How can we work together in new ways to improve life for our children?
We know our current healthcare, education and early learning systems aren’t meeting the needs of all our children and communities. We also know that health is more than healthcare, education is more than classroom instruction, and health and education are intertwined. Both are critical for a thriving and prosperous Oregon and Southwest Washington.
HOW WE CAME TOGETHER
This journey began back in 2014. Oregon was in the midst of transforming its healthcare, education and early learning systems. A small group of funders and leaders from these sectors saw an opportunity to align our efforts and work together in new ways to improve life for our children. Especially those children facing the greatest obstacles.
These organizations recognize the challenge: Although health and education are intertwined, Oregon and SW Washington’s healthcare, education and early learning systems are disconnected.
We must break from traditional ways of grantmaking and collaborate in new ways. Otherwise, we run the risk of making the same mistakes.
More than one in six Oregon children were chronically absent from school during the 2015-16 school year. Third-grade reading proficiency has gone down, from 70.1% of students in 2011-12 to 47.4% in 2015-16. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that data, Oregon ranks 48th out of 50 states for high school graduation rate.
It’s clear that we need to do something different. So, we developed agreements to challenge our assumptions and guide our work.
We developed a governing structure that prioritizes equity, policy and systems change, replicability and scalability, and demonstrating success. We seek to address the root causes of health and education disparities.
We also agreed to adopt an approach that is asset and strengths-based; student-focused and multigenerational; starts early and focuses on youth from prenatal to age eight; ensures that leadership matters; complements existing state and regional initiatives in early learning, education and healthcare; and creates a sense of place and community. Parents, families and communities must be involved in informing the goals of our fund.
These aspirations will guide us as we move beyond our siloes to work together.
OUR FIRST STEP
Before deciding where to invest our collective funds, we needed to learn more about the communities we seek to impact. We decided to use Positive Deviance, an approach focused on enabling communities to discover behaviors and strategies that are working and expand them.
Using this approach, we collected existing academic, early life and health data to identify successful schools. We ultimately identified six schools within four communities across the state that demonstrated better than average educational outcomes and reflected Oregon’s culturally and ethnically diverse population.
We invited leaders from these communities to participate in a series of focus groups, so we could learn more about the organizations, programs, partnerships and other factors that have contributed to their success. We also spent time getting to know parents and family members. The most important takeaway from these focus groups: these communities want to do even more for their kids. These schools understand the important role parent and family leadership plays in their kids’ success, and they want to continue developing new and stronger ways to engage parents and families.
WHERE DO WE GO NEXT?
Our partners continue to discuss ways to invest their collective resources. Our initial analysis of the health and education landscape demonstrated the need to invest in supporting and assessing parent, child, family and community resilience across all of our sectors.
Together, we seek to impact change by supporting the following key outcomes:
- Resiliency: Resiliency is commonly defined as the ability to “bounce back” in the wake of significant change and trauma. The Health and Education Fund is interested in partnering to deploy strategies that increase community and individual resiliency in overcoming adverse childhood experiences and reversing the impacts of trauma.
- Self-Efficacy/Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination: Self-efficacy is defined as one's belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task; self-advocacy is defined as the ability to speak and act on behalf of one’s self and is an important skill for students and families trying to navigate institutions; and self-determination is the process of taking control and making decisions that affect one’s life.
- Community Capacity/Community Voice: Community capacity is described as the empowerment of communities to come together, share responsibility for alleviating crises, improve services, and build healthy environments for families and children. Key dimensions for of community capacity include the development of a shared focus, collaborative leadership, continuous learning and improvement, and a system-wide focus on results.
- Receptiveness/Growth Mindset: With a growth mindset, people believe that their abilities are not innate or fixed, instead abilities can develop through dedication and hard work. People with growth mindsets gladly accept challenges, are eager to learn and never give up. This mindset forms at an early age and can affect our personal and professional relationships, our attitude towards failure, and ultimately our happiness.
To meet these outcomes, we will utilize a multifaceted investment strategy, which will include investments in:
- Innovation and Ready-to-go Efforts
- Impact Partnership
- Policy and Systems Change
We’re looking to make initial investments in mid-2018 with additional grantmaking opportunities in 2019 and beyond. We seek to support whole families and opportunity communities, focus on the strengths and assets these communities already possess, and promote enduring change through multi-year investments. We’ll incorporate all that we have learned these last few years and continuously strive to be better partners to each other and our communities.