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Good Point

Connect to the current musings, columns, and blogs posted by Five Point's team here. The latest on research, analysis, and commentary.


Filtering by Tag: economic development

How to Rock (your social media strategy) in 5 Steps

Teresa Barber

Having worked with a range of clients across the public, private, and non-profits sectors, we've gained some helpful experience about specific tips and tricks for organizations.

Whether you're an established chamber of commerce in a large city with a lean, hardworking team, or a boot-strapping start-up wearing too many hats to mention, you should have a good handle on your online and social media platforms. They can provide significant value for your enterprise and team, and can also carry the potential for risk if not tended intelligently.

Here are 5 steps you can take now to bolster your strategy and strengthen your positioning.

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Solving the Puzzle in the Storm: A Look at the Community Schools Model

Teresa Barber

Growing up in Pensacola, I enjoyed the suspense of many hurricane days as a kid. My family would typically have to evacuate to a spot further inland from the coast, usually to my grandparents’ house. We would have books, radios, games, and puzzles splayed out to keep us all occupied while we waited out the storm.

Puzzles were my favorite pastime during those storms, especially those with lots of pieces. The best part of assembling a large puzzle was the moment when I shifted my focus from the detail of a small section to the full image that was forming: perspective.

It’s easy to get lost on details, to not see the forest for the trees.

While we humans are great at building systems or solutions that focus on highly specific problems or tasks, we sometimes struggle as communities or teams to connect those systems or pieces together in a holistic manner.

Some Florida communities are connecting the dots as they step up to promote community schools. A series of community schools have been established in Central Florida, and most recently Tallahassee has built tremendous momentum to launch a pilot at a site in South City.

Community schools aim to improve outcomes for kids and their communities by integrating partnerships and resources. They are built around a strategic concept: It isn’t just a facility or place, but a hub of partnerships that sees and treats the end-user as a whole. It’s a bold shift from the traditional binary focus of schools and programming to which we are accustomed, where multiple challenges or needs of one client are addressed with numerous distinct programs and interventions in separate silos, often without coordination.

I like to think of it this way: The phone I would have used as a kid during one of my hurricane stays had one main function: make and receive calls. Today, it will not only place and receive calls, but take and send photos, texts, and emails; crunch numbers; play videos and movies; and offer me challenging puzzles and games to play. All the many services I would have sought through separate means have now been brought into one channel: I’m treated as a whole. Since I’m not forced to hunt for a calculator, video camera, puzzle box, and DVD player… I have slack — extra time and flexibility — that can be used to be more productive and write this column.

In community schools, strategic alignment is key to designing operational infrastructure, establishing and integrating partnerships and resources, and serving the end-user. A community school coordinator may work alongside a supportive principal, and serve on the school’s leadership team. Internal partnerships among school staff are critical, as well as throughout partner organizations in the community. Considerations are often made in the community school that traditional models aren’t focusing on: college and career readiness, citizenship, health and wellness, social services support, work-based and experiential learning or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programming, early childhood development, and family engagement.

The decision to develop Tallahassee’s inaugural community school was made following a recent panel meeting of officials and experts across government, education, nonprofit and healthcare agencies, law enforcement, and community leadership. City Commissioner Gil Ziffer had toured Maynard Evans High School, a community school site in Orlando. Evans had jumped in ranking from a D to a B school, and Ziffer shared the model with the Tallahassee panel. When services are integrated in a strategic manner, the social and emotional needs are met and the focus for kids can stay on learning, exploring, and growing.

Along with consideration of the impact the community school model can have for residents and kids, an additional consideration is efficiency. Services that already exist in a splintered manner across various sites and locations are strategically integrated. Efficiency is created for the programs and providers, as well as for the kids and surrounding community. This means greater impact without greater cost.

The community schools model speaks to a form of intelligent program deployment and strategic alignment that can inform other areas of civic life. What are the possibilities for our communities and systems if we take a step back, look across the room at our partners who are working on different parts of the same puzzles, and think about how we can collaborate on shared goals?

Originally published in Context Florida, October 8, 2015.

