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Sustaining Collaborative Systems of Support and Opportunity for Children

The Education Redesign Lab shares practical insights gained from the By All Means Consortium.
By All Means illustration

The Education Redesign Lab (EdRedesign), based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, released a new report today titled, Sustaining Cross-Sector Systems of Opportunity for Children: Interim Lessons from the By All Means Consortium. The publication builds on the findings of the first report that documented the By All Means communities’ initial efforts to create cross-sector, collaborative systems for young people. This sequential report focuses on how to maintain the progress that the communities have achieved and continue their work into the future.

The report’s release coincides with EdRedesign’s biannual By All Means convening, hosted at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), on October 29 and 30.

EdRedesign launched the By All Means initiative in 2016 to rethink education and child development systems in partnership with local communities. Currently consisting of eight communities from around the country, By All Means implements cross-sector solutions to address the complex challenges that children face, especially those living in poverty, from birth to postsecondary education and training.

The initiative aims to mitigate the gaps that schools are ill-equipped to fill such as regular health and mental health services, availability of academic supports and enrichment opportunities, and issues related to childhood trauma, to name a few. 

In By All Means’ first phase, members created children’s cabinets, established collaborative goals, raised funds, and began implementation of new or expanded initiatives to support children. The second phase primarily focuses on designing and implementing Success Plans tailored to the needs and strengths of each child and creating a backbone structure for cross-sector collaboration to continue.

“The cities in By All Means have time and again demonstrated the initiative, resourcefulness, and perseverance to press forward in constructing the architecture for a new system of supports and opportunities for children and youth so that all students can succeed. Now, BAM communities are shifting their focus to institutionalizing the work and building long-term sustainability,” said Paul Reville, founding director of the Education Redesign Lab at HGSE and former Massachusetts Secretary of Education.

The newly released report examines several factors related to the long-term success of collaborative efforts. These elements include using data to measure progress, creating networks of support, building internal capacity and stable leadership, finding resources, and authentically engaging the community.

In addition, the report presents a set of key takeaways that can help communities sustain this complex, multi-year work and overcome common obstacles. Among these lessons are (see full list in report):

  • The By All Means approach has shown real progress in improving how communities support children’s development and wellbeing.
  • Fostering trust and relationship building is critical to the pace and long-term success of change.
  • Driving public demand is vital and children’s cabinets are an important mechanism for doing so.
  • Mayoral leadership brings municipal and community leaders to the table.
  • Partnerships at all levels are essential for executing new systems of support.
  • Staffing capacity is necessary for carrying the work forward.
  • Effective use of data is important at every stage of the process.
  • Securing long-term funding is a major challenge, but proven strategies exist.

If you are interested in learning more about the BAM initiative, please visit the EdRedesign website.