Insights & News

What Makes Educational Partnerships Work?

In communities throughout California, leaders and practitioners in secondary and postsecondary education are increasingly thinking of student success as a responsibility shared by all the institutions students attend on their way to and through college.

The ways to approach fulfilling that shared responsibility are as diverse as the communities themselves.

Over the years, a variety of initiatives—some of which have adopted a “collective impact” label, are publicly- or privately-funded, and may be organized at the school district, city, county, or metropolitan level—have focused on improving education by promoting collaboration across multiple segments of the pathway that extends from kindergarten to bachelor’s degree.

These educational partnerships provide opportunities and avenues for schools, colleges, and universities to extend their resources, develop more effective organizational strategies, and strengthen students’ academic and career outcomes.

But what makes some partnerships work while others fail to take hold or thrive over the long term?

There is no simple formula or recipe for success, but a new report featuring case studies from the field offers insight into which factors and ingredients are most necessary for starting and sustaining effective intersegmental educational partnerships in different settings.

Read the Report 

To inform our own efforts to develop regional intersegmental and cross-sector partnerships and to support the work of the Innovation Leadership Network, College Futures Foundation commissioned a team of researchers from CSU to conduct case studies of two partnerships that are building pathways to support student success towards and in higher education. The following report by Dr. Robert Gabriner, Dr. Rose Asera, and Dr. David Hemphill outlines the evolution of the Long Beach College Promise and the Inland Empire partnership (comprising San Bernardino and Riverside Counties)—both winners of the Governor’s Innovation Awards.

What Makes a Partnership Work? compares these two cross-sector collaborations in Long Beach and the Inland Empire, identifying and delving into the following common themes of successful partnerships:

  1. A partnership’s leadership needs to be informed by clear moral imperatives.
  2. Leaders must understand how change processes work within specific institutions and partnerships.
  3. Leaders must be able to engage a variety of stakeholders and build long-term relationships and coalitions among them.
  4. Evidence and data are vital components for both making the case for the partnership to stakeholders and informing the partnership’s strategic directions.
  5. Partnership leaders have to understand how reforms and improvements fit together to enhance organizational coherence for the stakeholders and the students who must navigate through multiple institutions.

The second part of the report, entitled Starting and Sustaining Educational Partnerships: Two Case Studies of Intersegmental Innovation in California, provides the full, detailed case studies for those interested in additional information.