Reflections from the 2018 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening

Generation Next & the StriveTogether Network

StriveTogether was “founded on a simple principle: Those who care about a community’s children — from parents and educators to civic leaders and local employers — can accomplish more by working together than by working apart.”

In 2011, senior leaders from the African-American Leadership Forum, the Bush Foundation, the City of Minneapolis, the City of Saint Paul, General Mills, Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Itasca Project, the Minneapolis Foundation, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the Saint Paul Foundation, Saint Paul Public Schools, Target, and the University of Minnesota met to discuss how the StriveTogether educational improvement model had the potential to help improve educational outcomes in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, especially for students of color and low-income students.

The urgency and desire for a cradle-to-career coalition came from these community leaders, and they saw the StriveTogether framework as a basis for delivering on goals to close the achievement gap in the Twin Cities. A decision was made among these leaders to create a cradle-to-career partnership in the Twin Cities, and this partnership grew to become Generation Next, which was launched in 2012. Generation Next is currently in the sustaining gateway in the StriveTogether Theory of Action, a framework that is updated on a regular basis. The newest Theory of Action was launched at the 2018 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening, and can be found here.

Go Far, Go Together
Uniting in Pursuit of Equity for Every Child

Pre-Convening Session

Prior to the Convening’s first day for attendees, members of the Generation Next team (along with representatives from the Education Partnerships Coalition) headed to Seattle on Tuesday, October 9 to attend a pre-convening session regarding the Strategic Initiatives Fund. The Strategic Initiatives Fund grant was recently awarded to Generation Next and the Education Partnerships Coalition (read the press release HERE), as well as 15 other organizations across the nation. This pre-session allowed grant recipient organizations to build connections across partnerships and strengthen relationships as a cohort; learn about other partnership priorities, year one strategies, and performance measures; share feedback and find solutions to challenges; and to make action commitments to accelerate work moving forward.

Convening Overview

The Generation Next team recently attended the StriveTogether 2018 Cradle to Career Network Convening in Seattle, Washington from Wednesday, October 10 through Friday, October 12. Nearly 500 Cradle-to-Career Network members and community partners, including school district staff, housing authorities, regional board members, community organizers, and other stakeholders were in attendance.

The first day of the 2018 Convening kicked off with “role alike” sessions for a variety of staff roles, including advanced partnership directors, chief operating officers, communications, community engagement, data managers, development, facilitators, leadership table members, partners, school district staff, and emerging directors. These sessions allowed the Generation Next staff to engage with other staff and partners across the nationwide StriveTogether network who shared similar roles within their organizations. Our staff were able to brainstorm solutions to common problems, and to share successes and ideas with other Network members.

Wednesday evening concluded with a reception at the Seattle Art Museum. To welcome attendees, a drumline performance was held in front of the museum by students from Abraham Lincoln High School in Seattle. Washington’s lieutenant governor, Cyrus Habib, and Tacoma’s mayor, Victoria Woodards, also gave a formal welcome to attendees. The Generation Next team was able to network with other partnership teams, which provided a great sense of connection to start the Convening.

Thursday began with an opening plenary session titled “Community Engagement is not Musical Chairs: Add More Seats.”
Engaging the community—the first guiding principle of the StriveTogether Theory of Action—was the focus of this plenary session. Six Cradle to Career communities shared their stories of how they raised up community voices, including voices of youth, to influence decision-making and shape the directions of their communitiesThe video below was played to attendees as part of the plenary session, and goes in-depth to show these communities’ stories.

One community featured in this video is Northfield Promise, one of the members of the Education Partnerships Coalition, based in Northfield, Minnesota. Northfield Promise has made a commitment to making sure that youth have a seat at the table at every one of the community’s boards and commissions. These seats empower youth in the community to inform issues like education, the environment, and city planning.

Thursday was also the first full day of workshops for attendees. For this year’s Convening, StriveTogether’s workshop offerings were differentiated through seven thematically aligned tracks for maximum learning and collaboration with peers. These workshop tracks included Equity; Leadership and Talent; Data and Information; Practice Improvement and Acceleration; Communications and Engagement; Policy, Advocacy, and Mobilization; and Sustainable Resources.

