Aspire Toledo has been looking for a data collection system to support their work in improving outcomes for Toledo-area kids. By collaborating with COMET, Aspire Toledo customized a web-based system to be used for data collection and support informed decision-making in order to raise organizational quality within area partnerships.

This data system allows for Aspire Toledo to track community and program-based needs. The information will be used to understand the progress of students in area programs, identify gaps and report gains, and provide appropriate interventions.

The partnership will allow for Aspire Toledo to continue to be experts in child development and program evaluation, have access to technology that can be adapted to Aspire’s changing needs, and the data collected is confidential, secure and compliant with HIPAA and FERPA.

Aspire Toledo’s new data collection system and reporting will begin during the 2019-2020 school year.

Partners in Education, Aspire and Lourdes University announce Workshop Series

2019 Parent Engagement Workshop Series – Beginning February 5, 2019

This workshop series offers practical tools to help you improve your engagement with parents through help with marketing and communications, evaluation and continuous improvement, and it’s fun and hands on. Participants attending all sessions earn a certificate of completion From Parent Institute and the series offers 2.5 Continuing Education Units at each session through Lourdes University in counseling and social work. 

The cost of each workshop is $15 and includes the CEUs, a light dinner and all materials. All workshops will be held on the Lourdes University campus in Sylvania, OH.

Parent-teacher leaders, social workers and counselors, social work and counseling students, nonprofit professionals and the general public are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Register for workshops here..

The Workshops are:

Workshop 1: Continuous Improvement Strategy Session (Improving Parent Engagement). Tues. February 5th, 2019, 5:30-8:00 with Mary Agostini, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Instructor at Northwest State College.

Workshop 2: Data Collection and Tracking for Parent Participation. Wed. March 6, 2019 with Jacob Burgoon, Instructor of Assessment at Bowling Green State University.

Workshop 3: Parent Communication and Inclusion. Wed. March 20, 2019 with Toni Shoola, CEO of ShoLove Consulting

Workshop 4: Empowering Parent Participation. Wed. April 3, 2019 with Michelle Klinger, Executive Director with Partners in Education

Workshop 5: Creating Social Connections for Parents. Wed. March 1, 2019 with Marian Brannon Lucas County Family and Children First Council

Save the date! C4NPR to Present Diversity and Inclusion Workshops in September

The Center for Nonprofit Resources Presents

Diversity and Inclusion Workshops
September 5, 2019

Morning and Afternoon Session

With rapidly shifting demographics, continued globalization, and increased reliance on partnering, organizations must embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I) not only as a means to enhance business performance but also as an enabler of innovation and collaboration. Through these workshops, you’ll gain strategies and skills for engaging employees in D&I initiatives, deploying D&I education and training throughout your organization, and leveraging D&I as a competitive advantage.

These half-day workshops on Diversity and Inclusion will be presented by Diego Abente, Vice President of Economic Development Services and the President of the Community Development Corporation at the International Institute of St. Louis.

Additional information and registration details will be provided closer to the workshop date.

Click here to learn more about C4NPR.

Aspire Toledo: A StriveTogether Sustaining Organization!

Aspire Toledo reached an important milestone recently as StriveTogether officially named Aspire Toledo a Sustaining Community, the third gateway in an overarching Theory of Action.

The announcement comes after Aspire Toledo underwent a rigorous evaluation by StriveTogether, a Cincinnati-based organization overseeing a network of partners dedicated to improving cradle-to-career outcomes for young people in their respective communities. Aspire Toledo is one of more than 70 organizations in the StriveTogether network, and now one of approximately 35 organizations to have achieved Sustaining Community status.

Aspire Toledo: The Path to Proof Point

The StriveTogether Theory of Action is based on continuous improvement among four essential pillars: a shared community vision, evidence-based decision-making, collaborative action, and investment and sustainability. Organizations must meet a series of benchmarks to move through five Gateways: Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change, and Proof Point.

Here’s more information about the various levels, how we achieved them, and where we’re going next!

Gateway 1: Exploring.

