Collective impact was a phrase I had never heard despite my involvement with Model United Nations in college and having grown up in the nonprofit world in Santa Fe. One of the first things I was provided with on the job as an AmeriCorps VISTA supporting the Santa Fe Birth to Career Collaboration (SF B2C) and the Mayor’s Children, Youth and Families Community Cabinet was a beautiful multicolor flow chart of the Santa Fe Collective Action Plan highlighting the expected collective impact objectives up to 2020. Admittedly, it is quite an ambitious and overwhelming plan but exciting as well! Though the handout is compelling and inspirational, it left me wondering, “What does Collective Impact mean?”
According to a Stanford Social Innovation Review article (Winter 2011), Collective impact is defined as “a broad range of cross-sector organizations and stakeholders committing to work together for a sustained period of time with mutually reinforcing activities, shared indicators to measure progress, and continuous communication for learning and adapting.”1 While that comprehensively expresses the all-encompassing work we do, what does it REALLY mean? What does it look like in action? And how does it affect our community? While our VISTA orientation covered the theories of collective impact for hours in the Santa Fe Community Foundation meeting room, I was anxious to experience it in action in the community.
Seeing Collective Impact in Action in Our Community
At The Mayor’s Children, Youth and Families Community Cabinet meeting on Thursday, August 11th, the VISTAs were tasked to brief the Cabinet on the progress and successes of collective action within our partner organizations and community collaborations. I was able to report back on the great partnership efforts and progress made to improve access and quality for summer and after school programs in Santa Fe by the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) and two Collaborative Working Groups (CWGs): Santa Fe Community Educators Network and Extended Learning for SFPS). What I shared at the meeting and below in summary illustrates the tangible examples of collective impact in action and its impact I was able to witness over this summer.
With Spanish Market gone and Indian Market coming up it is hard to forget that we live in one of the greatest art communities in the world, yet so many of our local families, youth and children have not had the ability to experience any of the art and culture rich institutions in our community. This summer, however, the Community Educators Network (CEN) opened their doors to the 900 children served through the City’s Summer Youth Programs to experiences that will undoubtedly expand horizons and open many doors of opportunity in the future. According to the survey and evaluation gathered this summer, 61% of the participating children in the City’s Summer Youth Programs come from single parent households at or below the poverty line. Without the city’s summer program to attend, of those children, three out of five would be at home alone for the summer.
The Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) offer a multitude of summer programming spanning all grade levels. There are summer programs stemming off of current career pathways in the high school as well as cultural opportunity programs like Hands on Heritage. One of the challenges the District has faced in the past was the fragmented planning and marketing of these programs which contributed to unsatisfactory participation in some programs. With support of the Extended Learning for SFPS Collaborative Working Group, the District worked to implement a coordinated marketing and outreach this summer and was able to increase enrollment.This upcoming school year will mark another collaborative success in serving our local families and their afterschool care needs through successful expansion of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLCs) federal grant for after school programs by the SFPS. Last year, the SFPS was able to service five Title One schools through this grant. This year through community partnerships, the grant was expanded to cover afterschool programming in fourteen schools, all but two Title One schools. Built into the grant is a teacher’s training by the Community Educator’s Network for the afterschool educators expanding curriculum to encompass experiential learning.Extended Learning for SFPS CWG is continuing to work to fill the gap in summer and after school programs for SFPS students as well as improving the program quality and impact on student outcomes.Opportunity for City-Wide Coordination of Out-of-School Time Programs?
There are many incredible afterschool and summer programs out there in Santa Fe, however, not all of them offer a comprehensive model of what children need to be successful. This includes not only the healthy recreational activities which positively engage and stimulate our children, but also a critical academic enrichment component which prevents children, especially those from low-income families, from falling behind and losing significant portions of the learning they gained during the school year. [See the video demonstrating this summer learning loss shared by the Extended Learning for SFPS] For example, 68% of children participating in the City’s Summer Youth Programs noted reading time as their least favorite activity, according to a survey.
Moreover, there is still a significant gap in ensuring that all children and youth have access to quality, affordable, full-time summer and after school programs in Santa Fe. With increased positive momentum for collaboration, the Mayor’s Cabinet discussed this as an incredible opportunity for exploration of more systematic city-wide coordination of out-of-school time programming to address the gaps, raise the bar in quality for all programs, and help the children of Santa Fe to be prepared for success. I am looking forward to seeing this collective impact continue to unfold during my year of VISTA service.Learn more about:
- TheSanta Fe Collective Action Plan which includes Extended Learning – expanding access to Out-of-School Time Programs (after school and summer) for all students in Santa Fe.
- The SF B2C Collaborative Working Groups(CWGs) mentioned in the article: Santa Fe Community Educators Network andExtended Learning for SFPS
- TheMayor’s Children, Youth and Families Community Cabinet
- Wallace Foundation resources onSummer LearningandAfter-School Programs including national studies on city-wide coordinated systems
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Note: Illustration on collective impact adapted from the discussion of “Education Collective Impact” initiative in Portland, OR (“All Hands Raised”) in the James Irvine Foundation New Leadership Network website
1 Collective Impact Forum; “Collective Impact”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011. By John Kania and Mark Kramer