StriveTogether Convening Affirms the Aspire Toledo Model

Aspire Toledo is part of the StriveTogether network, which includes nearly 70 organizations nationwide. Recently, representatives from each of those organizations convened in Phoenix to share their experiences and offer advice about what’s working in their communities. Throughout this three-day event, the Aspire Toledo team gained new insights into what makes a StriveTogether network successful — and along the way came to understand just how solid the Aspire Toledo model truly is.

Keynote Speaker Steve Ballmer Stresses Need for Data

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was the conference’s keynote speaker, and he brought some very exciting news. His foundation, the Ballmer Foundation, has pledged $90 million dollars over the next six years to increase the capacity of StriveTogether and its participating organizations. While the details of how the money will be disbursed throughout the StriveTogether network have not yet been released, this pledge represents a major show of support for this innovative model.

In addition to announcing this major contribution, Mr. Ballmer also discussed the year he has spent studying the effectiveness of the StriveTogether model. Chief among his findings was the recognition that a successful StriveTogether organization would need two important components: a centralized data warehouse and an individual student data system — two central features of the Aspire Toledo model. Our team was quite heartened to hear our model held up as an example to other organizations within the network, and as we continue to see impressive outcomes here in the Toledo area, we anticipate more StriveTogether groups looking to us for insights that can improve their communities as well.

The Importance of Collective Impact for Aspire Toledo

In breakout sessions throughout the conference, the importance of Collective Impact was repeatedly reinforced for our Aspire Toledo representatives. One community in particular stood out, as they sought to increase the availability of high-quality pre-Kindergarten programming for area children. The community brought the stakeholders together and created a one-stop facility for parents to come develop a plan that works for their family. Demographic data — socioeconomic status, location, income, number of children, etc. — were all taken into account, so parents could take a strategic approach that would address the very specific needs of their family and their children.

At Aspire Toledo, we are taking a similar approach, using the data we gather to look for opportunities to leverage our existing resources. We took a great deal of inspiration from our colleagues across the nation, and you’ll see more examples of our efforts here on our blog.

Every Stakeholder Plays a Role in Aspire Toledo’s Success

Jeff Edmonson, the former head of StriveTogether who is now with the Ballmer Foundation, often speaks of the need for every stakeholder to dedicate themselves — as individuals and as organizations — to making a personal commitment to Collective Impact. Throughout the conference, we saw firsthand just how meaningful that commitment can be. When services organizations, schools, parents, and business and community leaders come together with a common goal, we can improve outcomes and elicit true change, child by child, neighborhood by neighborhood — and eventually across the city.

Across all three days of the conference, we were honored to see our efforts receive incredibly positive attention from other communities and from the StriveTogether leadership. Our approach to this already highly effective model — which includes innovations such as Lean Six Sigma methodology and a wide range of qualitative research — has organizations eager to learn more about Aspire Toledo and looking for ways to incorporate our methods into their organizations. It’s further evidence that Aspire Toledo is on track to deliver greater outcomes for Toledo-area children. Keep checking this blog for further updates and more exciting success stories.


Integrating Parent Engagement Everywhere

For an organization’s programs to deliver optimal outcomes for children, Parent Engagement is a must. As Aspire Toledo conducts our Café Conversations with people throughout the community, young people repeatedly tell us that if their parents aren’t taking an active role in a program, that program has limited potential for success. When this happens, parents’ involvement leads to stronger programs. In the process, some parents will become even more engaged — and some will rise into roles of parental leadership.

As important as Parent Engagement is, though, the realities of running programs day-to-day often stand in the way of encouraging parents and caregivers to be true partners in the success of the program. In a recent blog post, we offered five steps to help programs take the initial steps boost Parent Engagement, tips that foster a welcoming environment for parents and caregivers. In this post, we offer further ways to make Parent Engagement central to your organization’s programming.

Promoting Parent Engagement within Your Organization

Parent Engagement is most effective when it is fully integrated into the culture of the organization. For current staff, that may take the formal of developing training unique to your individual program. Moving forward, it’s important to add Parent Engagement into new employees’ job descriptions, and including Parent Engagement into your organization’s policies and procedures.

All of these ideas are aimed at successfully engaging and building meaningful relationships with parents and caregivers. By creating a culture that welcomes parents and values their participation as active partners in your program, your organization can develop stronger programming that delivers better outcomes for the children you serve.

Promoting Parent Engagement within the Community

As Aspire continues to communicate our mission to the public, we hope that the importance of Parent Engagement will become a part of the everyday conversation among all the Toledo-area stakeholders. As service organizations present their case to funders, it’s important to stress the importance of Parent Engagement.

With so many organizations delivering a vast array of programming in service to children, many parents can feel they must carefully choose which programs with whom they can fully engage. Remember, these are people with jobs, children and, of course, the many stresses that come from being part of the underserved population. Rather than competing for these parents’ precious time, the experts we’ve consulted with recommend creating a culture of collaboration and coordination among agencies who cater to similar audiences.

Aspire Toledo is dedicated to bringing the entire community together — parents, service organizations, funders and community leaders — to bring quality programming to children throughout the Toledo area. Our goal is to hear these stakeholders’ concerns. As we gather more insights into the characteristics of successful programming, we will be presenting them on this blog. We hope you’ll check back here for further updates.