Five things schools can do now to increase postsecondary enrollment

Obligatory stock photo of happily enrolled postsecondary students

Obligatory stock photo of happily enrolled postsecondary students

TL;DR

  • Washington State has a skills gap problem – an estimated 40% of Washington students are earning post-high school credentials whereas over 70% of jobs require a postsecondary credential

  • Increasing postsecondary enrollment is critical to closing the skills gap and helping Washington students prepare for the great jobs available here

  • Schools can make progress to close the gap by tracking student postsecondary outcomes and assigning a leader to be on point for postsecondary enrollment

  • Parents can help by engaging in conversations with their students about post-high school planning, and learning more about key college-going behaviors

It’s September… the most wonderful time of the year if you’re an office supply store or teen clothing chain.  It also means it’s time for school districts and counselors to start building their student guidance plans for the coming school year.  To help with that, we’ve put together a tactical guide with top five things districts can do to help prepare their students for education after high school and boost postsecondary enrollment rates.

Why are we focusing on postsecondary enrollment?

First, for those less steeped in education wonkery, a brief case for why we’re focused on postsecondary enrollment.  Washington (and the nation at-large) has a significant education attainment gap – it’s estimated only 40% of Washington high school students go on to earn a postsecondary credential (e.g. a degree or certificate after high school – includes registered apprenticeship, 2-year, and 4-year degrees).  However, when reviewing labor market data, we see that more than 70% of jobs in Washington require a postsecondary credential.  This “skills gap” of 30% means a lot of Washington kids are not prepared for Washington jobs.

Over the past couple years, Kinetic West and the Partnership for Learning / Washington Roundtable, have worked together to analyze Washington’s skills gap to understand the key drivers leading to student postsecondary success.  While Washington high school graduation rates have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years, and our postsecondary system is relatively efficient at graduating students once they are enrolled, our state trails the nation for the percent of high school students that enroll in a postsecondary program… and it’s getting worse.  To reach 70% credential attainment, we must focus on postsecondary enrollment – more students enrolled means more students who will complete.

Fortunately, there are many things that districts, high schools, and parents can do to help their students enroll in and graduate from postsecondary programs.  Today, we’ll highlight five actions schools can take to boost postsecondary enrollment, with a bonus list for parents wanting to know how they can help.

Five actions schools can take to boost postsecondary enrollment

1.       Adopt postsecondary enrollment as a core district metric on par with high school graduation

Right now, there is not an organization or education body uniquely responsible for postsecondary enrollment.  High schools are focused on 12th grade completion, and colleges don’t step in until students show up on campus.  This leaves a gap where students who are otherwise ready for postsecondary don’t enroll – a phenomenon known as “summer melt”.

Schools can help reduce summer melt by tracking postsecondary enrollment for their students to understand which students aren’t showing up for college and why.  High schools and districts can start by reviewing their data on the state’s Education Research & Data Center High School Feedback Report.  There you can analyze students’ enrollment patterns, with breakdowns by free-and-reduced lunch rate, race / ethnicity, and high school performance.

2.       Appoint a senior school or district leader to be accountable for postsecondary enrollment

No matter the industry or job type, we all know what happens when everyone is accountable for a goal – no one is accountable for the goal.  For districts to improve, there needs to be a single person or team responsible for postsecondary enrollment.  Examples of “enrollment czars” include: career / college counselors, vice principals, or assistant superintendents.

3.       Create a “postsecondary for all” mindset among all faculty and staff

Each staff member from the guidance counselor to the custodian, from the lunchroom monitor to the principal needs to believe that all students can and should complete some postsecondary education.  Based on conversations with districts throughout the state, when students know postsecondary training is the expectation, they are more likely to enroll and complete.

4.       Provide dedicated school time for students to complete “college-going behaviors”

College-Going Behaviors are the steps students must complete to enroll in a postsecondary program.  These include things like filling out financial aid forms, taking the SAT / ACT, attending a college fair, etc. (see this handy guide from the Partnership for Learning).

