Uncovering What Works

by Heidi Black, Senior Manager, Innovation at StriveTogether


What does it take for a community to achieve better results for every child, birth to career?


This is a question that I grapple with every day in my role as Senior Manager, Innovation at StriveTogether. One way that we have helped collective impact partnerships, like ImpactTulsa, answer this question is by launching impact and improvement networks.


Created to provide professional development in the use of continuous improvement, an impact and improvement network helps partners from multiple organizations align their efforts to improve the quality of life for children in their community. And, it’s getting results. Communities across the country who have participated in an impact and improvement network are seeing improvements in outcomes for children, including community partners in Tulsa who participated in StriveTogether’s national Postsecondary Enrollment Impact and Improvement Network last year.


Thanks to generous support from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, 43 participants from 25 organizations are participating in ImpactTulsa’s first local impact and improvement network. Over the course of the network, participants will work in teams and receive coaching and support in four ways:


  • A tested and proven format. Modeled after the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series Model, impact and improvement networks are structured to help partnerships learn from experts and each other about an outcome that they want to improve. StriveTogether’s impact and improvement networks use monthly learning sessions and customized coaching sessions to ensure that partnerships are getting the support they need to advance their work.


  • Training and coaching in rapid cycle continuous improvement. Aligned with the Carnegie Foundation’s continuous improvement in education work and pulling from several different continuous improvement methods like Model for Improvement and Six Sigma, StriveTogether has designed a process for systems-level, collaborative continuous improvement. Our approach to continuous improvement uses plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles and real-time data tracking to understand if improvements are happening. This helps communities better understand and implement the practices and strategies that move outcomes.


  • One methodology that integrates tools and techniques from results-based leadership (RBL), design thinking and equity. Because impact and improvement networks work across organizations, traditional continuous improvement techniques must be adapted. By combining continuous improvement methods with RBL, design thinking and equity tools and techniques, teams can better tackle challenges that often stop this kind of work in its tracks. This unique combination of tools and techniques helps to address adaptive challenges (problems with no known solution) such as building trust between organizations, engaging community members more effectively and navigating complex adult relationships to help every child succeed.


  • Peer-to-peer learning opportunities. People learn best from others working through the same process or challenge. Peer-to-peer learning allows community partners to share their work and best practices, troubleshoot challenges and get important feedback and coaching from people who have experience working with the same or similar population. This allows impact and improvement networks to build a peer community to support their day-to-day work.


Tulsa’s Impact and Improvement Network members kicked off their work in March and will work in teams over the next 15 months to use StriveTogether’s collaborative continuous improvement methodology to uncover what works for children in Tulsa.