How do we build Relationships and connections?
Building relationships is key to developing connections and social capital that is linked to learning outcomes. The greater the number of supportive networks, through individuals in the community, agencies or institutions, the greater the opportunity to engage the assets known for healthy development. ** (see Search Institute below). Mapping the key relationships among individuals, associations and institutions within the extended school community can help to clarify the existing links and connections and present pathways for developing and building on learning support.
This map shows a school’s extended community; community groups, agencies and institutions along with key community connectors (people that have connected with the school and have a history of making things happen in the community). Clarifying how they are linked to one another and where the relationships and collaborations are already in place provides a starting point for action planning.
(adapted from Coady Institute, Community Driven Development: the asset-based approach certificate manual, 2003 by Café/Calgary Read’s, Pineridge Neighbourhood literacy project).
Where to begin?
The community conversations can serve to highlight possibilities for action. However, considering what is available to work with can help to prioritize these potential action steps and bring people or groups together with shared interests. Some groups chose to consider possible actions with a ‘green, yellow and red light” perspective, with green being the easiest place to start, where resources are already in place. This can be effective and motivating in creating a starting point based on success. Other groups begin with more challenging or complex goals, which can then be broken down into manageable steps. Success builds on success!
What Does It Involve?
Action planning involves:
- identifying action steps and resources required
- linking to existing assets
- asking what else is needed to meet the goal?
- assigning responsibility to the task to ensure follow-up
A number of easy-to-follow planning tools and resources are highlighted in M. Green’s ABCD in Action and other ABCD Institute’s toolkit of resources.
Alberta’s Approach to Collaborative Practices… video series provides an introduction to the 11 principles of a wraparound approach that emerged from a literature review and comprehensive case studies in Alberta schools. Includes resources, background and facilitator’s guide on collaborative conversations leading to action. (Alberta Education)
J. Epstein and associates, (2009), School, Family and Community Partnerships, Your handbook for action, 3rd edition has comprehensive resources for taking an action team approach for further engaging families and communities as a school system wide strategy.
Further reading and resources
A Guide to Creating a Neighborhood Information Exchange: Buildiing communities by connecting local skills and knowledge by John P. Kretzmann, John L. McKnight and Deborah Puntenney (1998). This book presents a simple, inexpensive method for discovering untapped local resources that can be shared among community members. This model can be modified and expanded for larger groups with greater resources.
**Over the past two decades, researchers at Search Institute have shown that developmental relationships in young people’s lives are important. The number and intensity of developmental relationships in young people’s lives is linked to a range of positive educational outcomes. Relationships with caring adults and peers can increase student engagement and improve academic motivation. More about… Search Institute’s research on developmental assets.