by Anne Arias
While systemic racism has not loosened its grip on our society during the pandemic, and the Delta variant of COVID-19 prevents us from moving fully into recovery mode, the return of most students to full-time in-person school and the opening of school buildings to community partners offers opportunities for us to come together to support youth through a comprehensive ecosystem of supports. However, while this year will bring familiar challenges, a group of colleagues and I have been grappling with the question: What is needed right now to restore, heal, or repair relationships between the people and organizations that serve young people?
While the answers will be different for each person and partnership, watching Episode 8 of our Quick Connections – Partnership Stories & Strengths Series hosted by YDEKC and School’s Out Washington reminded me of some practices that facilitate the kind of relationship care that may be needed for the 2021-2022 school year. In this 32-minute episode, we talked with Monica Haugen of Seattle Parks and Recreation and Shana Beckwith of STEMPaths Innovation Network (SPIN), who are partners in Best Starts for Kids Out-of-School Time Collaborative at Northgate Elementary in Seattle Public Schools. We spoke with them about some of the day-to-day practices that support their multi-sector partnership.
Which of these practices will you embrace within your partnership ecosystem to support whatever kind of renewal, restoration, or repair you’re seeking in your partnerships? Here are some of the things Monica and Shana incorporate into their partnership and encourage you to try:
- Be flexible and give each other grace
- Define roles and responsibilities, which can help to make navigating complex times easier
- Identify common goals and the ways your organizations complement each other, which encourages collaboration, not competition, and a focus on young people
- Share decision making and leadership – with youth, families, community partners, school partners
- There’s no such thing as failure – just like in science, it’s a series of iterations
- Meet frequently, such as twice per month, and include all partners at the table from day one
- Incorporate “continuous improvement” practices, where you set goals, take action to improve practices, measure it, and reflect on what you’ve done — for the program and for how you’re working together
- Ask for what you need, and regularly give and receive feedback (in multiple directions!)
- Listen to the needs of your partner and how can you strengthen/support them in service of families
- Keep your sense of humor!
And, if you’re seeking ways to connect with colleagues in the field and become more familiar with practices and tools to understand your partnership ecosystem and build new kinds of collaborations, check out some of YDEKC and School’s Out Washington’s upcoming co-hosted events or recordings of past Quick Connections episodes, including:
- Attend Mapping Your Partnership Ecosystem, a 2-hour interactive workshop, on September 30
- Attend 30-minute Partnership Stories & Strengths episodes, including Partnership Stories & Strategies: Funding Collaborations Between Community-Based Providers and School Districts on October 21 and Partnership Stories & Strategies: Embracing Collaboration Between Community-Based Organizations, or every third Thursday of the month!
- Watch episodes from our Quick Connections – Partnership Stories & Strategies Playlist (8 episodes as of September 2021, with link to tools in YDEKC’s School-Community Partnership Toolkit)