To make sure students are aware of and can complete these College-Going Behaviors, they need time during the school day where they can ask teachers for help (e.g. during advisory or home room blocks).  Reserving classroom time is especially important for first generation students (e.g. those whose parents never attended postsecondary).  Without support at home, or dedicated help at school, first generation students may miss key steps required for admission or enrollment.

5.       Track individual student FAFSA / WASFA (financial aid form) completion

Financial aid can be a significant barrier for many low- and middle-income students to attend postsecondary programs.  To address this problem, the Washington legislature voted to expand the Washington College Grant to help students pay for post-high school training.  However, students must still complete financial aid paperwork (e.g. FAFSA / WASFA) to be eligible for funding.  As we’ve previously discussed, Washington is one of the lowest performing states for FAFSA completion (last year we ranked 48th in the nation).

Schools can help students receive financial aid support by tracking FAFSA / WASFA completion and supporting those who need help to finish.  The Washington State Achievement Council (WSAC) tracks district and school progress, and can provide student-level data to counselors.

 

Bonus(!) 3 things parents can do to help their students

1.       Start talking with your student early about post-high school pathways

There are many options for students to obtain fulfilling, family-wage careers including registered apprenticeships, 2-year associate degrees, and 4-year bachelor’s degrees.  Check out Washington’s Ready, Set, Grad or College Promise sites to learn more about the various options to discuss with your child.

2.       Work with your student on their High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP)

HSBPs are a graduation requirement for all Washington high school students.  These plans help students think about and prepare for careers and education after high school graduation.  Parents can use the HSBP to talk with students about their postsecondary plans.  Check out this short video for more details.

3.       Familiarize yourself with key College-Going Behaviors (CGBs) to help guide your student and seek out additional assistance for your family

There are a lot of steps to apply for and enroll in a postsecondary program – help your student learn the steps by familiarizing yourself with the necessary College-Going Behaviors.

Paraeducators could be the key to increasing Washington State teacher diversity

 
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PARAEDUCATORS COULD BE THE KEY TO INCREASING WA TEACHER DIVERSITY

TL;DR 

  • The vast majority of Washington’s teachers are white (89%). Almost half of the student body are students of color (46%).

  • Studies show that students benefit from a diverse teaching workforce.

  • Helping paraeducators become fully certified teachers can help reduce educator shortages and increase the number of bilingual teachers and teachers of color.

  • Washington is a nationwide leader in paraprofessional teacher training.

 

WASHINGTON STUDENT BODY MUCH MORE DIVERSE THAN TEACHERS

In Washington, the vast majority of the teaching workforce is white (89%), while the student body is increasingly made up of students of color (46%). As covered by the Seattle Times and Columbia Reporter in a multi-part investigative series, school districts across the state are struggling to employ teachers that reflect the demographics of their students.

WHY A DIVERSE TECHING WORKFORCE MATTERS

Research proves the numerous positive effects of a diverse teaching workforce. For instance, The Seattle Times noted a study which showed that low-income, black boys who were taught by at least one black teacher in grades 3-5 were almost 40% less likely to drop out of high school and showed a stronger interest in attending college. 

Teachers of color also help ensure that students of color are receiving the services they deserve. A recent study showed that African-American children are three times as likely to be placed in gifted education programs if they have a black teacher rather than a white teacher. This benefit is especially relevant in Seattle Public Schools where the Highly Capable Cohort is disproportionately white.  

It is clear the state needs to be working to diversify their current teaching workforce. But how?  

 

PARAEDUCATORS MORE ACCURATELY REFLECT THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE STUDENT BODY

We took a look at Washington education workforce data and it shows that paraeducators could help Washington diversify its K-12 faculty (most recently available data is from 2015/16).     

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The above graph shows that the proportion of paraeducators of color is nearly double that of teachers. Additionally, developing teachers who already live and work in the school’s community is an important strategy for reducing the educator shortages that exist across Washington state.

 

WASHINGTON LEADS ON PARAEDUCATOR PIPELINE

Washington state is a leader in new initiatives to build paraprofessional-to-teacher pipelines (see reports from New America and The Learning Policy Institute at Stanford).  Communities across Washington have implemented “Grow Your Own” programs, which recruit, train, and support potential teachers from communities that school districts serve. For instance, Highline School District runs a program that serves bilingual paraprofessionals and helps them achieve an elementary education endorsement.

