Networks & Collaboration

Education First designs meaningful, ongoing opportunities for organizations and individuals to collaborate through our expert facilitation, knowledge of effective networks and use of leading-edge adult learning design principles. Funders can benefit from coming together to share information and grantmaking. Meetings and convenings aren’t just a necessary evil in public education; when designed and facilitated well, education leaders can use the time to step back from their day to day work, learn from others’ promising practices, collaborate to solve problems of practice and draft action plans to advance their work.

In each of the sections below, click on the images to see examples of our work.

Communities of Practice & Working Groups

Education First has helped numerous funders, nonprofits and public agencies to establish and facilitate networks of grantees, state and district leaders and educators. We design and lead communities of practice to tackle common challenges. An effective network is driven by function first: What do participants need to know and do differently? Will participants primarily gather to learn about and share promising practices, or will they also engage in problem solving, decisionmaking and collective action? We help network sponsors and participants answer these questions, choose the right form and design for the community of practice and devise the plan of activities. We also facilitate multi-sector participant teams, coach and advise participants on policy issues, program design and implementation challenges, and provide or secure technical assistance to participants as needed. Convenings are expensive in terms of cost, participant time and planners’ time; they should only be implemented when it’s necessary to advance the community of practice or the work. We believe that convenings are important focal points around which to gather participants for the kind of learning that best takes place face to face; that convenings are better when they occur within the context of a larger strategy of ongoing technical assistance rather than as “one-offs”; and that convening agendas should emphasize team planning time and cross-site consultancies, while de-emphasizing general/plenary sessions or “sit and get” conversations.


Funder Collaboratives

When foundations decide to pool resources, the results can be especially powerful. But it takes work to identify and align on common goals, strategies and outcomes. Education First has designed and facilitated several funder collaboratives, sometimes identifying and managing joint grantmaking to public agencies and nonprofits, sometimes creating learning opportunities and knowledge-sharing for funders and sometimes incubating new nonprofits and initiatives on behalf of multiple funders. We bring to this work our understanding of funder priorities and goals, our skill in facilitating ambitious consensus among equal partners and our expertise in grantmaking. We help funders set strategy, agree on specific targets and activities and pool and distribute resources.



Results-Driven Convenings & Facilitation

We design and facilitate meetings that make a difference, whether the meeting is a session of internal organizational leaders and staff as part of a strategic planning project, a convening of multiple nonprofits with similar missions who need to identify joint or overlapping initiatives, or a major convening with district and state teams coming together to learn, plan and advance their own work. We use our extensive knowledge of adult learning principles and group facilitation techniques to identify meeting objectives, design agendas that allow for plenty of time for participants to learn, work together and grapple with tough challenges, suggest meeting activities that gain maximum benefit and facilitate sessions and teams. We don’t believe in “sit and get” meetings; instead, participants who take time from their busy schedules should be actively engaged in the learning and doing.



To learn more about Networks & Collaboration, download our PDF:

pdf icon

Our Services:
Networks & Collaboration

Helpful Resources

Featured Resource: High-Quality Assessment Project

Over three years, Education First has supported grantmaking and technical assistance to a network of grantee local and state advocacy organizations as they engaged in the critical tasks of educating state boards, legislators governors and the media; identifying and supporting teacher advocates; and engaging parents as new tests are adopted and administered and as score reports are released.

Read More >

Education First's Approach to Planning and Managing Effective Networks

Since its founding in 2008, Education First has helped numerous partners – from funders, to nonprofits, to the Federal Government – establish and facilitate networks...
Read more >

Read More >

Series: Achieving the Benefits of K-12 and Higher Education Alignment

In this series of briefs we provide an introduction to important areas for effective K–12/higher education collaboration and alignment. Each brief tackles a different issue:...
Read more >

Read More >

Featured Resource: Core to College

Education First facilitated a network of state grantees improving alignment between K-12 and higher education on the Common Core and new assessments.

Read More >