Partnerships are initially formed and a plan is first formalized.

Gateway 2: Emerging.

An organizational structure was in place, and a baseline is established.

Gateway 3: Sustaining.

Even more community assets can be leveraged to effect change within the core indicators. Indicators are being continually refined to increase accuracy and validity; partners are connected with student-level data. Collaborative Action Networks are identifying opportunities and barriers, enabling them to take action to improve outcomes. Resources are allocated to improve community-level outcomes, and a collective advocacy agenda is developed to change local, state, or national policy.

Gateway 4: Systems Change.

Here’s where we truly start to see exciting improvements within the community! As the structures prove themselves durable, services organizations have access to the student-level data that will empower them to leverage their capacities.

Gateway 5: Proof Point.

A community at Proof Point is one that is seeing indicators improving. This is the ultimate goal for organizations in the StriveTogether network, and Aspire Toledo is working diligently to see this become a reality.

Aspire Toledo is dedicated to providing resources that enable organizations to fulfill the outcomes our community has deemed essential to the success of any given program. We will provide further information in future blog posts, and we encourage you to check back frequently!



Aspire Toledo and the StriveTogether Theory of Action

Aspire Toledo is part of the StriveTogether network of community organizations dedicated to improving outcomes for young people through community impact and continuous improvement. As a member of the StriveTogether, Aspire Toledo adheres to a rigorous framework, based on a number of milestones strategically designed to create a culture of cooperation and partnership between every group of stakeholders within a community. StriveTogether refers to this framework as the Theory of Action,

The StriveTogether Theory of Action

The StriveTogether Theory of Action consists of five distinct levels of achievement, which they call Gateways. In order to move from one Gateway into the next, Aspire Toledo and other organizations within the network must demonstrate increased capabilities according to a set of standards in which the community is engaged, locally defined disparities are eliminated, a culture of continuous improvement is established, and existing assets are leveraged. Each of the five Gateways has its own set of criteria according to four Pillars. Here’s how the Gateways and their Pillars are presented.

Gateway 1: Exploring. This is the first phase, in which partnerships are initially formed and a plan is first formalized.

  • Pillar 1: Shared Community Vision.
    • Stakeholders from across the community come together to organize a cradle-to-career vision for the region. Leadership, accountability structures and messaging are established.
  • Pillar 2: Evidence-Based Decision Making.
    • The partnership selects community-level outcomes and core indicators.
  • Pillar 3: Collaborative Action.
    • The community commits to a model based on continuous improvement.
  • Pillar 4: Investment and Sustainability.
    • An anchor entity is established and funders are engaged.

Gateway 2: Emerging. In this phase, an organizational structure is in place, and a baseline is established.

  • Pillar 1: Shared Community Vision.
    • Disaggregated baseline data is available for the community’s perusal.
  • Pillar 2: Evidence-Based Decision Making.
    • Baseline data is collected for key sub-populations, and a set of core indicators is prioritized.
  • Pillar 3: Collaborative Action.
    • Collaborative Action Networks are engaged to improve community-level outcomes.
  • Pillar 4: Investment and Sustainability.
    • Partners provide operations funding for the organization.

Gateway 3: Sustaining. At this point, the structures are all in place, and the organization is beginning to leverage even more community assets to effect change within the core indicators.

  • Pillar 1: Shared Community Vision.
    • A consistent message is being communicated across all internal partners, and roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.
  • Pillar 2: Evidence-Based Decision Making.
    • Indicators are being continually refined to increase accuracy and validity; partners are connected with student-level data.
  • Pillar 3: Collaborative Action.
    • Collaborative Action Networks are identifying opportunities and barriers, enabling them to take action to improve outcomes
  • Pillar 4: Investment and Sustainability.
    • Resources are allocated to improve community-level outcomes, and a collective advocacy agenda is developed to change local, state, or national policy.

Gateway 4: Systems Change. Here’s where we truly start to see exciting improvements within the community. As the structures prove themselves durable, services organizations have access to the student-level data that will empower them to leverage their capacities.

