Building Impact: A Closer Look at Local Cross-Sector Collaborations for Education Recording and Transcript

In recent years, communities caught the collective impact fever and established robust cross-sector collaborations to improve young people’s educational outcomes. Interest was booming. Businesses signed up. Expectations were high. What does research tell us about how these efforts have fared?

The Wallace Foundation commissioned Teachers College, Columbia University, to conduct a study to gain insights around how collaborations were established and their prospects for survival and success. Although they face a number of challenges, “current collaborations show promise for creating a new kind of venue to bring local partners together who often have not cooperated in the past and have even been in conflict,” the authors say. “Importantly, most of the collaborations we studied seem to have helped calm often-contentious urban education politics and establish enough stability for partners to move forward.”

Between 2015 and 2017, the researchers took an in-depth look at three collaborations—Say Yes Buffalo, Milwaukee Succeeds, and All Hands Raised in Multnomah County, Oregon—and a more limited look at five others (Alignment Nashville, Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority, Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis, Oakland Community Schools, and Providence Children and Youth Cabinet). During this webinar session, the researchers discussed the challenges faced in these communities, including working with school districts that may see collaboration as a distraction from their core goals; finding ways to engage marginalized groups in the decision-making process; securing stable, long-term funding; and managing expectations that may be unrealistic. In spite of such hurdles, the initiatives have shown sufficient potential for benefiting education reform, which were also explored in this session.


  • Jeffrey Henig, Professor of Political Science and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Michael Rebell, Professor of Law and Educational Practice and Executive Director, Center for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Carolyn Riehl, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University