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Aug 29, 2019 |
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When starting a meeting, event, or new cohort, it is natural to want to get participants warmed up with a community builder activity. With so many community building ideas out there, how do you go about choosing the right one?! When I am faced with this task, I start by asking myself a few questions first.

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What do I want to result from this community builder?
  3. Do the participants already know something about each other?
  4. Am I looking to spark a conversation or complete an activity?

I then let the answers to these questions guide my selection process. If I have a brand new group of participants who do not know each other, I might start with general and fun conversation starters. Ask questions about dream jobs, dream vacations, favorite sports teams, music, art, culture—lighthearted questions that will give the participants an opportunity to find similarities with each other and begin building relationships.

Sometimes I want my community builders to have a symbolic meaning. For example, I once had a group plant seeds and decorate the pots any way they chose, but they had to write, “I Plant the seed of…” and list whatever skill or characteristic they wanted to work on. Some popular choices were love, perseverance, patience, determination, and kindness.

You also want to consider the ability of everyone to participate in community builders. For example, if you chose to have conversation starters which are typed, printed, and left on the table, be sure to provide copies in however many languages are represented in your target audience. If you’re planning an activity that is outside, consider your participants and how comfortable they will be completing certain activities. Think about the weather and physical exertion of each participant.

While preplanning might not allow you to predict every outcome of your community builder, participants will enjoy the thoughtfulness you put into creating comfortable environments and situations that allow them to get to know each other in a safe and positive space.

Happy building!

This blog post was written by NCFL Family Learning Specialist Kristen Whitaker.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website