Researchers from the RAND Corp. used a qualitative approach to examine efforts in five cities, supported by The Wallace Foundation, to develop community-wide out-of-school-time systems. A literature review of collaborative interagency reform efforts in the out-of-school-time and other social service sectors helped guide research steps including the development of research questions and data collection instruments as well as interviews with key city leaders, leaders of community-based organizations, principals, providers, and Wallace Foundation staff members.
What happens when schools, parks, nonprofits, and other organizations involved in out-of-school-time (OST) programs successfully coordinate their activities in a citywide effort?
Both the quality of and access to programs improve.
That was a key finding of a major, three-part report about a multi-year initiative in five cities to build citywide systems of high-quality OST programs. The initiative was funded by The Wallace Foundation. Volume I of the report surveys factors that help and hinder these efforts. Volume II examines the use of data systems in Wallace-supported and other efforts. And Volume III profiles the five ventures.
The report’s chief insight is that, despite challenges, the various organizations and institutions within a city with a hand in OST programming can work together to make services better. For example, four of the five cities increased the number of students served.
The initiative had four key goals:
To achieve these goals, the sites took a variety of steps, which inspired a shared vision among the collaborators. That paid off significantly in the later years of the initiative.
Some of these activities were:
Mayors and their representatives proved to be crucial to successful collaboration and system building. Actions by mayors included restructuring agencies, increasing funding in the city budget, and demanding progress reports. A recession, with its related drop in city and state budgets, was underway by the end of the study. That significantly challenged the cities’ efforts to expand access, in particular.
This initiative provided a proof of principle—that organizations across cities could work together toward increasing access, quality, data-based decisionmaking, and sustainability.