How to Engage Community Partners

How to Engage Community Partners

Exchange ’19, held recently in Washington, D.C., for XQ Schools and Partners, featured more than a dozen practical, how-to sessions led by teachers and leaders from XQ Schools. Our new “How To” blog series features insights from these sessions.

Local businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies can play a valuable role in your school culture and student success. Here’s some advice from XQ school leaders on how to attract and engage community partners:

Laura’s tips:

  • Compile a list of community partners from your own network. Expand your pool of partners each year by including parents’ and partners’ networks. Don’t forget, your local chamber of commerce can be a great partner.
  • Align curriculum and projects with community partners. What are the projects? Who would be a good fit for each project? Check-in with teachers and sit in during class to make those connections. Think of other ways to bring in the community, such as speakers, mentors, and internships.
  • Make the ask. Send a clear and simple email with a summary of the program, why you are reaching out to them, and why they should consider partnering with you. If you don’t know the person you want to reach out to, have a mutual acquaintance introduce you.
  • Set the meeting. Once someone is interested, schedule a call or in-person meeting to share your program and how you will benefit from partnering.
  • Follow up with materials. Send forms you need them to complete and relay any information you agreed to send. Schedule next steps for moving the partnership forward.
  • Support, support, support. Once partners are on board, check in with them regularly throughout the year. Workshops on relevant topics can be valuable for a partner’s success in working with students and staff.
  • Send feedback to help improve and expand your partnerships. At the end of each year, or when a partner finishes working with you, gather feedback to improve your project.

Anthony’s tips:

  • Identify and research organizations and individuals with an interest in engaging your students and working with your school. This can be done through a public portal on the school website, mutual partners, parents’ personal networks, etc.
  • Schedule a meeting or call with an organization’s representative to gain a deeper understanding of what they do and how it aligns with your school’s mission and your students’ interests.
  • Invite the representative to your school for a tour as well as an opportunity to engage your students in small group discussions or as a school-wide guest speaker.
  • Debrief after their school visit and come up with ideas to collaborate, which might include hosting an internship, coordinating a field trip, or facilitating an educational workshop.
  • Plan an opportunity for students to engage with the organization at the work site or co-design a field trip that relates to the organization’s work.
  • Nurture the relationship. Provide value to the organization. Invite the organization to school-sponsored events, and facilitate internships and field trip opportunities.

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