Building Commitment for Community Change
In MDC’s work with community partnerships, we sometimes think of Henry Ford’s quote: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Building and sustaining a partnership that can successfully achieve large scale, system-level change is a process that includes all three of the stages Ford named. And the thread that pulls them all together is about building relationships among the partners themselves and between the partnership and the community it seeks to serve.
In a report released today, the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning shares lessons from working with community partnerships that aim to significantly improve postsecondary completion rates for low-income youth, work that includes MDC and our Partners for Postsecondary Success sites in Amarillo and Brownsville, TX, and Raleigh, NC. Among the many excellent points made in the report is one that often escapes even the most dedicated students of community collaboration, which is simply that “place matters.” In other words, communities like Brownsville, Amarillo, and Raleigh all may have similar challenges and aspirations, but each must build its own road between those two points that reflects the culture of their communities and their own, unique ways of coming, keeping, and working together.
This new report focuses on the variety of ways in which partnerships have approached building commitment—or building a relationship—with their communities: how they have gone about generating interest, framing the underlying issue, and inviting participation across community sectors, all aimed at creating a shared and sustainable agenda for helping more youth succeed in education and employment. Our greatest hope is that reports like these that share lessons from a broad array of places will help other communities see that they are not alone in facing challenges, and that they can build a way forward that is right for them.