Building Strategic Partnerships to Expand Career and Education Opportunities

May 18, 2022

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FUSE Corps

The recently established Fresno Unified School District Education Foundation is currently working to disseminate fundraising and partnership priorities, with nearly 900 business and industry partners investing into schools, pathways, and students to help create future opportunities for students and the community. FUSD will partner with a FUSE Executive Fellow to develop a comprehensive partnerships strategy for the district, implementing a central repository for real-time tracking and cross-team knowledge sharing of these partnerships.

This fellowship project begins on July 25, 2022, and ends on July 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of July 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on August 1, 2022.

PROJECT CONTEXT

Young people in Fresno face daunting challenges as they pursue their goals in school and life. More than 87% of students in the Fresno Unified School District live below the federal poverty line and children in Fresno often face barriers to their social and emotional well-being outside of the classroom. Strong local leadership in the school district has introduced social-emotional curricula and resources to support and educate Fresno’s children in their full and complete development. This includes helping to increase K-12 success over the past several years. The California Department of Education recently announced that high school graduation rates in Fresno increased to 86.5% in the last two years.

However, despite that progress, there is growing evidence that local high school graduates struggle to attend college or pursue living-wage jobs. With this context in mind, Fresno Unified School District launched a strategic plan that reinforces its commitment to investing in meaningful career-themed training for students. “CTE” – career technical education is one of the tools that has helped the district and its partners to prepare students for careers and higher education. To support strong collaborative relationships between the district, program partners, and community leaders with respect to programs like CTE that support improved outcomes for Fresno’s students, Fresno Unified recently established an Education Foundation. The Foundation will support the district’s work by allowing charitable donations to fund educational enhancements, specifically through the expansion of the Fresno Unified Scholarship Fund. The Foundation is currently working to disseminate fundraising and partnership priorities, with nearly 900 business and industry partners investing into schools, pathways, and students to help create future opportunities for students and the community. 

To support this work, the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) will partner with FUSE Corps to develop a comprehensive partnerships strategy for the district. The FUSE Executive Fellow will first conduct a landscape assessment of FUSD’s partnerships, mapping all of FUSD’s programs and business and industry partners. Utilizing this information, the Executive Fellow will lay out specific recommendations to help achieve the FUSD’s overall goals, outlining how the district can strategically partner with various stakeholders to expand the breadth and depth of their scholarship fundraising for the career and educational advancement of Fresno’s students. The Executive Fellow will initiate implementation of this plan, researching, recommending, and implementing a central repository for real-time tracking and cross-team knowledge sharing of these programs and partnerships. Through a targeted partnership strategy, FUSD will be able to more effectively use its scholarships programming to advance educational and economic outcomes for all students.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in July 2022, the FUSE Executive Fellow will begin by looking at any research, attending fundraising events, and reviewing progress to date to develop a partnerships strategy. The Executive Fellow will draw from best practices across other school districts implementing similar initiatives. The Executive Fellow will meet with all of the various stakeholders, including Fresno Unified staff and educators, Career Technical Education Advisory Group, workforce development groups, nonprofits, grant and funding partners, and community members to understand the unique needs and perspectives of each stakeholder group. Utilizing this initial listening tour with key stakeholders, the Executive Fellow will conduct a landscape assessment of all FUSD’s partnerships. The Executive Fellow will design a survey to capture critical information on the types of partners, programs, and stakeholders involved in each partnership. The Executive Fellow will analyze this data, mapping any gaps, redundancies, and potential areas of further collaboration.

The Executive Fellow will utilize this analysis to develop a partnership strategy for FUSD. The plan will lay out specific recommendations to help achieve FUSD’s overall goals as outlined in the 5-Year Strategic Plan and Foundation strategy, as well as how the district can strategically partner with various stakeholders to expand the breadth and depth of their scholarship fundraising for the career and educational advancement of Fresno’s students. This will include defining the various partnerships FUSD engages in, streamlining how requests for partnerships are fielded, process improvements around due diligence and management of these partnerships, and building a network of collaboration between city programming and resources, workforce development groups, and FUSD partnership leaders. The Executive Fellow will work closely with stakeholders to ensure buy-in for the plan. 

In the next phase, the Executive Fellow will lead internal communication around the strategy, supporting change management, and ensuring FUSD’s employees see the value-add of this new strategic positioning and branding of the fundraising work. This will include researching, recommending, and implementing a central repository (CRM or fund management system) for real-time tracking and cross-team knowledge sharing of these programs and partnerships. The Executive Fellow will train staff in using the selected system and support overall data migration into the system – mitigating issues and addressing any questions or concerns. The Executive Fellow will then work to support the sustainability of this strategy. This will include outlining metrics to track the effectiveness of each partnership, determining which partnerships to target for expansion or new types of partnerships to pilot to drive new funding streams.

By July 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:

  • Understand current efforts and research best practices – Design and launch a survey to capture a comprehensive inventory of all partnerships, and their connected programs, currently being undertaken by FUSD; detail questions or prompts to extract critical information around the type of partner, kind of program, points of contact, and stakeholders involved; analyze the survey, identifying gaps and opportunities to fill those gaps; research other cities who have developed effective partnership strategies/strategic partnership teams and pull out best practices
  • Communicate and engage with stakeholders – Set up lines of communication with all stakeholders and establish regular meeting times; understand what goals are most important to all stakeholders and build consensus around those goals; look for opportunities to strengthen partnerships between entities that have not historically worked well together; seek out opportunities to forge new partnerships, including private companies that have expressed interest in working with the district
  • Develop a detailed partnerships strategy – Create a comprehensive plan that presents a clear roadmap for the next one to three years; ensure the strategy is representative of FUSD’s 5-Year Strategic Plan and broader Foundation goals; offer specific recommendations, process improvements, and projects to be implemented, describing how each one will help advance fundraising for scholarships that support post-secondary education and success
  • Support long-term implementation and ensure initiative sustainability – Lead internal communication around the strategy; research, recommend, and implement a central repository for real-time tracking and cross-team knowledge sharing of FUSD’s programs and partnerships; support capacity building, creating internal infrastructure and training for staff use of this system; outline the roles and responsibilities of internal and external stakeholders; determine how success will be measured, forming metrics to monitor the relative efficacy and impact of each partnership; broadly share progress towards goals

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Bob Nelson, Superintendent, Fresno Unified School District
  • Project Supervisor – Wendy McCulley, Chief of Engagement & External Partnerships, Fresno Unified School District 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Approximately 15 years of professional experience with an emphasis in cultivating strategic partnerships, relationship, and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Prior experience working in urban school districts or interest in creating educational and career opportunities for underserved young people, predominantly young people of color
  • Strong background in strategic planning, project management, organizational development, and communication
  • Data acumen, having overseen or facilitated the build-out of fund management or other CRM systems
  • Experience working in politically sensitive environments, prowess in managing delicate situations or stakeholder relationships
  • An entrepreneurial leader who can articulate boundaries to create, pursue, and protect priorities
  • Strong change management, having ensured projects meet objectives on time and on budget
  • Excellent stakeholder management skills and the ability to use facilitative techniques to influence people into action without direct reporting authority
  • Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendation
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • Self-motivated and goal-oriented independent worker
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.

FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.