Engaging The Community To Strengthen Out-Of-School Time Systems
Reaching out and listening to diverse community residents is an essential cornerstone of any system building effort. The aspirations of the community (e.g. their vision of success for children and youth) should be a key factor that drives the work of your United Way. Connecting with young people — including disconnected youth, parents, teachers, school leaders - can provide valuable insights to inform any out-of-school time effort. Through authentic and ongoing engagement, your United Way can also gain credibility, increased visibility for your work in education, and attract new supporters in the effort to improve educational outcomes for children and youth.
This notion of "turning outward" is a fundamental element of the United Way business model and is helping a growing number of United Ways start, refine, or improve their education impact work. By listening and subsequently connecting your OST efforts to the needs of the community you will be better able to focus your work, and validate or strengthen strategies to improve out-of-school time. The people to whom you reach out—and listen to—can later become part of the community-wide coalition you will need to bring your OST strategies to life.