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Stage 1 Milestone 4

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Milestone #4: Broaden Collaborative Leadership

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Reach out. Given that adoption of the community schools strategy is a whole-community, system-wide undertaking, innovators need to expand and strengthen the leadership base of their scale-up initiative. Participants need time to build trusting relationships with the people they are most likely to influence.

  • Use existing peer relationships. Engage colleagues in your own organizations or neighborhoods and/or peers in other organizations. Identify colleagues whose community standing and resources can strengthen your collaborative work.

  • Engage school leaders. Although schools are only one partner in a scale-up initiative, they are to a large degree first among equals. Seek out potential advocates and major players at the district and site levels, including influential parents, teachers, support personnel, and union members.

  • Reach out to families. Recruit organizations that represent families, including education organizing groups, grass-roots neighborhood groups, parent universities, and PTAs.

  • Seek out other collaborative efforts focused on improving community conditions. Scope out stakeholders in public, non-profit, faith-based, and collaborative initiatives to determine if their objectives for health, housing, economic development, workforce training, and youth development and family support complement the scale-up initiative. Involve early childhood initiatives as well as service learning and after-school initiatives.

  • Look for leaders of other key institutions. United Way chapters, local governments, higher education policymakers, major CBOs, and other organizations can influence community decision makers.

  • Do not overlook the business community. The expertise, resources, and political support of corporate champions can be invaluable.

  • Keep trying! Do not let "skeptics" and "laggards" derail the initiative. Constituency building is an ongoing process. Continue to recruit newcomers.

Build internal relationships.
The commitment to shared ownership that characterizes effective scale-up begins in Stage 1. Continue to build trust and shared understanding as the group of innovators expands. It is important to recognize, however, that the sense of urgency and degree of optimism may not be uniform within the group. Therefore, make explicit efforts to air concerns by:

  • Meeting regularly
  • Sharing leadership
  • Visiting community schools
  • Dreaming big
  • Acknowledging self-interest
  • Encouraging honest, shared exploration

 What’s in It for Us?
  • Participants should have a clear sense of how involvement in community schools scale-up can support their professional and organizational goals. For individuals, how might participation strengthen their personal networks, build skills, and provide leadership opportunities?

  • For schools, what district-wide, cross-system benefits and efficiencies are possible when a large number of schools and partners work toward shared goals?

  • For other participants, how does scale-up make sense given their respective organizations’ mission and vision? Is there a close fit? What conflicts, if any, might arise with existing commitments? How might participation increase organizations’ operational opportunities and build internal capacity? What opportunity costs might be involved?



Leaders from Lincoln, Nebraska, directly experienced the benefits of learning from other community schools. Early in Lincoln’s community schools planning process, a group of about 60 leaders—including the superintendent, mayor, and others—visited Kansas City to learn about its community schools initiative. "Trips are a great way to get people to buy in to an idea. Also, when you travel together you bond around a shared experience. When you get back home you know your team better and you talk about how you can make the work we’re doing better," said Cathie Petsch, co-coordinator of the Lincoln Community Learning Centers. She sees tremendous value in meeting people involved in similar work in different communities. "You learn so much from each other and use each other as resources and sounding boards."


When Tom Brady, superintendent of the Providence Public Schools, decided to scale up community schools, he recognized that he needed someone inside the system who would embody the system’s commitment to engaging with the community. It was then that he hired Rebecca Boxx. Building on related initiatives in Providence, including the highly regarded Providence After School Alliance and Promise Neighborhood, Boxx decided to work through an emerging interagency cabinet organized by then–Mayor David Cicciline. Current Mayor Angel Taveras has retained the cabinet, which, among other benefits, provides the community schools strategy with direct connections to major institutions. As a leadership group, the cabinet helps guide the strategy and mobilize the resources and political will of a variety of organizations.


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