply trying to scale individual programs.
4. Aligned Data Systems
While it is critical that community level outcomes are consistently used to focus partners, it is equally important that a data system is in place where academic and social service data can be combined. This will enable practitioners and decision makers to have a consistent mechanism for using data to inform action and continuously improve.
5. Aligned Advocacy
Having leaders across the region agree on a common set of outcomes and commit to supporting what works, regardless of individual interests, creates a powerful engine to advocate for policies that get behind what gets results for kids.
Successful transformation requires that all the partners move from “loosely defined collaboration to concrete goals and expectations for performance and accountability” among all the players. Or, put another way, decide specifically what you all are going to do and when, do it and capture and share the results. Use that information to make changes and do it again. We really have to get this right – and soon.