by Angelina Nustad-Peluso
The Duluth Community School Collaborative (DCSC) started 20 years ago as a parent group determined to enrich what is now Myers-Wilkins Elementary with culturally relevant after school programming. This vision grew to become what is now a blossoming intermediary organization leading the implementation of the Full-Service Community School (FSCS) model at Myers Wilkins, Lincoln Park Middle School, and Denfeld High School.
In Full-Service Community Schools, families take leadership in their public schools to develop a vision for positive change, and diverse partners come together to create a collective impact toward that shared vision. Our work as an intermediary is to facilitate this coming-together so that families, community groups, youth workers, educators, and others can do their work more efficiently, with better support, and with alignment of goals. When that happens, we will be prepared to tell the story of what all of our young people need, and how we must work collaboratively to meet those needs. Policies and funding for this collaborative work will be advocated for, and we will provide leadership and learning for ever-expanding possibilities.
The graphic below shows a snapshot of the work of an intermediary. It is from the Intermediary Network's The Quick Guide to Intermediary Practice.
6 Core Functions of Intermediaries
i. Guide Vision & Strategy:
Our Community School Coordinators network across systems and industries that impact young people and families to find common goals and design partnerships that advance a common mission: ensuring all young people in our schools have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. In Duluth, we are at tables with families and young people, educators, the superintendent of schools, afterschool youth program leaders, business owners, residential and outpatient youth treatment facility leaders, foster families, philanthropies, County public health, and City leaders. This month, we are expanding our capacity to do this work in a broader community sense with the addition of a director of programs who oversees work across all three sites.
ii. Support Aligned Activities:
With the addition of the director of programs, the community school collaborative sits within this stage in the six core functions of an intermediary organization. Working closely with our out of school time partners through the Duluth Youth Agency Coalition, these discussions of potential collective impacts and common goals are beginning, and we are developing the capacity to move them forward.
iii. Establish Shared Measurement Practices
In the future, it will be essential that our partners at the community leadership level establish shared measurement practices around our collective goals with young people and their families. Our role as intermediary will be to advocate for and support racially equitable shared data structures and systems, assist in interpreting and disseminating data, and provide support for partners’ continuous improvement cycles.
iv. Build Public Will
Using data, we will have the opportunity to leverage wider public support for our work. Voters must know what our collaborators do, and what we need in order to do it well.
v. Advance Policy
Beyond policies already within our purview such as our local schools and school district, DCSC envisions our collective impact partners, including families, young people, and community members, organizing around city and state policy that builds on our shared data, and supports our strategies and their outcomes. Our role as intermediary will be to catalyze the diverse voices involved and ensure that being involved in advancing policy related to young people and education is accessible for all our families and community.
vi. Mobilize Funding
Finally, as is the desire of so many individual organizations that do this work on the ground level, we must garner additional funds to do this work in the ways we know make a difference for our youth and families. We know that youth-focused intermediary organizations have the potential to leverage and mobilize funding for their collective mission and can increase investment in the work at a larger level. This is our goal. We must make youth a priority in our city, our state, and our country, and our beginning efforts toward intermediary leadership in Duluth are driven by the potential for actual change that is possible with the exponential growth of support for investments in youth, both by the voting public and funders.
Intermediary organizations like the Duluth Community School Collaborative are a vital piece of coordinating and sustaining large-scale systems change across sectors. For youth and families in Duluth, this work is long overdue.
The six core functions of 1) guiding vision and strategy, 2) supporting aligned activities, 3) establishing shared measurement practices, 4) building public will, 5) advancing policy, and 6) mobilizing funding, are listed in the order that they are to be tackled by an intermediary organization.
Currently, DCSC is actively working to promote a guiding a vision and strategy, and to support the alignment of our community partners’ work toward this shared vision. Building the leadership structures and systems to collaboratively identify and measure our shared efforts toward our goals will be a large next step in the process.
Through it all, DCSC is committed to building on its 20 year history of engaging families and communities for youth by leading the way toward a connected, engaged, and supportive Duluth where all youth, pre-k through young adulthood, can achieve their full potential.
What could be possible if all our systems, services, families, businesses, and community organizations in Duluth united in a shared vision of ensuring every child reaches their full potential?