Traveling to Memphis
Last week, we had the privilege of traveling to Memphis for the StriveTogether Convening. Over the course of three days we met, learned from, and shared our best practices (and a little BBQ) with over 400 peers from across the country. This wasn’t a typical, passive conference. We were truly inspired by the energy, urgency, and laser-focus on creating better outcomes for all children. Like Milwaukee, communities across the country are doing hard, sustained work to improve our education system from cradle to career. The practical tools, models, and recommendations we picked up in Memphis will definitely be put to good work here in Milwaukee.
We asked everyone to reflect on the convening and share what resonated most for them.
Take it away Team!
See you soon,
Danae Davis | Executive Director
101 W. Pleasant St., Suite 210, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Danae: Becky Kanis Margiotta, co-founder and President of The Billions Institute-mission is to solve the world’s most pressing issues in 4 years-struck me as the most powerful presenter at the StriveTogether convening. She said that there are 4 points to success at making true impact: (1) have a shared aim or common agenda, (2) face into the data regularly-check it often and act when goals are not on track, (3) stop thinking that you’re the man (or woman)-let go of your need to control or gain credit, rather give credit and recognition to those who are on the ground doing the work, and (4) learn how to say no-all things are not possible or relevant.
I also was moved by the real emphasis on equity and the urgency of closing racial gaps and addressing structural racism. This theme permeated the Convening and I was proud to be part of StriveTogether for the authenticity of calling out equity as needing to be addressed if we are to be successful.
Dave: "Let the data do the work." As somewhat of a wonk, I was incredibly impressed with how some communities are using data to drive improvement. Continuous improvement, one of the building blocks of our work, cannot happen without data. By checking the data through rapid cycles, we learn the impact of our work in real-time—allowing us to learn what's working and what needs to change. The quote, "let the data do the work" was advice from a data manger in San Antonio. She found that *regularly* putting data in front of community partners stimulates action because it leaves no place to hide. The data in Milwaukee is so overwhelming that we *shouldn't* have any place to hide.
Jonathan: As a collective impact initiative, we are called to illuminate disparities, and to bear witness to the stories of our communities….stories of both transformation and needed transformation. We are duty bound not to an idea or to an institution; but rather, to the people who live in our city.
- Program Rich and System Poor – we cannot program our way to better educational outcomes for students; we must become system rich by improving how we as a community create alignment of our structures, resources, and efforts.
- Data by itself does nothing; it’s the act of changing behavior based on the results that matters.
- Civic Infrastructure – it is not about creating new meetings, but rather repurposing the ones that already exist. – Be the aspirin and not the headache.
- We must engage in result oriented action for kids.
- Let go of being the hero – Share the Aim – Face the Data.
- "If you expect to see the final results of your work, you simply have not asked a big enough question." Frances Moore Lappe.
Lorna: My top takeaway from the convening: Give it back. Give the credit back to our partners; give the data back to our partners. It’s one thing to have shared vision, we must also have shared ownership.
All around the country communities are intentionally focusing on issues of equity and building those issues into their strategies. While we have done this indirectly, it’s not enough. We need to be intentional about equity – being clear about what it means for education in our community and it needs to be the lens through which we create and execute our strategies.
But I left with the ongoing question that I’ve been grappling with for a while: what is our role in helping to build data capacity in the community?
Tim: The past week at the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Convening offered an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues from across the country and learn from their progress and their challenges. As one colleague noted, these annual conferences give us the chance to exchange ideas, joys and frustrations with the only people that understand what we do on a day to day basis – working to make systemic change within each of our respective communities.
Throughout the week, it was emphasized that we need to work within our community to “re-enlist” our partners. As collective impact is maturing, the definitions and expectations that individuals and programs came to engage in the work five or more years ago have evolved. In order to truly improve the lives of the children of Milwaukee, we need to come to this work collectively and understand that it is not one, or a handful, of organizations that have affected change. Rather, the community collectively owns the success of partnership and collaboration which leads to positive progress and change.