NCFL Summit 2016 - Speaker Ja'Nel Jamerson from NCFL on Vimeo.

Coalitions & Family Literacy: Flint & Genesee County's Story

The Flint & Genesee Literacy Network engaged national coalition experts Literacy Powerline in 2014 to conduct a needs assessment and community planning process to strengthen literacy service coordination and improve educational outcomes for local residents.

In February 2015, after a six-month planning process by more than 180 community partners, volunteers and learners at the table, the time had come to "vote" on the initial focus of their newly formed collaborative. The question before the group was simple: "If we consider literacy across the lifespan as a necessary continuum, where should we begin?"

In February 2015, after a six-month planning process by more than 180 community partners, volunteers and learners at the table, the time had come to "vote" on the initial focus of their newly formed collaborative. The question before the group was simple: "If we consider literacy across the lifespan as a necessary continuum, where should we begin?"

With so much time invested, hopes were high for an unambiguous path forward.

But as with many democratic exercises, this nascent coalition of diverse partners delivered the one result they had feared most – a virtual tie between Adult and Early Childhood Literacy.

The point of planning and prioritizing the community's efforts was to find areas to pool resources in order to scale community impact, not to spread resources too thinly across multiple strategies. Had this intensive process let them down?

It is at this point that many coalitions might fracture with small factions heading off in different directions. But this coalition was different. It was carefully cultivated of diverse community partners. It emphasized trust and mutual respect among all partners at the table. And most importantly, the time spent together over six intensive months created a safe place for partners to come to know, understand and appreciate each other's perspectives and contributions to the work.

nstead of disbanding, this group that had lacked shared purpose just six months prior began to problem solve. What values do each of these priorities represent? Where might there be overlap?

What about a Two-Generation, Family Literacy approach, someone asked? What is that? Community members didn't have experience or many local program examples to draw from. But it seemed to reflect their shared aspiration for children and adults…

To learn more, the Network reached out to NCFL to learn more about family literacy. As a result, a strategic partnership between the community and NCFL was born.

In the summer of 2015, NCFL Family Learning experts and its newly merged community building arm, Literacy Powerline teamed up to:

  • Introduce Family Literacy to the nascent coalition with on-site professional development.
  • Assist the coalition in launching a pilot Family Literacy program with the full support of the broader community collaborative.
  • Provide technical assistance and leadership development to strengthen the community collaboration's infrastructure, as a whole, to pivot from planning to implementation.

Coalitions Incubate & Sustain Family Literacy Programs

As a result of the coalition's problem-solving, it allocated funding to kick off a year-one family literacy pilot with a small grassroots not-for-profit, Christ Enrichment Center in Flint, Michigan.

The pilot not only launched initial family literacy programming but was a test of the strength of the coalition's partnerships.

Danielle Brown, executive director of Christ Enrichment Center, has seen first-hand how such coalition partnerships can expand their ability to support the families they serve.

"Out of the Family Literacy Action Team there has been tremendous relationships that were established and are being sustained," Brown shares. "And therefore, our work with families has really benefited from the ability to leverage new Action Team partnerships."

Stronger Coalitions Mean Increased Resources for Family Literacy

Beyond the initial pilot programming, the collective power of this community coalition brought added value to family literacy programs such as access to new funding and partnerships at national, regional, and local levels.

"We can bring all this information in and build a beautiful quilt of resources together," Danielle continued. "And we can showcase around the world what happens when people come together who are passionate about serving people with excellence."

New partnerships. Trust and mutual respect for differing perspectives. New and better aligned resources. Shared purpose. These are just a few of the powerful and long-lasting impacts of carefully cultivated coalitions.

Click here to learn more about literacy coalitions.

Contact us to discover NCFL Literacy Powerline's community and coalition building services.

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