Innovative Strategies and Solutions
Maximize Resources and Increase Impact: Cross-sector collaborations By many standards, Chicago has a wealth of out of school time programs for youth in nearly every subject area. It also has many diverse organizations providing opportunities for young people to explore and develop their interests and learn important life and career skills along the way. In the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields alone, collectively called STEM, the number of out of school opportunities continues to grow from more than 2,000 run by more than 500 organizations reported in the 2012 landscape study, The State of STEM in Out-of-School Time in Chicago published by the nonprofit STEM education provider, Project Exploration. Despite the large and growing number of learning opportunities in STEM, broad gaps in access exist due to numerous factors including concentration of resources, programmatic scope and specific geographies and subpopulations that are underserved. Since 2012, Iris Krieg & Associates’ Vice-President, Lauren Krieg, has been working with a group of local multi-sector stakeholders including non-profit organizations and funders to address the gaps identified in the 2012 study. This group, called the STEM Pathways Cooperative, ensures that there is a continuum of quality STEM experiences for all Chicago youth that provides access to a rich array of sequential learning opportunities in the STEM disciplines delivered in a variety of environments. The overarching goal is that youth become engaged, knowledgeable and skilled as they progress through childhood into adolescence and early adulthood and that more Chicago youth are encouraged to pursue careers in STEM fields. Working on behalf of the Albert Pick Jr. Fund, Lauren has helped to align and lead the collaborative efforts of area STEM stakeholders and find the best model for sustained collaborative action as a way to maximize donor resources, achieve greater impact and solve community issues. The collaborative of local multi-sector stakeholders including funders, nonprofits, corporations, higher education, museums, schools and more has grown significantly and endeavors to create a strong and vibrant STEM network in Chicago, called a STEM ecosystem, by 2020 using an evidence-based framework developed by the national STEM Funders Network. The Cooperative plans to leverage local support with national resources and join the current STEM ecosystem cohort of 14 cities across the country including Austin, TX; Raleigh, NC; Indianapolis, IN and Boston, MA.