Not Just Old Wine in New Bottles

“This isn’t new.” “We’ve been doing this for years.” “This is just the next step.” “You’re building on what we’ve already been doing.” These same things have been said for decades in school reform—centuries if you look closely enough. There is a cyclical process where someone has a bright new idea, turns the lives of practitioners upside down, and eventually …

Trust is (Also) an Action

The first time I facilitated a Collaborative Action Network meeting, I knew I was in a room full of people who wanted dramatic change in our community. I assumed that all we had to do was clarify our roles and get to it. I was wrong. The idea that “collaboration moves at the speed of trust” is commonly shared in …

A Team of Rivals

When I joined Seeding Success in Memphis, TN, I was the third employee: the facilitator.  I, a black woman, would be the person managing relationships with the most diverse group of people involved in the effort. Memphis, TN is a majority black city and our county-wide work focused on a majority black population. We had recently gone through a period …

Risk it. Trust me.

There is no straight line from setting a goal to creating an action plan to getting it done. Those are things we aspire to as we grapple with the messiness of people trying to protect their turf, their egos. Collaborating toward collective impact is risky business. We have defined collective impact as an end. It is the sustained dramatic change …

The Real Work of Collective Impact

Collective impact is an increasingly popular concept. It is inherently appealing that otherwise intractable problems can be resolved if everyone joins together to solve them. The simplicity of many hands making light work stops cold in the face of political and cultural realities. Three fundamental components of collective impact efforts, especially as promoted by StriveTogether, are civic infrastructure, continuous improvement, …

An Obligation to Destroy

In a recent guest lecture, I provided data on schooling outcomes in Shelby County, TN and asked undergraduate sociology students to assume that systems operate as they should. Their assignment, prior to my arrival, was to determine what design elements led to the following 2013-2014 [outcomes]: 33% of entering kindergarteners ready based on early literacy assessments 36% of 3rd graders …