On Thursday, the Generation Next team met with the Minnesota and Wisconsin regional partnership cohort. Cohort organizations had the opportunity to ask questions of each other and to gather  helpful feedback from organizations who were also dealing with the same issues.

Michelle Walker, Executive Director of Generation Next, hosted two workshops on Thursday: Part 1: Life Cycles of Leadership Tables and Part 2: Tips and Tools for Moving Leadership Tables From Talk to Action, where she shared some of the exciting work we have done to refocus the talents, skills, and energy of our Leadership Council.


Friday’s opening plenary session, titled “Equal or Fair? Cradle-to-Career Success Through Collective Impact,” included an interactive presentation which illustrated how each transition point in a child’s educational progress impacts future success and opportunities into adulthood. At this session, 12 Network members volunteered to play the roles of students, while the other Network audience members played the role of student advocates. At the beginning of the presentation, the students were directed to stand along a continuum on the stage which had signs marking “Prosperity” on one end and “Hardship” on the other. As the presentation continued, the students moved closer to or farther away from “Prosperity” and “Hardship” based on educational outcomes that were outlined in their student profiles, which were created for this exercise and unique to each student. During the first round of the presentation, advocates could only watch their students’ progress; later rounds allowed advocates the opportunity to advocate for their assigned student, which had a great impact on whether the student would move toward “Prosperity” or “Hardship.” The goal of this presentation for the student advocates was to get their student into the “Prosperity” zone (or as close to it as possible) by the end of the final round.

To read more about this plenary session, please visit:

Friday’s closing presentation featured a keynote speech from Dr. Jill Biden. Dr. Biden has spent more than three decades as an educator, and has completed two masters degrees and a doctorate in education. Dr. Biden has seen the many challenges students face along their educational journey. For too many students, these challenges seem insurmountable, but she reminded and encouraged us to see a brighter future.

“The promise of education is falling short,” Dr. Biden said. “But we have a lot to be optimistic about in America. Individual teachers, schools, and cities are coming together to rethink what their communities need. Organizations are bringing best practices to schools across the country. I believe that the future of education is beginning today.”

Staff Takeaway
Workshop: Equity at the Center of Adaptive Challenges in Collective Impact: A Post-Secondary Example
By: Jeremiah Ellis – Director of Outreach and Partnerships 

Here is an example of how changing practices moves a community toward systems change, as shared at the StriveTogether Convening. Sharifa Rowe of the Thriving Together partnership in Phoenix presented on their work addressing the disparate post-secondary attainment rates. They began by questioning the premise that students who do not score well on the Accuplacer are not prepared for college level work. So they registered 40 students — who would have been placed in developmental coursework — in the normal credit bearing course. At the end of the semester, 90% of those 40 students earned a B grade or better. The following semester, the pilot was expanded to 80 students, with similar success. In their expansion planning, the partnership uncovered that since faculty were assigned to developmental courses, there were not enough sections of the entry courses to meet the new demand. By engaging the Dean, the new demand for credit-bearing courses was supplied and the pilot has expanded to three area campuses. After Sharifa’s presentation, several comments compared the Phoenix community’s adaptive approach to ending developmental education to California’s new law requiring statewide restructure of developmental education.

Revised Theory of Action from StriveTogether 

StriveTogether revealed its new and updated Theory of Action, which is the guiding framework for getting better results for kids and families. Local partnerships like Generation Next use the Theory of Action as the road map to success, and follow four principles as they build a partnership to improve outcomes for revery student:

  • Engage the Community
  • Advance Equity
  • Develop a Culture of Continuous Improvement
  • Leverage Existing Resources

To view the new updated Theory of Action from StriveTogether, visit

The Generation Next team greatly enjoyed their time in Seattle for the 2018 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening. We look forward to the 2019 Convening, and learning even more about the National Cradle to Career network along the way.