The State of Washington Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB), released a report highlighting the early success and potential of Grow Your Own (GYO) programs in Washington and across the United States. In part by designing programs to serve paraprofessionals, Colorado and Illinois were able to increase their statewide teacher roster by 166 and 150 respectively over the past 4-5 years, with more candidates in the pipeline.

 

What’s Next?   

Grow Your Own programs are a good start to increasing paraeducator training. From our review of the research and current programs, we’ve compiled a few additional recommendations to strengthen paraprofessional pipelines:

  • Create career connected learning for paras and aspiring paraeducators (including high school students) to create an educator industry pathway.

o   For instance, the Academy for Rising Educators (ARE) is a new program created through partnership between Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Central College, and the City of Seattle’s Seattle Promise Scholarship. It gives Seattle Public Schools juniors and seniors the opportunity to take courses and participate in internships that fulfill prerequisite requirements for becoming a paraprofessional.

  • Include paraprofessionals in aligned professional development, evaluation, and career ladder systems to recognize their contributions and set them on a path toward full accreditation.  

  • Expand alternative teacher licensure and certification that utilize performance and competency-based approaches especially for paraprofessionals who already have a BA and teaching experience. (The last two recommendations were suggested by bilingual paraeducators in focus groups conducted by New America)

 

Finally, it’s important to call out that paraeducator training is only one lever to increase teacher diversity. To reach teacher-student demographic parity, we must continue to support students of color to complete high school and to graduate from postsecondary educator training programs. And similar to issues in the private sector, school districts should continue work to dismantle barriers and biases within their hiring processes.

Is everyone and their mom on a non-profit board?

 
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TL;DR

  • There are over 38,000 non-profits in Washington, with over 6,000 in Seattle

  • 69% of WA non-profits do not have annual revenue

  • We estimate 5% and 7% of Washington and Seattle adults, respectively serve on a non-profit board

In our day-to-day work (and as board members ourselves), we run into a lot of people who serve as non-profit board members. This led us to wonder: just how many people serve on boards actually?

In order to answer this question, we needed to know the full scope of the non-profit sector in Washington. According to IRS data on tax-exempt organizations from February 2019, there are over 38,000 tax-exempt, non-profit organizations in Washington.  Of these, over 6,000 are in Seattle.

 
 

We also looked at how non-profits vary by revenue, with a working hypothesis that greater revenue equates to larger boards.  (We also thought you would be interested, dear reader, in the revenue distribution).  Interesting finding: only 31% of Washington non-profits had positive revenue, based on most recent tax filings (something to investigate in a future post!)

Contrary to our initial thinking, board membership did not vary greatly by revenue size.  According to a 2017 BoardSource Survey, the average non-profit board has 15 members, with about 14 board members on average for non-profits with revenue below $1 million and 17 members for those above $1 million.

Now to answer our original question.  To calculate the proportion of the population on a board, we can take a weighted average of board membership by revenue, multiplied by the number of non-profits.  If we assume that the average board member serves on two boards and divide by the adult population of Washington and Seattle, respectively, we get the following:

 
 

(One caveat from the analysis above – this assumes non-profit boards with $0 or negative annual revenue have equal board sizes to organizations with revenue.  One could make an argument that non-revenue generating non-profits would have smaller boards, which would imply a slightly lower proportion of the population on boards.)

Point / Counter-point

After reading the BoardSource analysis (referenced above), our team starting talking about what the right board size is – are there too many or too few people serving on boards?  We didn’t come to a consensus in the end, but thought it was worth sharing our thoughts as you, the folks playing at home, form your own opinions.

Here’s the SparkNotes version of our conversation:

Marc’s take: too many people on boards

At its core, a board of directors ensures robust governance (e.g. fiduciary responsibilities) and provides support to the organization’s leader(s).  These are big responsibilities that require each prospective and current board member to evaluate whether their personal and professional lives, along with the talents they possess, can add value to a board.  In my opinion, too many people serve on boards who are more interested in the resume building and networking opportunities, or in making themselves feel like a good citizen, than the hard work of governance and leader support.  Seeing the results from this analysis reminds me of the folks who may not be serving on boards for the right reasons.