  • Pillar 1: Shared Community Vision.
    • Accountability is firmly in place, and successes and challenges are effectively communicated.
  • Pillar 2: Evidence-Based Decision Making.
    • Student-level data is shared appropriately across partners in a timely manner.
  • Pillar 3: Collaborative Action.
    • Partners use continuous improvement to take what’s working and share it, so that outcomes can be improved.
  • Pillar 4: Investment and Sustainability.
    • Funding is in place to not only sustain activities, but also to foster an environment of continuous improvement.

Gateway 5: Proof Point. A community at Proof Point is one that is seeing indicators improving. This is the ultimate goal for organizations in the StriveTogether network, and Aspire Toledo is working diligently to see this become a reality.

Aspire Toledo: The Path to Proof Point

To make the goal of Proof Point a reality, Aspire Toledo is working with stakeholders from all walks of life, listening to their concerns and helping to facilitate solutions. The greater Toledo area is filled with passionate people dedicated to improving the lives of our young people. By taking a data-driven approach to locate places where improvements can be made effectively and efficiently, we can see a brighter future sooner than ever.




Integrating Cultural Competency into Your Programming

Aspire Toledo recently held a series of community conversations designed to help area service providers better understand Cultural Competency and the best ways to integrate this vital idea into their programming. An organization that truly understands Cultural Competency is one that is able to celebrate what each ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation offers a society while still being aware of the individual differences that make each person unique.

The takeaways from the first conversation were recapped in an earlier blog post; in this post, we’ll look at strategies any organization can take to make Cultural Competency one of its key components for better outcomes.

A Cultural Competency Strategy Starts with Leadership

For Cultural Competency to truly take root within an organization, leadership must play an active role. That includes the executive director, the board and senior management. Leadership is able to set the tone for the entire organization, from advising on the particulars of programming to ensuring a diverse staff is hired.

With a more diverse staff in place, it is still essential that these people feel they have a voice within the organization. That means encouraging conversations and empowering people to ask respectful questions of one another. While those discussions can occasionally take people out of their comfort zone, it’s still a necessary catalyst for growth within an

Cultural Competency in Staff Training and Programming

Once leadership has fully bought into the idea of Cultural Competency, it can be truly implemented throughout the organization’s programming. This can be another place where some discomfort may occur, but the results are more than worth it. Encouraging staff to develop a deeper understanding of the cultural needs of their clients means encouraging them to avoid making assumptions and offering more opportunities for them to engage in meaningful ways with the people they serve. Giving everyone — including young people — a voice in programming is essential as well.

As programming is developed or fine-tuned, the main thing to remember is that Cultural Competency is about building relationships. The people on your staff should be approachable and ready to treat everyone they encounter as an equal. As far as cultural differences go, the key is to recognize those differences while at the same time focusing on the commonality that exists between us all.

Measuring Success in Cultural Competency

At our community conversations, services providers are always interested in understanding what a successful integration of Cultural Competency would look like. Once programming is staffed intentionally, with people who are excited about integrating Cultural Competency, optimized programming should be relatively easy to implement.

Ideally, everyone involved in the programming — including young people — would have an opportunity to be exposed to new experiences. Even though these experiences might take them out of their comfort zone, it is necessary to gain a greater understanding. Along the way, people taking part in our community conversation recommended that opportunities are provided for self-assessment, so participants can monitor their own growth. In addition, staff members should be open to addressing feedback as it happens. When a person feels sufficiently empowered to speak out, it’s important to make sure they feel heard.

Cultural Competency: Good Policy for Better Outcomes

Throughout our community conversations, the importance of Cultural Competency was reinforced in every group activity and every discussion. Without Cultural Competency, one panelist suggested, your organization is setting up its programming to fail. Participants, especially young people, want to feel not just included, but truly understood and celebrated for their differences. They are more likely to absorb the lessons and skills imparted by your organization if you recognize just where they’re coming from. Organizations are able to stay relevant, and programming is able to deliver better outcomes. Simply put, Cultural Competency is the right thing to do!

