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Engage key stakeholders in setting priorities and solving problems

– from young people to professionals, from front-line providers to policymakers
August 31, 2011

To really change the odds for children and youth, your community needs the involvement of its influential leaders from all sectors. That includes education, business, government, nonprofits and families. “Involvement” goes beyond signing up and saying, “Call me when you want something.” These leaders need to be committed and collaborative in ways that contribute to the overarching mission of the group.


They show this by their:

  • Sense of urgency to improve conditions and outcomes.
  • Commitment of human and financial resources.
  • Interest and experience in collaborating.
  • Commitment to “big picture” goals that extend beyond their immediate interests.

Here are resources that address common questions:

How do we get started?

"Engaging Key Stakeholders: Chattanooga Connections" Webinar Recording: This webinar highlights partnership work in Chattanooga, with a focus on best practice tips and overcoming common roadblocks. Broadcast on February 28, 2012, the session was led by Linda McReynolds, Senior Vice President, United Way of Greater Chattanooga and Lesley Scearce, Executive Director, On Point, Chattanooga, Tenn.

How do I figure out if we have the right mix of people? Who else do we need to reach?

You can probably sit down and compile a quick list of the “usual suspects” – the highly involved leaders and workers you know you can count on. They might already be with you in this search for dramatic change. You need a lot more – which might sound daunting, but should be invigorating. Ready by 21 pulls together people from all sectors and corners of the community whose work touches the lives of youth, including people who have never worked together or even been in the same room together.

To figure out who to involve and what roles they can play, the Forum for Youth Investment developed the Stakeholders Wheel Facilitator’s Packet, which includes an easy-to-use worksheet that helps you determine what groups you’ve already got engaged and who to reach out to. The facilitator’s guide shows how to use the wheel in a group activity, while the examples illustrate how the wheel has been used in other communities.

OK, everyone is in the same room. Now what?

Now is the time to get people inspired and help them see the crucial roles that they will play in forging significant, longlasting community change. We’ve laid out some guiding principles for stakeholder engagement in the Building a Broad Stakeholders Group Action Brief. Use it to jumpstart and sustain your stakeholder engagement efforts.

How do we engage business leaders in meaningful roles?

For many businesses, “partnering” with their community’s education and human services providers has often meant writing a check or sending over some computers. Those are important contributions – but now might mark the first time these business people have been asked to partner with such a variety of stakeholders in a deeper way: to develop a plan in unison with the whole community and make sure it gets carried out.

That requires a strategy to:

  • Identify the right business partners.
  • Use each one’s specific strengths.
  • Ensure successful long-term collaborations.

Several Ready by 21 National Partners have produced tools to help you do that.

United Way Worldwide and Corporate Voices for Working Families teamed up with the Workforce Strategy Center to develop this toolkit and companion website: Supporting the Education Pipeline: A Business Engagement Toolkit for Community- Based Organizations. You’ll find tools and resources for identifying potential partners, setting realistic goals and achieving long-term success.

They also produced Opportunities in the Workforce Readiness Pipeline: A Community Engagement Toolkit, a companion piece to Supporting the Education Pipeline. This toolkit assists business leaders in cultivating relationships with community leaders and building successful partnerships aligned with business community initiatives. Share this with business leaders active in your community.

Corporate Voices also produced:

The Business Engagement Menu, showing business leaders various ways to be involved in their communities. Nonprofit leaders can use the menu to see the array of options for businesses to join a partnership that’s working toward common goals for youth.

The Business Engagement Stakeholders Wheel: Identifying Business Leaders in Your Community. Use it to consider different business leaders as potential partners and explore the roles that businesses can play.

If you’re looking for fresh ideas or want to share a resource with your local businesses and schools, see this brief: Common Goals, Unique Strengths: Education and Business Partnerships, co-authored by Corporate Voices and the American Association of School Administrators.


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