The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Attracting a business coalition partner – advice from coalitions

In our new survey, “Business Coalition Leaders Speak Out on Education,” we asked survey respondents to comment on the lessons they’ve learned from working with schools and districts and to offer advice on becoming attractive partners and on building effective partnerships. Due to space considerations, we weren’t able to include all of the responses in the survey report, so I wanted to share them all here on the blog.

This is the second of three posts, and provides responses to the open-ended question:

“What should schools and districts do to make themselves attractive to coalition partnerships?”

The 60 responses received were as follows:

Open, honest communication. Willingness to work as a partner. Enthusiasm to do good things for students.

Ask for our help or assistance to help their students. Don't ask for money.

Attend and participate on our boards. Make plain their commitment to public engagement in public education - from the very top of their organizations. Ask us to make presentations to the board of education. Explore ways to attract resources that can only occur through collaboration.

Be clear about what resources they need from the business community. Respect parameters for business and education partnerships. Ex. Teachers should not decide to change the date of job shadow experiences without informing host businesses and have students show up at the business on a different day from the one planned. Learn the culture of business...teach the culture of education to business persons.

Be clear regarding needs and outcomes and why this is in alignment with organization's goals. Show up and follow through.

Be cooperative and follow through with everything you commit to do.

Be open to new ideas; help partners know how they can contribute; when you say you want a business partner, make it mean more than just a yearly coffee to award certificates; get out into the business community for awareness and relevancy.

Be open to participation and responsive to business concerns and point of view. Administrators need to invite us to the table for discussion and planning if they want support.

Be open to partnership and all that it implies.

Be open to suggestions and input.

Be open to suggestions and proactively seek partners for a variety of programs.

Be organized, be willing to commit time, don't expect checks with no accountability.

Be proactive. Market your desirability as a partner...not just your need.

Be willing to be accountable and responsive to the time, services and resources that the coalition offers to them. In those instances where schools truly want to improve instructional effectiveness, assessment practices, and building/district leadership the partnerships have worked out well. Committing fully to an improvement process seems to be a most difficult thing for schools or districts to do.

Be willing to collaborate.

Be willing to come to the table to discuss possible solutions. Keep an open mind to partnership opportunities.

Be willing to come to the table with community and business leaders, listen to each other, be willing to put time & effort into the partnership.

Be willing to find the time to work on the action items determined by the project goals.

Be willing to listen to business' needs and concerns without defensiveness. Schools and districts should identify one point person who can aggregate the partnership opportunities and be the primary contact person. Identify the benefits to the business of collaboration (e.g. a more prepared workforce, better responsiveness to business workforce skill needs, future workforce pipeline development etc).

Be willing to modify their projects to meet the requirements of the partnership (generally not a problem but must be done).

Build a track record of success with new, systemic change initiatives.

Be willing to put in the time required to develop and manage partnerships... including measuring outcomes.

Be willing to work with us.

Business needs to have equal representation for a true partnership to occur. Usually we are outnumbered and don't feel we are heard.

Commit to efforts of the partnership. Demonstrate a need and a desire to meet that need.

Communicate clear goals and values to identify partners with similar goals.

Conduct innovative and results driven planning, be willing to think creatively.

Contact us with their needs.

Demonstrate openness to new ideas/innovation.

Express a need and an interest in the work and support of the partnership. Be willing to cooperate, collaborate and financially participate.

Get involved. Be consistently honest with themselves. Build distributive leadership infrastructure.

Have a positive approach to partnering without fear of allowing community members to see inside their operations. Be clear and specific in expressing their needs for assistance. Be open to accept the help of the community.

Have advisory board with real roles. Be prepared to offer meaningful roles for partners.

Have goals and exhibit interest in having business people participate/contribute.

Have one point of contact for community partnership activities. Provide in-depth professional development to teachers and administrators to learn how to work with partners, such as what to ask of them and delivery expectations.

Have to show a willingness to change. Business partners find it very difficult to get schools to change to the changing times -- in terms of careers, etc. and what the employer needs.

Identify a key contact who will respond in a timely and complete fashion - Most business partners get frustrated because of the time spent chasing answers.

It is critical that they are committed to working long term with specific outcomes in place.

Key contacts. Periodic updates. Connect partnerships with educational priorities.

Let us know how we can help.

Let us know they're interested and what their needs are.

Make a commitment to follow through once they are back in the schools clearly; designate a contact and communicate throughout the school that this partnership exists.

Make sure they involve them in the beginning of the project so the community buys into the project not just come for funds after the fact. If only want funding make sure there is an accountability component and that PR opportunities are there for the partners.

Most schools and districts do not have a good communication plan. In short they never tell their success stories. The partnership should include a budget to hire a broker that will make both sides accountable.

Not act like their world is an ivory tower that no one else from the outside can penetrate. Also, not expect that any partner who is willing to come to the table should just 'contribute money' or 'buy the incentives' for the kids as a way to partner. Many partners can offer much more in the way of time and resources.

Not criticize business when we are not fully in agreement.

Not just ask for money from business to do just what they want to do but to listen to business.

Not only should they keep us informed of their needs, but they should also spend more time asking businesses opinions, and truly considering what they could do to make recommended changes, instead of considering the recommendations as criticism.


Personnel from school districts should look for opportunities to serve on committees within the education structure of the state. As special projects/products are found to be measurably successful, the coalition helps to showcase the results. Schools and districts must be willing to open doors and minds to sharing and collaborating.

Recognize the value of other partners.

Request, respond to, and welcome input from business and community leaders as education stakeholders make school a welcoming place for community volunteers.

Responsiveness, follow through, openness, willingness to speak to others as champions.

Schools can commit to ensuring participation and implementation of programs with fidelity.

Show a commitment to make changes that are necessary for improvement.

Show their willingness to commit and prove it by fulfilling their obligations.

Take position stands.

TBEC are a business and education coalition--educators are active participants in the decision making processes. We have a business and education co-chair. Schools must be willing to commit time and effort to the coalition and bring expertise and resources to the partnership.

Think about the system and not just a few teachers.

Understand their strengths and resources from the perspective of the business community.

To see the answers to other open-ended survey questions, you can go to:


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