Generation Next Collective Impact Strategies in the “Land of 10,000 Non-Profits”  

Posted by on November 9, 2014

I spoke with Jeremiah Ellis, Director of Outreach and Partnerships, about Generation Next and goal of ending the opportunity gaps for all youth in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Generation Next is a powerful coalition of civic, business, and education leaders that aims to close achievement and opportunity gaps for students Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota that focuses on five key goals:

Goal 1: Kindergarten Readiness
1st Strategy: Align multiple partners to ensure every 3 year old has an Early Childhood Screening and is connected to opportunities to support school readiness.

Goal 2: 3rd Grade Reading Benchmarks
1st Strategy: Ensure all tutors are trained in best practices and aligned with school literacy strategies.

Goal 3: 8th Grade Math Benchmarks
1st Strategy: Coming 4th Quarter, 2014

Goal 4: 100% High School Graduation
1st Strategy: Ensure every student develops a post-secondary plan with an adult trained in college and career readiness.

Goal 5: Post-Secondary Credential
1st Strategy: Coming 4th Quarter, 2014

Q: What organizations helped lead the way for Generation Next to take hold in Minneapolis and St. Paul (the Twin Cities)?

A: The collective impact model was introduced in the Twin Cities by members of the African American Leadership Forum, which establishes methods for building a just and equal society in the Twin Cities. AALF members Dr. Robert Jones, Cheryl Maberry and others learned about the StriveTogether Network in Cincinnati and decided to use this model as a strategy to address the achievement disparity and opportunity gap in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

AALF members began working with other University of Minnesota leaders to create a Twin Cities Collective Impact strategy focused on closing opportunity gaps. This initial group started bringing together other civic leaders, current superintendents, leaders of higher education institutions and foundations. Out of these initial meetings, Generation Next was established. As a Generation Next Leadership Council member, R.T. Rybak pushed to close the opportunity and achievement gaps in the city, particularly for African American and Latino youth. In 2013, R.T. Rybak was selected as the Executive Director of this initiative. As the Executive Director of Generation Next, he understands the need for long-term, collective impact strategies to magnify the impact area programs.

Generation Next goals are aligned with other initiatives such as the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood, the Northside Achievement Zone, the Greater Twin Cities United Way, and My Brother’s Keeper. The staff at StriveTogether in Cincinnati has been hugely helpful to us in strategizing how to build a broad based action network with buy in from practitioners and administrators.

Q: What are some of the methods employed to address the five goals for Generation Next?

A: We’ve convened practitioners into Action Network groups for three of our major goals thus far, Kindergarten Readiness, 3rd Grade Reading and High School Graduation. Though Minneapolis-St. Paul has numerous non-profits designed to tackle these issues, there hasn’t always been alignment among these organizations for a broader impact. Our goal is to help these organizations align and improve their practices. Each working group devised initial collective strategies by determining what they could accomplish together and mapping the gaps in services that were consistently missing.

The Kindergarten Readiness Action Network determined that having a child obtain a comprehensive Early Childhood screening at age three can help close the opportunity gap when students are preparing to learn. In Minnesota, this is something that most non-profits were not able to tackle on their own. However, between health providers, school district nurses and other partners at the table, we are creating a plan to ensure these screenings would happen for the unscreened thousands of children in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Health professionals are interested in this work because they see the health disparities as interrelated to the challenges addressed in their work.  They are engaged in the effort for early childhood screenings and are coming up with other actions they can accomplish.

The 3rd Grade Reading Action Network determined that high quality supplementary tutoring is one of the service gaps that could help all students meet proficiency benchmarks. However, tutoring organizations were not utilizing the same tutoring and evaluating practices. To help achieve our collective goal, our area out of school time programs came together to align tutoring practices with the 3rd grade curriculum and academic goals.

The High School Graduation Action Network determined that many students are not fully supported in completing their post-secondary plans. Knowing that the school counselor to student ratio at some schools can be 1 to 400 students, they determined that what is needed to accomplish this goal is an additional “trained trusted adult” who can help each young person complete this plan.  The members of this Action Network committed to training adults through their organizations to support students in completing their plans through this initial strategy.

The initial strategies of each Action Network with Generation Next help youth organizations and programs create continuous improvement and shared responsibility. We need to answer the questions: Can we share our promising practices with each other? Can we get all our kids 100% of the way to college and career?

Q: What mechanisms support these Action Networks in creating and achieving their goals?

We are creating a Community Report Card that helps keep track of progress on each goal and identify contributing factors that are increasingly recognized as vital to student academic outcomes. For example, state-wide test data are often viewed as important indicators of student outcomes but there are important contributing factors such as truancy that can be addressed simultaneously in order to achieve a better outcome. If we don’t measure issues like truancy, we won’t be able to encourage our community based organizations to make this a priority in their programs.

Q: How do you know “who is doing what where” and do you share data?

A: We are first implementing in smaller “proof point” areas for each goal, which could initially be one school or one neighborhood. This allows us a smaller universe to track and analyze. Student level data, such as middle school course completion, help high schools identify the student who would benefit from community based partner mentoring. Additionally, we have increased each school district’s capacity to analyze student level data. We also have positive relationships with OST partners. Many have committed to sharing their student level data to determine the impact of their programming on academic measures. With the help of the United Way and GIS mapping we have expanded our community’s capacity better understand the socio-economic context in which the programs are operating.

Q: What helps Generation Next continue to galvanize support and gain momentum?

On August 18, we promoted our initial strategies. We hope that even more organizations will be motivated to align with Generation Next as we develop subsequent strategies and Action Networks. We know that demonstrating progress will attract additional support for out methods. Collective impact is not easy.

Our leadership council is composed of civic, business, and education leaders. Each brings a valuable sector perspective and motivation for this work. Our coalition includes leadership from both Minneapolis and St. Paul, large philanthropic organizations and local universities.

Learn More Here:

Generation Next Strategies

Generation Next tackles ‘solvable’ problem in schools

St. Paul: Closing the Gap. There’s will. And work on the way.

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