The Silent Key

Teresa Barber

Image courtesy of NASA

A new album crossed my Spotify playlist this past week: Frank Turner’s Positive Songs for Negative People. While listening, the song “Silent Key” caught me off guard. Woven into the lyrics is a haunting imagined message from fallen astronaut-teacher Christa McAuliffe to a ham radio operator.

Silent key is a term used to denote a ham radio operator who has passed, with her call sign now silent.

The song brought me back to the thrill of watching space shuttle launches in school, legs folded and little body seated on the floor along with about 20 elementary-aged peers. Having arrived that January morning in 1986 amid a buzz of excitement, we found shock at the end of our viewing as Challenger exploded. We mourned the loss that touched so close to home. McAuliffe, after all, could have been the teacher in my own Florida classroom. We grieved together, eventually finding resolve to honor McAuliffe and the Challenger crew and keep moving forward.

The shuttles were an inspirational lifeline for kids to the promise of exploration, guided by the frameworks of science, and spurred on by the human spirit. We were exposed to what people can do through collaboration and given role models such as McAuliffe.

In 2013, I was honored to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as a NASA Social participant for the launch of the Mars Atmosphere Volatile Evolution Probe (MAVEN). In the middle of that massive building where space shuttles were “born” through the collaborative efforts of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers, I wondered: “Where is our next ‘shuttle’: How do we captivate children so that their mouths gape in awe at what people can build, accomplish, and set out to explore?”

The American culture of innovation that once enveloped us in our shared awe of shuttle launches has recently found new ignition in realizing that our current and future workforce is woefully lacking in STEM proficiency.

We need a STEM proficient workforce in our communities to fill openings as aerospace engineers, nurses, chemical engineering technicians, and computer programmers across myriad industries. This is our challenge, should we wish to promote economic well-being and our ability to create as well as consume.

While we find excellent programs scattered throughout our schools and communities, the broad inspirational reach the space shuttle program brought us is absent. As McAuliffe is imagined to think in Turner’s “Silent Key,” many students grasp a glimpse of interest in a STEM career, but find the world around them not offering the welcome of support and tactical guidance.

For kids without access to STEM via family ties or unable afford the expenses associated with robotics activities or coding camps, perhaps we should collectively hope enough will happen to stumble upon and persevere along paths to STEM careers. Maybe enough will find their way by Googling the right terms.

The latter hope demands a number of blind assumptions.

Instead, I suggest that we, as leaders and career professionals, consider our unique ability to connect with students.
Mentoring offers tremendous impact, and is particularly needed for those underrepresented in STEM careers.

A March 2014 white paper from STEMConnector, Women in STEM: Realizing the Potential notes that although women fill nearly half of U.S. jobs, we comprise only 26 percent of STEM workers. For every 100 female bachelors students, 12 will graduate with a STEM major, and only three will work in a STEM field a decade after graduation.

Today’s STEM workforce is 74 percent white. Exposure and support matters: Girls with a STEM professional in their family are two-thirds more likely to express interest in pursuing a STEM career, and about 75 percent of female students interested in STEM careers who also have mentors report that they feel they will be successful pursuing their career in STEM.

Mentoring can serve as a lifeline to STEM careers: Nearly 60 percent of educators report that their students struggle with motivation, support, or confidence in planning for college.

I’m joiningthe Florida steering committee for Million Women Mentors in Tampa this week as we launch an effort to increase STEM mentoring in our state for girls.

We must connect kids to STEM careers, and we know mentoring works.

I challenge the leaders of Florida’s businesses, chambers of commerce, civic groups, and economic and workforce development teams interested in promoting a prosperous future for your communities: Encourage mentoring in your community. Your leadership is needed. Don’t be a silent key. Connect students to the role models they need.

If they can’t see it, how do they know that they can be it?

Teresa Barber is Principal & Founder of Five Point, consultant with Tallahassee-based Thinkspot Inc., and senior strategic advisor for STEMflorida Inc. She specializes in strategic planning, structural economic development, and STEM systems. Column courtesy of Context Florida.