Sharing Strategies to Promote STEM in Out-of-School Time

On February 27-28, 2017, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (the Mott Foundation), STEM Next, and the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network hosted the annual Afterschool STEM Institute in Silver Spring, MD. Representatives of statewide afterschool networks from more than 27 states across the nation gathered to share their strategies, challenges, and goals for promoting STEM education in Out-of-School Time (OST) programs within their state. Participants represented a diversity of states and regions from Maine to Florida, New York to West Virginia, Iowa to Idaho, and Oregon to Alaska.

Learn more about the Mott Foundation’s support for Statewide Afterschool Networks here.
Learn more about the Mott Foundation and STEM Next’s support for STEM in OST System-Building work here.

Three key themes were prominent throughout the Institute: partnership development, program quality, and messaging about the statewide afterschool networks’ work. Statewide afterschool network representatives strategized about how to form and strengthen partnerships with public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses in a resource-scarce environment – for example, by connecting with businesses for non-funding support. Network representatives discussed efforts to improve OST program quality and how to best collect and use data about the programs in their states. Finally, participants were coached through key messages about the importance of STEM as a vital component of 21st century jobs, based on the newly released STEM Ready America compendium.

The full Institute agenda, including details about breakout sessions, is available here.

Since October 2016, GPG has worked with six statewide afterschool networks to facilitate a planning process focused on sustaining (and scaling) their STEM programs and activities. GPG opened the Institute with a session to engage all meeting participants in thinking about the sustainability of their STEM efforts. Through paired conversations and afterschool network team-based discussions, GPG prompted participants to assess:

  1. The extent to which STEM is integrated into their network’s core work of sustaining and expanding quality OST in their state
  2. How successfully their network has identified and engaged partners and funders for STEM work
  3. Their network’s strengths/assets and challenges/gaps.

GPG shared sustainability planning tools and templates and shared draft STEM sustainability plans developed by OregonASK and PSAYDN (Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network), two of the networks GPG is working closely with to support sustainability planning.

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The Constellation Model: Networking for Social Change

How can we effectively lay the groundwork for social change in a world in which funding and time are scarce? According to the constellation model, the answer lies in nimble, high-impact collaboration.

Created by the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Toronto, the constellation model is a framework for effectively bringing diverse partners from multiple fields together to solve complex and pressing social problems. This model emerged from a specific CSI project with the goal of strengthening partnerships among child care, public health, and environmental organizations focused on addressing the environmental factors that affect children’s health in Canada. CSI’s experience reinforced that, in this era of dynamic social systems, change is more likely to occur through networked efforts between actors working in different fields and ecosystems than by organizations working alone.

Unlike traditional collaboratives that require universal agreement, top-down governance, and frequent meetings, the constellation model prioritizes flexible, lightweight partnerships that leverage each organization’s expertise and talents. Partners organize themselves around particular issues of interest, forming issue-based “constellations” that activate when there is high energy or strong opportunities and lie dormant when energy or opportunities wane.

This flexibility enables the model to be responsive to the needs and interests of the ecosystem of organizations and individuals working in a particular content area or towards a shared goal. “The constellations harness the power of loose coupling – enabling the right partners to come together based on their own interests and assets. This creates stronger action teams that are harnessing the power of self-interest within a shared vision.”1 The constellation model enables these “loose couplings” around partner-defined interests while avoiding top-down direction-setting and meeting fatigue.

The constellation model is comprised of three key elements:

  1. Lightweight governance
  2. Action-focused work teams (constellations)
  3. Third-party coordination

Constellation-based partnerships are created in response to a specific need, and are overseen by a stewardship group that provides lightweight governance. The stewardship group sets strategic direction, monitors the overall health of the partnership, and aligns constellations with the overarching goal of the group. This supervision is in contrast to more traditional, top-down models of governance in which leaders make decisions that must be followed by all members of the group.

Action-focused work teams, or constellations, are a way to accommodate tensions around differing priorities, which can be a challenge for newly formed collaboratives. In the constellation model, partner organizations have the freedom to start a “constellation” around their preferred topic or issue area, balancing the diverse interests of the group with the goal of high productivity.

