Wallace Foundation

Cross-Sector Collaboration May Be ‘Invaluable’ in the Current Crisis

Carolyn Riehl of Teachers College on role “collective impact” can play during pandemic
26-Jun-2020 9:00 AM EDT, by Wallace Foundation

Newswise — It may seem like a truism that, in a time of crisis, the various players and institutions in a community should set aside their individual agendas and pull together for a common cause. But there’s a lot that goes into a true collaboration—one that involves government, schools, businesses, universities, foundations and nonprofits. Collaborators must build trust, develop and state a shared vision, and establish roles. And that’s just for starters.

Carolyn Riehl knows this well. A professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, Riehl, along with a team of colleagues, conducted a Wallace-sponsored study of cross-sector collaborations to improve education. The final report from this landmark study was published just a few months before COVID-19 changed everything, not only in the realm of education but society as a whole. Riehl says that, as the pandemic exacerbates inequities and the need for services, cross-sector collaborations—sometimes known as “collective impact” initiatives—may become more important than ever, even as their work goes underfunded and unnoticed. We asked Riehl about where the cross-sector collaboration movement stands now and what the future may hold.

What do you see as the contribution of this report to the conversation about cross-sector collaboration? Who are the intended readers of the report and what can they expect to take away from it?

There are many potential audiences for the report, and we tried to provide information relevant to all of them. Leaders of, and participants in, cross-sector collaborations may find it valuable to learn about other programs’ governance structures, service networks and communication strategies. Philanthropies and government agencies who provide financial support for collaborations may be encouraged to learn how others have been generous but patient as these complex enterprises take the necessary time to build towards long-term success. Readers who are considering starting a collaborative initiative will, we hope, be inspired by the efforts and accomplishments of the programs we studied, while also getting a reality check about the challenges and potential pitfalls. We hope citizens and stakeholders in the cities we studied will be proud that their stories can help lead the way, but also that they will use our report to inform their efforts to improve.

How do you think the pandemic will affect cross-sector collaboration—both the collaborations you studied and the movement in general?

The needs that cross-sector collaborations were established to address—better access to quality early childhood education and afterschool programs, social-emotional learning opportunities, targeted support for boys and young men of color, wraparound health and social services for students—are likely to become even more acute for more children and youth. And school districts and other service providers may be hard pressed to respond, given reduced budgets and increased demand. So collaborations are likely to become more useful than ever, even if it’s hard for them to garner direct attention and funding. We’re learning in the pandemic to appreciate all sorts of people and enterprises that operate mostly out of public view but are clearly essential to keeping things going, and cross-sector collaborations might prove to be another vital background operation. 

In the report, you and your colleagues say, “While it is still early in the game, we think there are enough indicators of good things happening that the waning of the movement would represent a loss.” What are some of those indicators? And have any of them taken on new significance in the current crisis?

One positive aspect of cross-sector collaboration for education is an increase in the shared, public recognition that children and young adults often face complicated obstacles keeping them from educational and career success. In the current health and economic crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, inequities appear in even more stark relief, and we fear they will reverberate for a long time. Removing obstacles and erasing disparities will require a concerted effort by many organizations and agencies, not just schools. Collaborations have already set the stage for that. Another good thing is that despite some early promises of quick success, many collaborations are taking the time to understand what their local needs are and to craft appropriate responses. This thoughtfulness and care will be even more important as the full impact of the pandemic comes into view. Finally, just the fact that collaborations have established structures and processes for people to work together and trust one another—that’s going to be a huge help, I think.

What are some of the common challenges communities face in launching and sustaining cross-sector collaborations? Does the pandemic present any new challenges? For example, can the hard work of building trust and working relationships still take place when conversations and meetings are all happening online?

Our report describes in detail the ways communities built collaborations from the ground up. Most depended heavily on relationships and a nascent sense of shared purpose as they got going, and the need for personal connections didn’t disappear over time. In our new reality, it can be hard to get to know new colleagues, to make eye contact and read the subtle signals in a conversation, or to find serendipitous opportunities for sharing and brainstorming in an online Zoom meeting. But I’ve talked with numerous school leaders recently who are astounded that more people are attending school meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and professional development sessions online than they did in person. This is an opportunity collaborations can take advantage of. It may be possible to communicate more widely and build even larger constituencies for their work and to enable more people to participate across time and distance in work groups and governance bodies. But it will be crucial to ensure that the community members who are often isolated and marginalized are not prevented from participating in new forms of online engagement.

