Do you ever feel like well-intentioned people around you are working hard but, to borrow a cliché, it looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing? Sometimes, the left hand even holds the right hand down.
That's because policies, practices and funding streams that have been instituted over many years by many different people aren't aligned - and young people suffer. Teachers don't realize that a struggling student needs glasses, because they focus on test scores, not eye tests. A homeless youth spends nights in a hospital waiting room because the staff doesn't know about a transitional living program nearby. Some children receive foster care, but not health care; shelter without education; counseling but little adult supervision.
This is where leaders make an enormous difference by bringing fragmented policies and practices together. They do this by implementing policy language, allocating resources and steering collaborations that promote the shared goals that the community or state has established for young people.
Here are resources that address common questions:
We create new policies all the time. What are some ways to align them with existing efforts?
You want to make sure your polices create a seamless system of supports. The Ready by 21 Policy Alignment Series Overview can inform any policy that creates a funding stream related to children and youth – no matter what topic it addresses (such as education or youth employment) and no matter what form it takes (be it a legislative statute, an executive order or a foundation Request for Proposals).
This paper, Align New Policies with Existing Efforts to Collaborate, in the Ready by 21 Policy Alignment Series, explains what can go wrong when policy language does not encourage new efforts to blend with existing collaborations – and provides examples of language that does.
In addition to aligning policies with current efforts, new policies need to allow and encourage alignment with existing goals and planning. This paper, New Policies Should Align with Existing Goals and Plans for Children and Youth, gives examples of how to make this happen.
Show us places that have done this.
Try Louisville, Ken., which traced its myriad funding streams that help youth, and used the results to create a new plan to coordinate services and map out new strategies. This presentation, Developing Strategies from Fiscal Mapping, will help you brainstorm about how to maximize disparate funding streams and ensure that the right services get where they are most needed.
Leaders at Kingsborough Community College (New York) made it their mission to align policies and resources to reach one vital goal: improve student success. The results: retention rates went from 54 to 70 percent, and the graduation rate increased by 40 percent. See how they did it in the Credentialed by 26 Series: Changing the Odds for Students- Spotlight on Kingsborough College.