Community partnerships in the StriveTogether national network are applying the tools of results-based leadership (RBL), the Casey Foundation’s unique approach to leadership development for social change, to support the success of every child from cradle to career.
In Memphis, Tennessee, RBL has helped local partners increase the percentage of high school students completing federal financial aid forms — a critical step to accessing post-secondary education — from 65% to 88%. In Rochester, New York, RBL has supported the school district and its partners to reduce “chronic absences” among students in 12 targeted schools by more than 22%.
The embrace of RBL in these communities has its origins in StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson’s participation in Class 8 of the Foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship in 2010 and 2011. During the Fellowship he was exposed to RBL, which focuses on the development of five core competencies that support leaders to more effectively drive toward results for children, families and communities.
Edmondson participated in the Fellowship at a time when StriveTogether was just beginning to build and nurture a national network of communities intent on adopting a “cradle-to-career” focus on supporting children and youth. Before long, he saw that results-based leadership was a natural fit for StriveTogether’s ambitions and goals.
“To get real impact for children in these communities, people and systems have to come together and been accountable for results. They have to identify shared outcomes and use data to keep improving over time — and results-based leadership provides the tools for doing this,” Edmondson said.
Parvathi “Parv” Santhosh-Kumar, director of network learning with StriveTogether, echoed Edmondson’s enthusiasm for results-based leadership. “We see RBL as a frame for how leaders can truly accelerate their ability to get better results and mobilize communities to work together,” she said.
StriveTogether set out to weave RBL into its work in a number of ways. In 2014, it joined with the Foundation to launch the nine-month StriveTogether Leadership Program, which has convened two cohorts of leaders from the national Strive network to use RBL principles and tools to advance their local results work. StriveTogether also set out to embed RBL into all of the support it provides to communities in the network, including webinars, coaching and strategic assistance.
To support the organization’s ability to help communities adopt RBL strategies and tools, the Foundation partnered with StriveTogether to invest in RBL learning opportunities for all of its staff. “We can’t possibly preach about this approach without living it ourselves,” said Edmondson. “With all of us now up to speed on RBL, it makes us better partners with these communities — and better able to support them in their application of RBL to advance their work.”
Edmondson’s exposure to RBL during the Children and Family Fellowship set off a chain of events that has resulted in literally hundreds of people learning RBL practices and tools and applying them to their work. More importantly, RBL is strengthening the ability of StriveTogether network communities across the country to get better results for children and families.
According to Santhosh-Kumar, members of the StriveTogether network have become enthusiastic champions of results-based leadership. “This work can be messy,” she said. “So much of it is about convening groups and getting past conflict so you can move from talk to action. RBL gives people a common language and technical tools for doing this and for getting everyone focused on what’s important: results for kids.”