What does the future of cross-sector collaboration look like and how has that picture changed in light of the pandemic? Is the movement in a healthy place or is the fate of these efforts more precarious? What factors will be important in the evolution and endurance of the current wave of cross-sector collaborations?

 It’s hard to predict what will happen to cross-sector collaborations for education, whether they will become permanent or end up as yet another promising but short-lived innovation. Several months ago, my colleagues and I might have opined that their future depended most of all on their ability to develop stable, sufficient revenue streams and to demonstrate to their stakeholders at least some success in achieving goals they set for themselves. We saw reasonably strong signs that this was happening in many places.

But the coronavirus pandemic has been a major disruption. On the one hand, it’s possible that because of it, education funding will be so dramatically reduced, and philanthropic dollars so thinly stretched, that there simply won’t be enough resources to sustain collaborations. Participating local governments, social agencies, and school systems themselves may have to scale back their expectations for accomplishing anything more than the very basic services they are charged to provide; there may be little reserve energy for the ambitious goals of collaborative enterprises. 

On the other hand, the pandemic may reveal cross-sector collaborations to be absolutely indispensable. When a community’s needs become comprehensive and intense, the presence of a collaboration that is already accustomed to coordinating efforts and devising innovative solutions could be invaluable. We’ve already seen anecdotal evidence of cross-sector collaborations convening with philanthropies to decide how best to direct funding to meet extraordinary needs, and we’ve heard how at least one collaboration marshalled efforts to help its community adjust when schools were closed and students needed everything from meal deliveries to laptops and iPads for online learning. Cross-sector collaborations were designed to do things that existing systems hadn’t been able to do. If they are able to adapt to the new realities they face, their future may be secure.   

 

The Wallace Foundation

The Wallace Foundation seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding efforts to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn’t and to fill key knowledge gaps – and then communicating the results to help others. Wallace, which works nationally, has five major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
  • Building audiences for the arts: Enabling arts organizations to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.
  • Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children.
  • Social and emotional learning: Aligning and improving opportunities for social and emotional learning for children across school and out-of-school-time settings.

Find out more at www.wallacefoundation.org




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2816
access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 6-Aug-2020 11:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 5-Aug-2020 4:25 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 6-Aug-2020 11:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise:Video Embedded uab-department-of-pathology-develops-strategy-to-support-guidesafe-entry-testing-process-more-than-200-000-samples
VIDEO
Released: 5-Aug-2020 4:10 PM EDT
UAB Department of Pathology develops strategy to support GuideSafe™ Entry Testing, process more than 200,000 samples
University of Alabama at Birmingham

This strategy will allow for ramping up testing capacity tenfold for the next 20-plus days leading up to the start of school.

Newswise: 239458_web.jpg
Released: 5-Aug-2020 2:50 PM EDT
New findings on enzymes with important role in SARS-CoV-2 infection
Uppsala University

Researchers at Uppsala University have described the presence, throughout the human body, of the enzyme ACE2.

Newswise: Button Project Lets Children See the Faces Behind the Masks
Released: 5-Aug-2020 2:50 PM EDT
Button Project Lets Children See the Faces Behind the Masks
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

When COVID-19 cases began rising in Nashville, masking became a regular part of life across Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital as one of several public health safety measures to protect employees and patients from potential COVID-19 exposure. Children’s Hospital decided to get creative to ensure that the 1,700 children and families who visit the hospital and clinics each day can see that the same friendly faces they’ve always known still exist behind the masks.

Newswise: 239490_web.jpg
Released: 5-Aug-2020 1:45 PM EDT
Massey scientist suggests COVID-19 should be treated as an acute inflammatory disease
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had detrimental effects on global infrastructure sectors, including economic, political, health care, education and research systems, and there is still no definitive treatment strategy for the disease.

Newswise: Helping protect medical professionals
Released: 5-Aug-2020 1:05 PM EDT
Helping protect medical professionals
Sandia National Laboratories

A media comprised of a sandwich of materials, tested by Sandia National Laboratories, is being manufactured into N95-like respirators that could be used in local medical facilities. The project originated from the urgent need for personal protective equipment when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Released: 5-Aug-2020 12:50 PM EDT
UCI scientists get ‘initial hit’ in developing drug to treat COVID-19
University of California, Irvine

Irvine, Calif., Aug. 5, 2020 – When the coronavirus pandemic hit, almost everyone at the University of California, Irvine – and colleges across the nation – had to abandon campus. But James Nowick, professor of chemistry, was not a part of that exodus. That’s because his lab, which designs and constructs chemical molecules, had the right equipment to help in the global push to find treatments for COVID-19.


Showing results

110 of 2816

close
1.7065