I recently attended the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2013 Education Summit where I was particularly interested in how the business community in Florida connects its work to education and philanthropy.
With The Patterson Foundation’s work focusing on enhancing impact through purposeful partnerships, I was interested to learn how these diverse sectors find commonality to create impact. My enthusiasm for multi-sector work was trumped by the opportunity to hear Ralph Smith, senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The Patterson Foundation’s work with The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading spans several levels — from connecting communities nationally to bringing best practices to the Sarasota’s recently launched campaign.
I have heard Ralph speak at several events and have had the honor of working with him on the Campaign. I expected to be inspired but wasn’t sure I was going to hear anything new. Ralph, once again, exceeded my expectations as he challenged the business community by making the direct connection between education, philanthropy and business.
Ralph suggested that education is not a spectator sport where we sit in the balcony or the boxes – it’s an issue where we have to get out of the stands and participate. He articulated the commitments needed to move the state’s Six Pillars toward community vibrancy and opportunity forward. His comments were rooted in eternal optimism by challenging the business community to make the following commitments:
1. Commitment to share ownership of measurable results with targets and benchmarks by taking data on as a community rather than as separate entities.
2. Commitment to reciprocal accountability
3. Commitment to the hard work
4. Commitment to build capacities, competencies, and skill sets to do the work differently, such as philanthropy turning to business and business turning to philanthropy to create bi-directional opportunities
5. Commitment to stewardship by taking care of long-term changing strategies where transitions in leadership no longer mean harmful disruptions
Ralph added a pinch of his magic vision by saying that the secret sauce is imagination. We have to imagine that the aspiration of the community is its unrelenting dedication to every Florida child. Every child needs to know that we care about them because they matter. He concluded by saying that education is the promise to Florida’s future.