The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a national initiative that engages more than 390 communities from all over North America to move the needle on early literacy and support families and children with the tools they need to read at grade level by the end of third grade.
During GLR Week in Philadelphia, more than 700 attendees from around the country were invited to “steal shamelessly and share seamlessly” in an effort to lift up communities and learn from one another to better lead grade-level reading efforts in their own states and communities.
Here are some takeaways from our experience at the conference:
Invest wholeheartedly in the vision. When Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading stated, “It is not enough to care. We have to believe and believe enough to be bold. We have to take the risk of failure to find pathways to success,” he was channeling the entrepreneurial spirit that comes with altruistic philanthropy. Having a vision and investing in that vision encourages stakeholders to buy in and trust the initiative leaders tasked with carrying out the work necessary for success. It assures key players that their efforts to achieve real impact will not be derailed by the inevitable pain points along the way.
Growth requires collaboration. Movements leading to positive social change are rarely created and sustained by just one person’s thoughts and ideas. To grow and scale for better outcomes and sustainability, organizations must cultivate a culture of collaboration. By welcoming key players with different backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences, an organization can aggregate the ideas of many individuals for collaborative solutions. Next steps can be approached with more clarity and perspective. Collaboration is also a wonderful tool for motivating and inspiring hope in communities that have experienced more pitfalls than success.
Engagement is a movement must-have. Passion and hope can do a lot, but as Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, pointed out: “Hope is not a strategy.” For organizations that begin with a vision to solve a problem, they know to gain momentum for a movement — they need to engage support within the community. But this support is not always inherent. It requires creative communications that weaves the art of storytelling seamlessly with data that bolsters the objectives of an initiative. Debra states, “There are no stories without data, no data without stories. It takes both to engage the community.”
Recruit champions through storytelling. Finding champions to help highlight your cause involves the effective presentation of the organization’s vision. Developing communications that create a marriage of facts and the future — the data for the existing problem and steps we can take to solve it — sets the groundwork for an emotional connection. Creating vignettes about the beneficiaries of the work can inspire communities to believe in the vision and draw in champions for your cause. Providing data shows accomplishments while subtly noting the work remaining to achieve an initiative’s goals. Champions play a large role in reviving the charge for a cause through their knowledge about the impact and outcomes thus far. There are also benefits to sharing a champion’s story, such as recruiting more champions and creating a new emotional connection with a new individual.