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Striving in Chicago in Sub-freezing Temperatures: The Exploring Communities Convening
Why would you have 150 people come to Chicago in March?
Jeff Edmonson, Managing Director of StriveTogether, explained it this way: creating cradle-to-career communities is very hard work; and it’s typically undertaken by very focused people. Chicago in the winter is an ideal location for hard-working, single-minded community warriors.
Just as important, with the leadership of the Mayor’s Office, Chicago has created a vibrant new partnership that uses the StriveTogether framework, and it was ready to share its stories, its lessons learned, and its episodes of “failing forward.”
All of this took place on March 24-25 when StriveTogether sponsored a convening of Exploring Communities. More than 150 people, from 40+ communities in nearly 20 states and two non-US countries (the UK and New Zealand), explored topics that ranged from “communicating this Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)” to “engaging funders around improvement processes, not specific programs.” Participants heard from Cincinnati-based Strive staff and representatives of a handful of active communities on how to attract community leaders to this work, how to develop shared data systems, and how to put “continuous improvement” in practice.
All Kids Alliance was well represented in Chicago. Program Managers from two of our affiliated partnerships attended. Jennifer Crawford, who manages the North Harris County Education Alliance, and Bruce Garrett who serves in a similar role at the Klein-University Park Partnership, responded enthusiastically to the comprehensive presentations and intense discussions.
Whether it was writing down StriveTogether’s tried and true aphorisms, such as “Partnerships Develop at the Speed of Trust,” or planning to adapt some of the tools offered by more advanced partnerships, like Green Bay’s goals/objectives/indicators arrayed a “Roadmap to Success” continuum – Jennifer and Bruce came back with a bag of practical ideas and a sense of belonging to this national movement.
AKA Executive Director, Bob Wimpelberg, was pretty busy, too. Bob joined leaders from the Big Goal Collaborative in Northeast Indiana to talk about generating community interest in the StriveTogether framework. In a solo session, he offered a more detailed exploration of how to organize for collective impact when you’re talking to educators and non-educators. When he wasn’t presenting, Bob was coaching a start-up team from Monterey, California and two teams from Texas (El Paso and Tyler).
It was clear that the 150 people who converged on Chicago had a common purpose – to learn how to organize and equip people from many sectors of a community to achieve one goal –significant and sustained improvements in the lives of children . . . all children.
Our Houstonians not only survived Chicago in March but made warm connections to sister communities around the globe.
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