After months of planning and preparation with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we started the year by updating two rooms at our partner school in order to prepare for community organizations to embed on campus to serve families in the feeder pattern.
Our community partners met for a kick-off party in January and began programming on campus in February. However, priorities began to shift quickly when the campus was selected to become an ACE campus and students transitioned to at-home learning.
More on how this project turned out below.
With the support of the Better Together Fund, four leading elementary literacy intervention organizations came together in 2017 as the Elementary Reading Collaborative. After years of effort, CoSpero was selected to bring together disparate pieces of work into a comprehensive strategy for long-term collective impact.
Our team led the founding members through a variety of models including partnership, joint operations, and joint venture. With the support of a diverse steering committee of leaders from across the philanthropic and education sector, the team selected a hybrid strategic alliance model to move the work forward.
From the clarified strategy, we crafted an operations plan for implementation, built a new brand including a new name, logo, website, and strategic messaging, and led the hiring search for the first Director of Strategy who is hitting the ground in January 2021.
"We are grateful for the leadership, guidance, hard questions around change and all the hard work and energy Harold and Lauren gave to this partnership. CoSpero is definitely leaving us in a better position for growth but we will certainly miss working together so closely."
March started out strong as we celebrated the first year of one baby's life, and the first day of another!
Like the rest of the world, the CoSpero team had to quickly adjust to a new normal and figure out how to stay-at-home-work-from-home-teach-from-home-shop-from-home-eat-at-home-never-leave-home.
Late spring marked the start of our third project as a Technical Assistance Provider for DFW's Better Together Fund. This time we were selected to support Urban Teachers DFW and Dallas Teacher Residency as they explored the feasibility and possibilities of deeper collaboration.
After exploring many options across the Partnership Continuum, listening to stakeholders, analyzing organizational strengths and opportunities, and discussing their visions for the future, leaders made the bold decision to make their collaboration permanent.
In the upcoming weeks, Urban Teachers will finalize the acquisition of Dallas Teacher residency to enrich their programming and expand their reach. In the Spring of 2021, our team will support implementing a pilot of our recommended strategic shifts.
"CoSpero's strategic guidance and thought partnership was priceless this year. Lauren and Harold have a unique ability to synthesize extensive information in order to create a clear path to informed decision making."
Together for Tomorrow is a collaborative problem-solving cohort for the social sector. Each cohort consists of around 10 leaders from organizations of various sizes, geographies, and service areas who all come together to innovate around a specific challenge area.
The first cohort was sponsored by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and launched in the midst of complex back to school planning in order to help organizations consider novel ways to maintain academic support for students and families during virtual learning.
“This experience renewed my vision regarding the work we do, expanded our focus in order to provide support services to our clients during COVID-19 and finally renewed my hope in a better tomorrow by being surrounded by like minded agencies that just want a better tomorrow too!!!!”
Three exciting things happened for us over the summer. 1) Lauren's kids got to go back to school! 2) We hired THREE amazing interns, 3) We got our own suite at our co-working office! (suite makes it sound fancier than it is...it's more like a cubby with a door, but it's ours and we love it!)
Over the course of seven workshops, the cohort met virtually to walk through the Community Innovation Framework working to build viable solution their organization could implement immediately. Between sessions, members engage with their stakeholders and meet in pairs to build relationships and strengthen each other’s work.
Prize grant funding was available to support development of the most innovative and impactful solution(s), which is awesome, but the longterm benefit of this type of work is that organizations acquired a new framework and skillset that can be used to tackle any challenge that arises in the future.
Graduating members of the cohort were:
AES Literacy Institute Incorporated
After School All Stars North Texas
Bachman Lake Together
Education Opens Doors
Empowering the Masses
First Choice Social Services
Readers 2 Leaders
Stars United Global Outreach
Over the summer we celebrated three birthdays, did ALL the quarantine things, and each sough a brief change of scenery with our crew.
"I cannot begin to put into words what a privilege it has been to work with Harold and Lauren. Yes, they made my life much easier–but more importantly they have made our work more meaningful and impactful."
After a summer of redesign with the United Way team and many, many hours of coordinating logistics in order to prepare the safest, most impactful programing possible for students and families, we relaunched our work with United Way in Southern Dallas.
With CoSpero's strategic plan and implementation leadership, United Way's Grow South Grow Strong initiative has made an impact in the Roosevelt Feeder Pattern even amidst all the challenges of the 2020 school year. GSGS currently funds and coordinates nine nonprofit partners serving fifty students and nearly forty families across a variety of impact areas.
New to the framework is a push for districts to recommit and prioritize authentic family and community engagement. As part of a collaborative consultancy, CoSpero partnered with Galveston ISD, Victoria ISD, and Beaumont ISD to support the creation of detailed, actionable, and measurable community engagement plans to ensure selected school actions reflect the needs and desires of families.
We are excited to walk alongside some of these school districts in the spring to implement the plans and shape future district decision-making.
The Texas Education Agency has made a significant investment in supporting public school across the state in their efforts to boldly reimagine what school could look like for K-12 students. TEA's System of Great Schools is just one part of a more robust strategy to partner with districts on this journey.
TNTP has been a leader in the education consulting space for more than two decades. Their work is now evolving from creating solutions focused on teacher recruitment and improving instructional quality in classrooms to helping school systems better partner with families and communities to improve student achievement.
CoSpero was excited to play a lead role in the development of TNTP's Community-Led Design Toolkit as they prepare to engage families in three regions to create an education blueprint. Our team was also able to lend our expertise to advise TNTP's school clients as they navigated the shifts in family engagement work in the wake of COVID-19.
With CoSpero’s support, the tools to support the first phase of Community-Led Design are complete and currently being leveraged to select sites, onboard community leaders, and provide a framework for the next 15 months of work.
Thanks to the leadership of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, we were thrilled to launch our second Together for Tomorrow cohort with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. This group of twelve innovative leaders is working to address barriers to obtaining living wage employment for Black and Latinx adults in Dallas County. We can't wait to see what they come up with later this spring!
United Way Quad Cities responded to tensions of racial injustice, which came even more to the forefront throughout 2020, by bringing together hundreds of their community members to learn, share, and plan. They hosted a 21-day Equity Challenge that culminated in a day-long Equity Summit with nearly 500 participants. CoSpero was engaged to synthesize over 20 hours of notes to build the UWQC Equity Summit report. Our work highlights significant themes from the summit, hopes of Quad residents, and action steps individuals and institutions could take to increase access and equity across their region.
Our team's effort supported UWQC in achieving their goal of raising $200,000 to invest in organizations focused on promoting equity. Funders and community organizations have stated a commitment to leverage our analysis to guide collective strategy, programming, and funding efforts moving forward.
After 10 years of impressive results in early literacy intervention in Dallas, Catch Up & Read was ready for a new look and a cohesive impact narrative to carry them into their next decade. After defining the brand foundation, our team crafted CAR’s new visual identity, strategic messaging, and all of the supporting brand assets.
The new brand reenergized the team after a very challenging year and has already made grant writing and sharing their story more efficient and effective.
"Our clarified brand foundation made me tear up because you really get us. You've captured our DNA."