Giving Compass' Take:

• Paul Reville and Lynne Sacks share insights from By All Means, a program launched in six cities to support children through collaborative action. 

• How can funders help to ensure the long-term success of collaborative efforts? What are the best partners to tap for this type of collaboration? 

• Learn more about the importance of cross-sector collaboration

In early 2016, the Harvard Education Redesign Lab, which aims to mitigate the effects of poverty on children through cross-sector collaborations, brought together a consortium of six cities committed to addressing this problem through building new systems of education, opportunity, and support for children. 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.

As more cross-sector collaborations gain traction, we must understand what it takes to keep them running over the long term and ensure that progress continues despite changes in leadership.

Here are five lessons from our experience using the By All Means cohort model and how it has impacted cities:

1. All-city convenings allow city teams to strengthen internal relationships and deepen their collective work. It is hard to overstate the value to members of having time and space away from their own cities to focus on their collaborative work. While Children’s Cabinets’ schedule regular local meetings, these generally focus on immediate, operational aspects of the work.

2. Cities learn from each other both formally and informally. The By All Means cities have varying levels of expertise in different areas, including developing shared data systems and creating supports for children who have experienced trauma. Webinars and presentations at the convenings, as well as informal conversations, have facilitated learning across the cities.

3. Participating in a mayor-led network puts positive peer pressure on cities. Mayoral leadership is an important part of By All Means, and it extends to their role in the network.

4. The network supports backbone staff. Supporting cities in a collaborative approach to providing comprehensive services and supports for children is not easy. It requires that the governing organization, or backbone, forms strong working relationships with city and community leaders and their staff members. Backbone organizations must also have a nuanced understanding of city politics, and the ability to manage the progress of a complex, interagency effort.

5. Cities benefit from the lab’s support and expertise as a network convener. The lab’s support for cities includes consultations with experts on topics such as creating long-term financing strategies and addressing issues of racial equity. It has also worked with cities to create an evaluation framework, called the “Measures of Success,” which enables cities to track their progress at each stage of their work, including establishing effective foundational processes through the Children’s Cabinet, providing additional supports and services to children, and measuring changes in child outcomes.

Read the full article about sustaining collaborative action by Paul Reville and Lynne Sacks at Stanford Social Innovation Review.