Viewpoint: A new chapter in All Hands Raised collaborative approach to education advocacy (Portland Business Journal, July 2019)

Posted on July 3, 2019 in Media Coverage

By John Tapogna, ECONorthwest President and All Hands Raised Council Co-Chair

Read the story below and here.

Education reforms typically revolve around calls for sweeping overhauls. Budgets need to be much bigger, and class sizes smaller. Curricula need to be rewritten, assessments revamped, and schools turned around. The policy landscape shifts constantly, and educators meet weekly just to keep up. It’s a strategy of more and different.

Dan Ryan — the CEO of the All Hands Raised nonprofit — takes a different approach. He sees plenty of policy and funding advocates in Salem and roots for their success. Rather than adding a redundant voice, he asks: Is it possible for a small nonprofit to boost key educational outcomes assuming no additional money or change in policy? Could a small staff — together with collaborating educators and community partners — drive important outcomes for more than 220,000 youth?

The answers to those questions are “yes,” and they are detailed in All Hands Raised’s Chapter 04 — a recently released report that highlights the nonprofit’s innovative work with schools across
Multnomah County. The report doubles as a testament to Ryan’s decade-plus leadership of an organization that has become a nationally recognized leader in the collective impact movement,
weaving together more than 100 partners from across our community around a shared vision.

All Hand Raised’s strategy is a productivity play: boost outcomes with fixed staffing, budgets, and policies. The goal: With a focus on racial equity ensure the economic and social mobility of the 220,000 kids living in Multnomah County. And together, progress is being made.

One focus of the All Hand Raised Partnership is ensuring more students fill out the needlessly complex Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Why? Because it turns out that filling out the FAFSA is a top predictor of actually enrolling in college. The results speak for themselves: FAFSA completion rates are up 13 percentage points — countywide — since 2014. Just last year 3,313 seniors completed the forms, putting themselves on more solid footing for life after high school.

Another way the Partnership is focused on economic and social mobility is through the work to ensure more students are exposed and have access to careers in construction and manufacturing. Currently five local high schools are partnering with All Hands Raised to build smooth and accessible pathways to careers in construction and manufacturing, strengthen career-technical offerings, and improve the handoffs to post-secondary career training programs. The focus is two-fold: build effective teams at those partner high school communities around common goals, measures and improvement strategies, and implement a community-wide awareness campaign to address stigmas related to these careers head-on — affirming that the trades represent honorable, high-demand and well-paying careers.

These are just two examples of the continuous improvement work that All Hands Raised has adapted — from the national StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network — locally. This bold yet radical common-sense approach is gaining momentum in Multnomah County. As we welcome the next leader, Lavert Robertson, to take over as CEO of All Hands Raised this summer, let’s do all we can to keep our hands up and support this programmatic movement that builds on the insight and wisdom from those who work directly with our children and youth — teachers, counselors and social workers.

New York Times columnist, David Brooks, writes about the “weavers” — the ones showing examples of good government in our cold civil war nation. This movement is about weaving together services from throughout Multnomah County to serve our kids. The hands that need to remain raised are not those of our kids, rather it is the hands of us — the impatient adults who want quick-fix solutions to solve complex local problems. This work is exceptionally difficult. Let’s keep accepting the challenge. Our long-term economic prosperity depends on it.