StriveTogether convening--the ultimate collective impact meet-up!

Hi Friends,

Last month, I and other members of our Milwaukee Succeeds team, participated in the StriveTogether Convening in Phoenix Arizona. For me this was my third Convening experience.

And with over 400 champions for change in outcomes for our children and young people in attendance, this was also the best one yet! As StriveTogether reported, “ Amid sharing and learning from each other during the 2 ½ days of workshop, plenaries and other fun activities, StriveTogether made some exciting announcements that validate the complex and challenging work of ensuring success of every child, from cradle to career.”

I am an enthusiastic witness that this statement is true. The new 5-year strategic plan was presented through the experiences of partners, including Milwaukee Succeeds and Steve and Connie Ballmer made a stunning announcement of their commitment of over $90 million over 6 years! Additionally, Michael McAfee, President of PolicyLink, challenged all of us to stand up and commit to specific measurable numbers by which we will improve outcomes for our kids and their families.

All in all, I am even more sure that our model of collective impact and collective ownership is the right way to go to build our community’s capacity to really make a difference for kids and to do so together.

Let’s hear from our team about their experiences at the StriveTogether Convening. Take it away team!

See you soon,


“I love that this convening is focused not on subject matter but roles. There are hundreds of people from across the country involved in the work of changing systems. As a result, we talked less about the “what” and much more about the “how” of systems-change. To that end, I picked up a great framework used by Commit Dallas to align various groups within their partnership to support each other and move a community from talk to action!”

- Dave Celata, Deputy Director

"The thing I most enjoyed was how communities were willing to share their stories, including the things that didn't work so well. It was a reminder not to let perfection become the enemy of progress. #FailForward

My biggest takeaway was how important building SEL skills will be as we apply the equity and inclusion lens to our work. Many tough conversations will have to happen requiring us to use these skills now more than ever!"

- Catina Harwell Young, Goal 4 Manager

"As most visitors to the 'Valley of the Sun', Phoenix, Arizona, I appreciated the dry warm heat, the sunshine, and the cacti. Equally as important is the reflection the national convening fostered for our team. As I consider my time and the sessions I attended, I am left with many questions and insights; here are a few:

  • What are the underutilized community assets in our city?
  • Do we see the community as expert?
  • We, the community, need to be disciplined, find our voice, and call out our number for change.
  • Our work is about community restoration and collective efficacy.
  • We must consider how we frame the problem and who is (& who is not) at the table.
  • A group of classrooms make up a school and groups of homes/families make up a neighborhood….how are we working in both of these spaces?
  • How do you balance the tension and pace of building trust and shared understanding?
  • And lastly, I appreciated the following quotation attributed to Churchill that one of the presenters shared, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Now is the time for us to take action."
- Jonathan Dunn, Goal 3 Manager

*Click this link for a larger version of this image

"Byron White, leader of the Cincinnati StrivePartnership, described a new way of thinking about the ecosystem of a student. Byron’s expert presentation made me think about how an organization like Milwaukee Succeeds and our partners influence a young person’s life. Our partners hale from all parts of a student’s ecosystem: influencers (teachers, family), community (schools, place-based nonprofits), institutions (school districts, corporations), and systems (criminal justice, social service). I believe for a student, Milwaukee Succeeds lives in the Institution space (see Blue section in the photo above). Seeing the ecosystem laid out as such caused me to pause and reflect on where Milwaukee Succeeds is positioned and the strengths and weaknesses of such a position. It reconfirmed for me that the deeper and more meaningful relationships we can form across a student’s ecosystem, the deeper we can impact change for him."

- Audrey Borland, Goal 2 Manager

"I truly enjoyed the StriveTogether partnership, sharing and networking with others doing like work and facing similar opportunities to support student success.

My biggest takeaway was experiencing first hand, the critical role of collaborative action and community members within systems coming together to use data in a disciplined manner to collectively move outcomes through a process of continuous improvement. The StiveTogether National Convening left me with riveting key insights into economic mobility, data maturity, and proof points that reinforce the fact that we must make equity actionable through system change."

- Jan Haven, StriveTogether Community Partner, Milwaukee Public Schools

"What I liked most about the StriveTogether National Convening was the preliminary speaker Michael McAfee from PolicyLink’s remarks about equity. McAfee challenged us all to align our hearts and heads to do the work for families, populations, systems and programs. He said we need to reconfigure the ecosystem to work in a way that truly supports kids. He said we need to use our voice to advocate for children, that we need to lose the fear and commit to a number-by what number will we make a difference for children and their families. Otherwise, he said, we’re doing charity.

I also loved the data walk as a means of informing us of what ‘s working in communities and the results being achieved-quite inspiring.

A key takeaway for me, also attributed to McAfee’s remarks, in order to truly achieve systems change to achieve results for kids, we need to go from collective impact to collective ownership! That resonates for me, because it faces head on the challenges in this work-getting those who “own” systems to change them to accelerate solutions and results."

- Danae Davis, Executive Director

"I really enjoyed the breakout session presented by Byron White from the StrivePartnership in Cincinnati (“Toward a More Collective Urban Education Ecosystem”). He shared how they have embarked on community engagement actions grounded in a student-centered ecosystem through a “community asset deep dive.” How does a student see the world? Are we enlisting them primarily for their assets and not their deficits, for their expertise and not just their input? How can students and their families be part of framing the problems and the solutions they face AND share authority with the institutions trying to help? I look forward to hearing more about what they learn from these true community partners, and how this equity based approach continues to shape the Strive Partnership’s work.

The issue of equity was the common thread of the sessions and presentations I observed. The importance of spelling out what equity means and, in order to address it, making it concrete and actionable. I hope to incorporate what I’ve learned as we continue examining and shaping our own equity efforts here in Milwaukee."

- Lorna Dilley, Impact Manager

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