Andy’s take: too few people on boards

Similar to corporate boards, non-profit boards should include diverse voices and perspectives, and should ensure sufficient representation from the communities they serve.  Too often though, boards are led by a majority white (often male) panel that looks nothing like the organization’s constituency.  According to the same 2017 BoardSource report, only 16% of board members identify as a person of color.  (I say this recognizing my own position as a white male who serves on a non-profit board.)  If we assume that the majority of board members serve for the “right” reasons and are adding value (per Marc’s comments above), then executive directors and board chairs should consider increasing their board size to make sure diverse, community voices are included.

 

What’s your take?  Drop us a note at contact@kineticwest.com or leave a comment below to continue the conversation.

Until next time.

Louisiana is beating Washington for FAFSA completion... and it's not even close

 
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TL;DR

  • FAFSA completion rates are low across the nation (57%)

  • Washington ranks 48th in the nation for FAFSA completion at 46%; Washington high school seniors miss out on over $50M in federal Pell grants

  • Louisiana (77%), Tennessee (77%), and DC (71%) have the highest completion rates

  • Multiple ways for Washington to improve: (1) require FAFSA completion for a High School diploma, (2) increase student and family support to assist with completion, (3) require school districts and high schools to set annual goals for FAFSA completion and report against progress

 

Washington State ranks 48th for FAFSA completion

It’s been all over the news, in Washington State, and across the country: FAFSA completion rates are way too low.  

As a refresher, the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a critical form that students must complete in order to secure financial assistance for college.  But despite the FAFSA’s importance, not enough students are filling out the form.  According to NCAN (National College Access network), the national FAFSA completion rate was just 57% for the 2018-2019 application cycle.  Washington mustered an anemic 46% completion, ranking 48th among all states and DC.  Practically, this equates to $50M in lost Federal Pell Grants.

The FAFSA is a key college-going behavior that’s strongly related to postsecondary enrollment: 90% of FAFSA completers enroll directly in college after high school graduation, while only 55% of non-completers do the same.

Lessons from around the U.S.

Louisiana, Tennessee and DC top the list with FAFSA completion rates nearly 30% higher than Washington’s. What are they doing to achieve these completion rates? And what can we learn? 

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No FAFSA, No Diploma in Louisiana (77% completion)

Louisiana made FAFSA a graduation requirement in 2017. In just one year, FAFSA completion rose by 26% across the state. To help students with the FAFSA, Louisiana’s Office of Student Financial Aid hosts completion workshops at high schools during the school day. The Office also holds community events like FAFSA Block Parties to help students with last-minute completions or corrections (support even extends into the summer!).

 
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A promising future in Tennessee (77% completion)

In 2014, Tennessee enacted the Tennessee Promise Scholarship, guaranteeing 2 years of free community college to all students.  In order to be eligible for Promise scholarships, all students must fill out the FAFSA. To assist students, Tennessee created a trained corps of outreach specialists in each county.  Corps members lead workshops, provide information on scholarships and loans, and are available for individualized assistance to students and families.

 
 

What gets measured, gets done in DC (71% completion)

Schools in DC achieve high completion by focusing on goal setting and measurement. Schools set annual completion goals and compete with each other for the highest completion rates.  Every two weeks, FAFSA data is formatted into a summary table by the DC State Education Agency and is emailed to all school leaders and staff involved in FAFSA completion. As a student reward, schools host FAFSA completion celebrations at the end of each year.

 
 

How is Washington State addressing FAFSA completion?

Similar to DC, Washington State makes available FAFSA and WASFA (state aid application) completion data to school counselors via an online portal (check out a public-facing view here).  WSAC’s 12th Year Campaign partners with schools and community-based organizations to provide training and resources to students and families. And with the expansion of the Washington College Grant, we are on our way to our own “Washington Promise” scholarship.  However, there is still more work to be done. 