Finally, to ensure that the partnership remains a level playing field between equals, an intermediary organization should provide third-party coordination. This prevents power from pooling in one partner, allows a neutral entity to onboard new partners, and supports overall coordination for collaborative work.

The constellation model is a framework for maintaining organizational independence while working nimbly with others by engaging only in issues that align with an organization’s interests. In a rapidly changing, complex ecosystem, it is one effective way to grow successful partnerships to solve critical problems.

The Constellation Model in Action in Los Angeles, CA

In 2008, in an effort to catalyze education and workforce systems change, UNITE-LA convened top leaders from L.A.’s key education, business, government, labor, and nonprofit sectors to form an unprecedented alliance. This effort resulted in the formation of the L.A. Compact, which has taken a constellation model approach to address large-scale education and workforce readiness problems in Los Angeles. The L.A. Compact is a partnership between 24 local organizations and institutions that are connected to the education and workforce readiness ecosystem including the Chamber of Commerce, LAUSD, the City and County of Los Angeles, First 5 LA, institutions of higher education, labor, local nonprofits, and businesses.

The signatories to the L.A. Compact have agreed to pursue three system-wide goals for Los Angeles:

  1. All students graduate from high school;
  2. All students have access to and are prepared for success in college; and
  3. All students have access to pathways to sustainable jobs and careers.

Through the constellation model approach, the L.A. Compact is able to provide its partners with opportunities to make progress towards these goals through a constellation of collaborative workgroups. While UNITE-LA initially served as the convener of these workgroups, the workgroups are now convened and supported by a range of partner organizations. See the L.A. Compact website for information about the current workgroups.

More detail and resources on the constellation model and its origins can be found on the Centre for Social Innovation’s website, including the article, “Listening to the Stars: the Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change,” by Tonya Surman and Mark Surman.


1. Surman, Tonya. Constellation Collaboration: A model for multi-organizational partnership. Center for Social Innovation. June 2006. http://socialinnovation.ca/sites/default/files/Constellation%20Model%20Description%20June%209%2706.pdf

Fresno County Office of Education Receives FY 2016 Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) Validation Grant Award

In December 2016, the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) was selected as one of three FY 2016 grantees for the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) Validation Grant. The $11.9 million award will enable the expansion and refinement of the California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC). The ERWC was initially published in 2008 and has been adopted throughout California by nearly 700 high schools.1

“The Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) is an innovative high school English course ‘that effectively integrates multiple theories from the fields of reading comprehension, rhetoric, literacy, and composition to foster college readiness, academic literacy development, and literate identity formation at the high school level’ (Katz, Brynelson, & Edlund, 2013, p. 978). Taken together, the ERWC fosters abilities referred to as rhetorical literacies.”2 The ERWC helps students avoid remediation in English in their first year of college, addressing a significant challenge with 27.5% of first-time freshmen at the California State University identified as needing this remediation.

With the award from the U.S. Department of Education i3 Validation grant program, the ERWC will be expanded to serve 12th grade students in addition to 11th grade students. In addition, the ERWC will be scaled within California and into Washington. The FCOE grant application abstract and full narrative are available online on the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation & Improvement website.

GPG is proud to have provided support to the FCOE and CSU team in their pursuit of this grant and their efforts to improve the college and career readiness of high school students in California and Washington.

1. Expository Reading and Writing Course”. California State University. https://www.calstate.edu/eap/englishcourse/
2. Fresno County Office of Education i3 FY 2016 Validation Application Narrative. https://innovation.ed.gov/files/2016/12/fceNAR.pdf

Family Justice Center Sonoma County to Serve as Demonstration Site to Develop and Pilot Polyvictimization Screening Tool

FJCSC LogoIn 2016, the Family Justice Center Sonoma County (FJCSC) received $666,666 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime’s (OVC) “A Pathway to Justice, Healing, and Hope: Addressing Polyvictimization in a Family Justice Center Setting Demonstration Initiative” program. This program awarded grants to six family justice centers (FJCs), or other comprehensive co-located service providers for victims of domestic violence, to serve as demonstration sites to develop and pilot a screening tool for identifying individuals that have experienced polyvictimization (multiple victimizations of different kinds). OVC also awarded a grant to Alliance for Hope International through this program to provide technical assistance (TA) to participating FJCs.

