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Schools In For Summer: Opening Up an Education Nonprofit’s Circle

This is the eleventh in a series of posts that will examine ten insights Community Wealth Partners has uncovered through our research of and experience with initiatives that have created transformational social change. This series was introduced in a previous post.

To expand the reach of a nonprofit, it takes a lot of work.

As I joined Alejandro Gac-Artigas, 2012 Echoing Green Fellow and founder of Springboard Collaborative, a summer K-3rd grade literacy program in Philadelphia,  to see his own nonprofit in action, I got a firsthand glimpse into what “a lot of work” really means. Working 20-hour days, Alejandro leads his team of staff, teachers, parents, principals, and site directors from before dawn to after dusk.

He is up at 5 AM buying flowers from Wal-Mart to give to his teachers for today’s end of year celebration at the Pan-American School, one of Springboard’s four elementary school partners.

He is at each of the four schools starting at 7AM to help prepare for the day of learning, meet the students, and run diagnostic tests to assess the reading progress students have made. During the day, he is conducting parent training seminars, on the phone with active parents and principals to give them status updates, and traveling to and from the office to provide materials to the teachers and staff to make the day a success.

To top it all off, he will crunch data into the late hours of the night to see if the vision he has set is really producing the outcomes Springboard wants.

I list this out not to scare intrepid young entrepreneurs away from the social sector; rather, it is to illustrate how much work it takes to engage all of the important stakeholders that make or break a nonprofit.

Springboard Collaborative’s mission is to “transform the summer from a barrier into a springboard for financially disadvantaged students and families”. Despite his best efforts, there’s no way Alejandro can accomplish this mission without some help.  Each day, Alejandro has to engage his teachers, his parents, the administrators leading his schools, his own staff, and countless others effectively and deftly to achieve success.

To lead this movement toward transformative social change for K-3rd graders in inner-city Philadelphia, he has to open his circle. As Amy Celep notes in her recent post, many actors have a role to play when trying to transform a social problem.  Springboard Collaborative proves her point.

Alejandro is up early because recognizing the tremendous work his teachers have done this summer is a top priority to ensure their continued engagement. He’s leading a parent training because Springboard’s theory is that the real key to 3rd grade literacy is active parent involvement—learning can not only take place from 9AM-3PM during the school day. And he’s crunching numbers late into the night, student by student, to ensure they get the tailored educational engagement from each teacher based on their reading level and progress. And this does not count the hours he spends engaging administrators, staff, school site directors, and others who are so critical to making Springboard a success.

From just one day in his life, we can tease out universal insights into how to effectively engage stakeholders:

  • Identify the key stakeholders (parents, teachers, students, administrators, funders)
  • Analyze what each stakeholder needs (recognition, phone contact, instruction)
  • Engage and Mobilize them based on these needs (give flowers, call a parent, change instructional plans)

Alejandro continues to open his circle, as he hopes to expand his mission to other Philadelphia schools in the years to come. And he knows that as he opens his circle even more, engaging the actors who are key to reaching his mission effectively will be an even greater focus.

Because there’s only 24 hours in the day, there’s a lot of work to do, and everyone needs a little help.

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About Walter Howell

As an associate, Walter Howell supports strategic client engagements by developing a broad range of solutions for clients through analysis and research, and supporting overall project management. Walter has experience in affordable housing, community development, and microfinance. In addition, he has a passion for youth education and empowerment developed through years of tutoring, youth basketball coaching, and other volunteer efforts. He has researched market opportunities for state-based anti-hunger campaigns, supported community development organizations in sustainability planning and prospectus writing, and led a national non-profit dedicated to childhood health and well-being through a strategic planning process to develop a new transformational bold goal and theory of change. See Walter's full bio

3 Responses to "Schools In For Summer: Opening Up an Education Nonprofit’s Circle"

  • Clem Wright
    August 14, 2012 - 8:13 pm

    awesome. so impressive.

  • Mary Katherine Gleissner
    August 14, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    Really great to be recognizing multiple levels of needs and interests of stakeholders, even intangibles like “recognition”.

  • Jbhowell
    August 24, 2012 - 7:28 pm

    Thanks for filling us in on this inspiring enterprise. Think of the benefits to the children and their families.

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