Poster Paper: Building City-Wide Systems of Opportunity for Children: Initial Lessons from the By All Means Consortium

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jessica C. Boyle, Stanford University and Lynne Sacks, Harvard University

In 2016, the Harvard Education Redesign Lab brought together a consortium of six cities committed to addressing the iron-law correlation between socioeconomic status and education outcomes. The mayor-led effort, called By All Means, aims to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed academically, develop their interests, and lead healthy lives. Over the past three years, each of these cities has created a “Children’s Cabinet”—a governance structure responsible for establishing goals for children in their city—comprised of the mayor, superintendent, head of health and social services, and other stakeholders in each community.

Early successes of the By All Means cities include substantial expansion of summer and afterschool programming, implementation of new social and emotional supports for children, expanded access to school-based health care, and data sharing agreements between a school district and municipal government. These changes were made possible by innovative (and sometimes unexpected) partnerships, comingling of funds, shared agendas, and a common vision among stakeholders.

Collaborative efforts like these are often fraught with political and practical challenges for communities making deep, adaptive changes to the way they operate. Creating and supporting a network of communities that both encourages and challenges its members can accelerate and support their progress. Sustaining these efforts will require ongoing engagement of the people in these communities, as well as a broad network of support. This paper shares some of the lessons learned about the enablers for and barriers to engaging this in this type of cross-sector work successfully.

This qualitative study examines the process in each location of moving to a systemic approach to providing comprehensive supports and services to children based on an analytic frame that identifies three categories of progress that are relevant at different stages of the continuum of the consortium’s work: process indicators, which focus on collaboration and cabinet effectiveness; participation/opportunity measures, which track the increased provision of services and programs to children; and outcome measures, which track changes in student-facing outcomes. This stage of the research covers the first of these categories.

Data for this study include interviews with mayors, superintendents, and other key participants in each city’s cabinet; observations of Children’s Cabinet meetings; reviews of minutes from additional cabinet meetings; and surveys given to participants at three 2-day convenings. Researchers visited each of the cities twice during this initial period of the research, at approximately six-month intervals. During these visits, researchers observed a meeting of the city’s Children’s Cabinet as well as smaller working group meetings when possible.