When we created our national fellowship, we sought to broaden our impact on the family engagement landscape by inviting educators and leaders from across the country to participate in a professional learning community of like-minded education professionals. Fellows applied as teams, bringing together stakeholders from across a state or city, from schools, district offices and local grantmaking organizations. We host convenings for the teams to connect online and in person over the course of the fellowship to learn and share from experts and from one another.
REFLECTING & SHARING
Our fellowship teams from Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, Utah, and Milwaukee convened in Washington, DC as a cohort for the fourth time to kick off the development of strategic plans that aim to build a culture of effective family engagement in their communities. They’ve spent the past year deeply listening to stakeholders via complementary pilot initiatives.
Teams started their time together by meeting across teams to reflect on their work to date through the use of journey lines that highlighted the impacts and lessons learned from their pilots, bringing past learnings front of mind as they prepared to design their strategic plans.
When asked to think about the importance of telling the stories of the students and families they are seeking to impact, Dr. Beverly Cross from the University of Memphis pushed the group to tell authentic stories. She urged, “There has to be an admission that we’re in a position of power to tell others’ stories. We should seek to do anything we can to situate the story in a way that doesn’t perpetuate that issue.”
Added Ruby Sullivan from the Casey Foundation (Atlanta), “We have to challenge ourselves to avoid painting a wide swath of assumptions around a community.”
After taking a look back at their journeys, the fellows began learning about how to draft their plans. Flamboyan CEO Kristin Ehrgood advised the fellows, to not “get wedded to your strategies, but do fall in love with your outcomes. Strategies come and go, so focus on what you’re trying to achieve.” She was joined by three powerhouse DC community advocates, Patrick Corvington of DCSRN, Maya Martin Cadogan of PAVE and Shanita Burney from DC Public Schools for a lively discussion about how they approach strategy, collaboration with stakeholders and building trust with local families during strategic planning.
GETTING TO WORK
On the heels of the panel, fellows started to draft their plans. They chose breakout sessions with content experts, from Flamboyan staff, partners and members of the previous fellowship cohort, who provided consulting on topics like communications, evaluation, influence and equity.
Leon Groce, a school principal from the Milwaukee team, shared, “I think these sessions were the most powerful. I appreciated being able to make connections with the other Flamboyan staff and facilitators and also to benefit from the expertise of the previous fellow cohort.”
Several fellowship alumni joined the convening to reflect on lessons learned from implementing their own strategic plans. “Write accountability into your strategic plans,” shared one former fellow, “Make sure there are entities, your champions, in your community who will hold the actors accountable. Think about how they will do that when there’s a leadership change or a budget cut.”
As the convening came to a close, fellows shared their reflections about their time together. Said Jadee Talbot from the Granite School District in Utah, “I appreciated the questioning that took place this time around. Having friends ask critical questions is one of the things that pushes us the furthest.”
Liliana Valdez from the Dallas Independent School District shared, “I feel the most equipped leaving this convening because of all the input from the Flamboyan Foundation and cohort one [of national fellows]. I’m feeling good about going back and working through this because of all the learning I feel I’ve done.”
That’s what these convenings are all about; a safe space to wrestle with the work as part of a community of like-minded people seeking to create catalytic change in their communities.