Aspire Toledo is dedicated to providing resources that enable organizations to fulfill the outcomes our community has deemed essential to the success of any given program. We will provide further information in future blog posts, and we encourage you to check back frequently.

Thank you to the team who planned and coordinated these community conversations. Brittany Ford, Lucas County Policy Analyst and Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC) Co-Lead, chaired the sub-committee of the Aspire Network Steering Committee with committee members including Marian Brannon, Lucas County Strengthening Families Coordinator, Sarah Allan, LISC Toledo Program Officer and Welcome TLC Co-Lead, Guisselle Mendoza-McDonald, Adelante: The Latino Resource Center Executive Director, and Evelyn McKinney, United Way Community Impact Officer. The sub-committee for Cultural Competency developed the plan to address cultural competency in a two-part community conversation with input from Aspire staff and the Network Steering Committee. And a special thank you to Marian, who facilitated the community conversations, Brittany Ford for additional planning and administrative support, attendees for both sessions, and to our panel of experts for Session II:

  • Janece Wooley, YWCA Inclusion Manager
  • Crystal Harris-Darnell, YMCA Youth Opportunities Program Executive Director
  • Sarah Alfaham, Local Social Worker and Arab American-Muslim Community Organizer
  • Guisselle Mendoza-McDonald, Adelante: The Latino Resource Center Executive Director

Cultural Competency: A Step Beyond Diversity

Every service organization wants to be as inclusive as possible — to be able to serve everyone regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. And every service organization wants to provide every group with the equal treatment needed to ensure all voices are heard in their programming. Those two ideas represent a commitment to inclusion and diversity, and that commitment should always be commended.

But what if there’s a step beyond diversity? A step that truly meets people where they are. A step that celebrates the difference perspectives that every group brings to an interaction. A step that ensures not just equal treatment, but equitable treatment.

That’s Cultural Competency, and it’s one of the key outcomes Aspire Toledo measures when we assess a service organization’s programming.

Five Ways to Start Incorporating Cultural Competency

  1. Avoid making assumptions or assigning others to a culture or group. In a recent Community Conversation, people came together to discuss some of the barriers to integrating Cultural Competency. In one exercise, our facilitators asked the guests to list stereotypes that might be assumed about different religious, ethnic, racial, and gender groups. The results were enlightening, and they pointed out the need to move beyond the assumptions that get in the way of open communication.
  2. Ask respectful questions when you need information about a culture or group. The key to breaking down stereotypes? Communicate! That means asking thoughtful questions, without assumption and without accusations.
  3. Be open to answering questions about your own culture respectfully. Cultural Competency is a two-way street. No one is asking you to be a spokesperson for your culture, but you can share what you know. Maintaining a dialog can go a long way toward
  4. Remember all cultures are made up of individuals. In another exercise, participants were asked to place random objects — pens, paper clips, combs, etc. — into a large basket. That action represents inclusion. Recognizing the differences among those objects represents diversity. The facilitators then attached some of the objects to different spaces on the basket: the rim, the handle, even hanging off the side or underneath. The implication is that members of a group may function best if their individual needs are met. Those needs may be related to the cultures from which they come, and recognizing how those needs impact individuals is a big step toward Cultural Competency.
  5. Interact in a way that supports relationship building. Ultimately, Cultural Competency is based on empathy and the creation of personal relationships. By trusting that people are coming into a situation with good intentions, and by responding accordingly, we can break down the cultural walls that stand in the way of providing optimal outcomes from the people we serve.

Aspire Toledo Helps Organizations Foster Cultural Competency

In working with stakeholders throughout the community, Aspire Toledo has come to recognize Cultural Competency as a key component to successful programming. Ensuring that the people who deliver programming truly understand the people they serve helps foster a sense of belonging that leads to better outcomes. In weeks to come, we will be sharing some more ideas about Cultural Competency, including strategies designed to help service organizations integrate principles of Cultural Competency into everything they do. Watch this space for further details.


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.