The Family Justice Center Sonoma County (FJCSC) and its partners believe that the majority of clients they work with are polyvictims, and that there is a critical need for a more systematic approach to identify and effectively serve these individuals. Polyvictims are more likely to experience higher levels of drug and alcohol abuse, illness, disease, and reduced life expectancy, along with an increased likelihood of future victimization and trauma, especially if they experienced victimization as children. Polyvictims often have more complex needs for recovery and receiving the necessary combination of services can help victims better recover, heal, and avoid retraumatization.

In addition to supporting the FJCSC in developing the successful grant proposal, GPG will be supporting the FJCSC and its partners to collaboratively develop a strategic plan during year one of the award period that, when implemented, will lead to better identification and support for polyvictims, the individuals who have experienced multiple forms of victimization. The FJCSC will also work with an external evaluator to assess the effectiveness of these efforts. As part of the conclusion of this work, the participating FJCs will produce a report documenting their learnings, in order to increase the knowledge base of effective practices for identifying and serving this population.

This grant offers a powerful opportunity for the FJCSC to deeply evaluate how they can best contribute to the healing of their most vulnerable clients, and GPG is proud to support the FJCSC in developing the next generation of their services.

First 5 California and California Department of Education Release Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: Implementation Plan for the State of California

In April 2015, the Institute of Medicine (IOM)1 and National Research Council (NRC) published Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. This report provides recommendations to “build a workforce that is unified by the foundation of the science of child development and early learning and the shared knowledge and competencies that are needed to provide consistent, high-quality support for the development and early learning of children from birth through age 8.”

Following the release of the report, the Innovation to Incubation program of the National Academy of Medicine organized a planning process for five states, including California, to develop plans for implementing key recommendations from the report. As part of this process, First 5 California and the California Department of Education, Early Education and Support Division convened a 30-person Action Planning Team to discuss the recommendations from the IOM and NRC report, identify key priorities for California, and develop a plan for advancing these priorities. This work was informed by a breadth of additional research and recommendations regarding California’s early childhood workforce, and aligned with multiple ongoing related efforts within the state.

GPG provided facilitation, coordination, writing, and research support for the nine-month planning process with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Additional resources for this project were provided by First 5 California.

The resulting plan, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: Implementation Plan for the State of California, was released by First 5 California and the California Department of Education in December 2016 (see the First 5 CA press release and CDE news release). This plan is intended to serve as a blueprint for implementing a fully developed and statewide system of certification, preparation, and support for California’s early childhood professionals. It contains actionable recommendations for creating systems-level change in three priority areas:

  1. Permitting and credentialing
  2. Professional pathways
  3. Higher education and ongoing professional learning.

GPG will continue to support a Core Team to guide implementation of the plan over the next several months. For additional information, visit California’s Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 website: http://twb8-ca.net/.

1. The Institute of Medicine was renamed the “Health and Medicine Division” in March 2016.

Contra Costa County Receives Smart Reentry Award from Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance

Contra Costa County has been awarded $1 million from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance, through the “Smart Reentry: Focus on Evidence-based Strategies for Successful Reentry from Incarceration to Community Program” to help communities develop strategies that increase formerly incarcerated individuals’ likelihood of successful reentry into their communities. The five-year project includes a 12-month planning period and an intensive evaluation component. Only five other jurisdictions were awarded funds from this program nationwide. Additional information is available in the DOJ Press Release.

The Contra Costa County proposal, led by the Probation Department, focuses on transitional aged youth (TAY), those aged 18-25, a population with the highest recidivism rate nationally in comparison to other age groups. According to the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, when released from prison, 78 percent of the TAY prison population nationwide is rearrested, with around half returning to prison within three years. Within Contra Costa County, this population constitutes the largest age cohort within the jail and experiences the high rates of homelessness out of jail, particularly in East County, where the program will be located.

Through this program, Contra Costa County intends to reduce the recidivism rate by providing developmentally-appropriate services addressing issues that include homelessness, lack of education and work experience, mental health issues, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders.

GPG is proud to have provided support to Contra Costa County in its pursuit of this grant and its endeavors to address the specific needs of the TAY reentry population within the county.