The idea of #NYCEDU emerged five years ago when a small group of education community builders and I asked the question: How might we build an education community in New York that works together towards collective impact? At an event shortly after, I got the opportunity to sketch out what the Time Magazine cover and article might look like announcing #NYCEDU’s launch.
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- Created July 15th, 2014 at New York City Department of Education’s iCamp
- Text of Time Magazine Cover: “The Power of Collective Impact: Why New York City has the best educational system in the world. By Deborah Chang.”
- Text of Article: “Competitive No Longer: NYCEDU.US Launches to Coordinate Grassroots Efforts in NYC Education. Components of NYCEDU.US: A shared language around educational impact, shared goals and metrics, independent support organization, a give before you get, student focused, radically transparent culture, long-term leadership and community.”
What followed were a number of small tests of community building. We had conversations to brainstorm ideas. We hosted community events to bring people together. We built tools that aggregated useful information for people in New York City education.
Two years ago, though, we hit the limit of what a small group of passionate but part-time volunteers could do. Yes, our events were wonderful, but when we as volunteer organizers needed to do our paid jobs, those took precedence. Yes, the organizational list was helpful, but there were so many ideas for how to improve it and no time to do it. Meanwhile, I was starting to put 20, 30 hours a week into this work instead of continuing my practice as an education technology consultant. It was time. I decided to step into the work of making #NYCEDU a real organization, with dedicated leadership, regular programming, and sustainable funding. We needed to take #NYCEDU to the next level.
And so we commended on two full years of listening, learning, and testing. I teamed up with incredible volunteer leaders to accomplish things like host a city-wide collective impact conference on K12 education in which 100% of our diverse participants reported that they felt their identities were affirmed, test an online forum that grew to 200 people, and create our vision statement.
ALL of New York City’s young people are equipped with the skills, resources, and community supports needed to flourish as happy, healthy, and impactful citizens of the world.
We also supported our partner IntegrateNYC in raising $20,000 for youth-led school integration, worked with the Alliance for School Integration and Desegregation to incorporate collective impact as one of their policy pillars, and participated in events hosted by South Bronx Rising Together and Harlem Renaissance Education Pipeline.
The MOST important thing we did though, was to uncover an insight that we didn’t even know we were looking for. That insight was that while #NYCEDU started as an effort to build an education community, we needed to think bigger. We needed to center ourselves, not around the industry of education, but rather around championing young people. And when we center ourselves around championing young people, here’s what happens:
- Youth leadership becomes non-negotiable
- Everyone from educators to computer programmers, young people to elders, are inspired to contribute in their own personal ways
- Our possible solutions expand beyond the confines of education and into the realm of systems change
We took this insight on the road and hosted community conversations with over 30 people and across all five boroughs. We found that championing young people is what made people, particularly young people, say “Yes! This is what we need!”
This is why we’re excited to announce an incredible milestone in our organization’s history: the unveiling of our mission statement, which our partners and volunteer leaders are in the middle of ratifying right now!
We power systems change that is
- Community-led: particularly by our young people most impacted by inequity
- Comprehensive: recognizing the interdependence of systems, institutions, people, history, and context
- Co-creative: with people from diverse backgrounds, identities, and perspectives working together
- Equity-centered: unrelenting in our pursuit of a world where social, economic, and political outcomes are not based on a person’s identity
- Human-centered: valuing not just metrics and numbers, but dignity, respect, and belonging
- Well-capitalized: investing generously in community-led change
- Courageous: where we dare to be vulnerable, take risks, and act
We call these the 7 Cs of Collective Impact.
So what does this mean for us moving forward? A lot!
First, our name needs to change! #NYCEDU has served us well but we now need a name that reflects our expanded mission of youth centered collective impact. We also need a name that is easy to translate, easy to say, and can be made into a group identity (think Beyoncé’s BeyHive and Duolingo’s Duolinguist). Have ideas?
Second, we cannot do any of this without you. We have many upcoming projects that need your support, such as organizing our next event (a potluck party in Central Park), moderating this forum, and creating a new visual brand for our community.
Reply to this post with how you’d like to get involved!
The world awaits.
Where we are today with #NYCEDU is the work of a great many people, all of whom have my deepest gratitude. You can see for yourself how our vision, mission, and values have evolved based on their contributions here.