StriveTogether 2021 Cradle to Career Network Convening Recap 


The Generation Next team and members of the Generation Next Coalition attended the virtual 2021 StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network Convening “Roots to Rise” in October. This year’s Convening also coincided with the 10 year anniversary of StriveTogether’s founding. 

Over the course of the week of October 4 – October 8, over 400 attendees representing nearly 70 communities around the country tuned in to the virtual convening to “reflect on the first 10 years of the [StriveTogether] movement and reimagine what we can do together in the next decade,”  Bridget Jancarz, Chief of Staff at StriveTogether, said. 

Monday, October 4, 2021
The opening plenary presentation
 featured Jennifer Blatz, CEO of StriveTogether, who was joined by Danae Davis, StriveTogether board chair and executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, and Dr. Russell Booker, StriveTogether board vice chair and executive director of Spartanburg Academic Movement. The group then discussed the role of cradle-to-career partnerships (like Generation Next) in transformational change. 

To read the full summary of the opening plenary, click HERE to read the blog post by Bridget Jancarz.

Monday afternoon’s session block then included a presentation led by the Generation Next team: “Uncovering the Narrative with Longitudinal Data”. 

This session was a collaborative session, where the Generation Next team was tasked with first presenting on the ways in which our coalition has used longitudinal data, and then opened up the conversation to hear from other StriveTogether communities.

The following questions were used as a basis for the discussion: 

How have you presented context in concert with data?

How have you considered who is missing from the context and valued their lived-experience? 

What barriers and successes have you encountered?

Through small group breakout sessions, the group heard from one another about their experiences using longitudinal data and also shared ideas about possible additional efforts needed when using longitudinal data to uncover the narrative of their communities. 

This collaborative session had over 40 attendees, and was rated as 5/5 stars on CrowdComapss (the virtual convening platform)! 

Home is sacred. Home is safe.

Tuesday, October 5th
Tuesday’s programming featured a keynote speech from Matthew Desmond, author of “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” and Terri Ludwig, president of Ballmer Group Philanthropy, as they spoke about how “home is, far too often, out of reach for the 3.6 million Americans facing evictions annually in this country.” 

Colin Groth, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Development at StriveTogether, shared his reflections on the keynote presentation, specifically how Matthew Desmond connected data and stories as vehicles for change in Evicted

Connecting data and stories as vehicles for change

When you think of a Pulitzer prize winning author and MacArthur Genius Award fellowship member, you don’t think of someone living in a mobile home park or a low-income community – I certainly didn’t. But that’s exactly what makes Desmond an effective writer and storyteller making the case for change. Spending more than a year living in the circumstances he hoped to change, he leaned into the real lived experiences of those being impacted by the housing crisis in America. In his talk, we learned the heart wrenching story of Arlene, a neighbor of Desmond at this time, and her family’s experience with eviction courts. Arlene called more than eighty apartment complexes in Milwaukee in search of affordable housing before she was accepted as a tenant.  We learned that tenants with children are three times more likely to be evicted, and once evicted, it’s even more difficult to find shelter.

To read Colin Groth’s full blog post about this keynote session, click HERE. 

Wednesday, October 6
Wednesday’s program featured a keynote presentation by Heather McGhee, author of
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,” who was joined by Jerry Hawkins, executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation for a virtual conversation about what we can do in our communities to acknowledge “zero-sum narratives,” and how to work together to achieve what McGhee calls “solidarity dividends” — a way for a community to “refill the pools of public goods” to create shared prosperity. 

“This lie of a zero-sum game has held us back for too long,” McGhee reminded attendees. “I believe a multiracial coalition, like the one gathered here today, is showing us a different way. In solidarity, we the many, have the power to shape the future.”

Parvathi Santhosh-Kumar, vice president of equitable results for StriveTogether, shared her insights on McGhee’s keynote presentation in a blog post, available HERE.

Thursday, October 7
Thursday’s programming featured a plenary presentation by Maria Hinojosa, the anchor and executive producer of Latino USA on National Public Radio and  the founder and president of Futuro Media Group. As a veteran journalist, Hinojosa shared her observation that “mainstream media, largely controlled by white, heterosexual men, is a formidable power structure that decides which stories are told.”

Kelly Anchrum, vice president of marketing and communication at StriveTogether, reflected on this observation: This only reinforces the need for us to work extra hard in encouraging young people and families of color to share their stories and claim their space. We can change biased narratives by being hyper aware of the destructive nature of stigma narratives and the damaging impact of word choice.” 

The Generation Next team saw a connection between Maria Hinojosa’s observation and the framing for our collaborative session, mainly that data is detached from the context of the people that it’s about, and that objectivity and technical objectivity has been traditionally valued by a  white, male dominated concept of knowledge. This has led to great disparities and disconnect between people particularly when it comes to solving problems together. 

To read the full blog post by Kelly Anchrum, click HERE

Thursday’s virtual sessions included a session led by members of the Education Partnerships Coalition (EPC), of which Generation Next is a member. 

Amy Trombley, Director of Education Partnerships at United Way of Central Minnesota and Temeka Wirkkala, Community Impact Specialist & Lead Parent Organizer at Red Wing Youth Outreach led the session, titled “Developing Parent Leadership Fellowships.” 

In this session, Amy and Temeka gave attendees background information about the EPC and the rationale for why the EPC made the decision to invest in parent leadership as a coalition. 

Through the EPC, the EPC VIBES (Voices Influencing Better Education Systems) group of parent leaders was started, which led to the “No Data About Us Without Us” fellowship. Temeka and Amy shared the best practices and lessons learned from their journey in being part of starting the parent leadership fellowship: to meet parents where they are; to foster connections with parents and staff; and to build the fellowship around parent priorities. 

Amy and Temeka gave concrete steps to attendees for how to develop and execute their own parent fellowships– through planning, recruiting fellows, executing sessions, and capturing learnings. The session concluded by hearing the experiences of four parents involved in the “No Data About Us Without Us” fellowship and by opening up the discussion to questions from other StriveTogether communities. 

Generation Next is excited to continue to work in partnership with the EPC as we work together to increase parent leadership and give more weight and agency to voices of those in the communities we serve. 

Friday, October 8
Friday marked the last day of the virtual convening and featured a closing plenary session that featured Julian Castro, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Castro focused his speech around the importance of family, community, and working together. To illustrate his emphasis on the importance of family to create collective change, he introduced his mother, Rosie Castro, a civil rights activist, to join him as they spoke about the importance of individual and collective activism. 

When speaking about making your voice heard as a parent and member of your community, Rosie Castro said: “If you’re not at the table, nobody is going to make policy that is good for you.” 

This intergenerational conversation with Julian and his mother Rosie about the importance of grassroots organizing and including community into policy decisions resonated deeply with attendees and was an inspiring way to end this year’s virtual conference. 

The Generation Next team has appreciated the opportunity to share with our StriveTogether colleagues and partners at this year’s virtual Cradle to Career Network Convening, and look forward to next year!