October 10, 2019
The Y4Y team recently caught up with Emanuel Betz, 21st CCLC state coordinator for Vermont, to ask some questions about partnerships in his state.
What does the ground floor of your 21st CCLC partnership development look like?
First, for key partners, let’s name three pillars to call the foundation, or ground floor: the school, community and family.
In many ways, the core “partner” in the 21st CCLC-funded project is the school. Every project needs a school (assuming it is ready and has the capacity), its resources, leaders and teachers who “get it” to actively contribute to the vision. If the school, leaders or system are not integrated with the project over time, it is fair to say it may not even work, and certainly may not be sustained or as effective as it should be. This would be especially true in a small rural community.
The second pillar consists of community contributors. These can take many forms in size and scope, including organizational or individual commitments. No contribution or activity is too small. These often manifest themselves effectively as wonderfully diverse learning opportunities, be it in STEM, the environment, in the arts and movement, or in content areas where the school may not have expertise. Look for successful organizations to support new ideas and professional development and funding.
The third pillar would be family, whether it’s just getting their kids to the program because they know they need and want it, or at greater levels, such as attending events and programming. Family members are often key stakeholders, supporters or leaders.
What are the key elements you’ve found lead to the most successful and long-lasting partnerships?
First, I think the personality and leadership skill sets of the program leaders are most important. A charismatic leader who is an effective communicator goes places quickly. Second, people who know the served community intimately have an edge on navigating challenges, maintaining relationships and building quality over time. Third, leadership retention and consistency over time provide a platform for consistent growth, especially in tandem with the above.
What are ways to expand community partners into sustainable funding sources? How else do you recommend pursuing sustainable funding after grants expire?
I don’t think viewing partners as sustainable funding sources really works. Any partnership can be developed and contribute to quality over time. What works is a collaborative enterprise, and the results that come may not be foreseen. For example, one arts partnership I had as a program director came out of the blue with a $30,000 grant to expand our program approach. That was an unexpected but cool conversation! I think the key element to creating sustainable funding sources is executing high-quality programs that the community values because they are good and serve kids well. That is job one. Money should and will follow high-quality programming.
I think, too, it is important to identify a partner as different from a contractor. A partner is an organization, individual or group that shares ownership of the application (program) and its intended results. Partners may assume responsibility, manage, and contribute or create activities that support the vision.
Perhaps a starting point could be using a self-assessment tool to investigate possibilities. In Vermont, after Year 5, we have a goal that at least 50% of funding would come from five different sources. There are some proven key strategies that explicitly support sustainability and can be used to build a plan that keys off of quality. This sustainability self-assessment for afterschool programs is based on the one we use in Vermont.