 
 

Washington opportunities for improvement:

  • Make FAFSA completion a high school graduation requirement (e.g. via High School and Beyond Plans)

  • Provide additional financial aid literacy and application support to students and families (e.g. via support grants to school districts, FAFSA completion nights, state-administered help lines, etc.)

  • Create a state office in charge of financial aid or hold existing agencies accountable for FAFSA completion

  • Require school and district leaders to set completion goals, track progress, and report outcomes on a regular basis (e.g. via OSPI school report card)

  • For additional details on FAFSA completion in Washington, check out WSAC’s latest brief on FAFSA completion

We can get there with a targeted effort. Let’s #BeatLouisiana.

Washington isn't the only state with many single-high school districts...maybe that's because mergers are super hard (Part II)

TL;DR

  • 79% of all Washington school districts have just one high school

  • 38% of urban school districts in Washington have only one high school

  • Washington is not alone in having many urban, single high school districts

  • District mergers are tough, but there are other options to increase scale

Recap from Part I

In our last episode, we dug into some of the stats on Washington school districts.  We found that 79% all Washington districts have just one high school.  Of districts in urban areas, 38% have only one high school (see “urban” definition at the end of this post). In multiple instances these solo high schools are within a short drive of high schools in neighboring districts.

How does Washington compare?

When looking at national data, Washington is in the middle-of the pack (#21) for percent of urban schools with one high school.  Our takeaway: urban, single high school districts are not a phenomenon isolated to Washington.

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A few other items of note:

  • Of Western peer states, Washington is still in the middle – between Oregon and California / Colorado

  • Maryland and Florida stood out for their low share of single high school districts (7% and 11%, respectively).  Our hunch: when district borders align with county borders (as is the case for MD, FL, and other states) districts can achieve greater scale… to be further analyzed another time!

  • 5 states (Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have no urban districts with only 1 high school – this is driven by a high overall rural population

  • A 6th state, Hawaii, also has 0 urban districts with 1 high school – that’s because there is only one school district for the entire state

Should there be fewer single-high school districts?

Both nationally and in Washington, there was a significant wave of school district consolidation during the middle part of the 1900s as our nation moved away from the “one-room schoolhouse” towards the elementary /middle / high school model that exists today.  As recently as 2009, former Washington Governor Gregoire requested that Washington’s state superintendent (OSPI) should make recommendations for further consolidation.  All this to say, consolidations are still an often-discussed topic.

As mentioned in part I, there are can be benefits to larger school districts and consolidation including more specialized course offerings, lower administrative costs, and potential reductions in cross-district inequities.

However, the actual work of consolidation – both political and logistical – can be a big barrier.  District consolidation involves significant efforts to convince voters, teachers, union members, and students that a merger is the right way to go – just ask Vermont and New York.  There is also a substantial amount of logistical legwork involved to plan and execute a merger (e.g. facilities changes, employee and payroll integration, revised student policies, new transportation routes, etc.), which can stretch over multiple years and cost millions of dollars.

Is there another way?

Just because consolidations are hard and politically-fraught, doesn’t mean districts shouldn’t pursue them.  But there are other ways to realize the scale benefits of larger districts without the challenges of consolidation – namely through partnerships with regional networks and intermediaries.

Washington already has a system of 9 regional networks, known as Educational Service Districts (ESDs).  These state-funded organizations shoulder some of the back-office, administrative, and professional development burden on behalf of school districts.

Districts can also work with intermediaries to address common challenges.  One great example is the Community Center for Education Results (CCER), which works with 7 South King County school districts to provide research and data analysis, as well as programmatic assistance to support worksite tours. (**Disclaimer: we work with CCER to help plan worksite tours – let us know if your organization wants to get involved!)

So what does it all mean?

We see an opportunity for individual school districts, and states more broadly, to re-evaluate current district boundaries to ensure students and tax payers are well-served by high quality and efficient education systems. In some cases, consolidation may be the best option, in other cases regional networks and intermediaries can help small districts achieve scale and avoid the pain of mergers.


Data sources: ERDC; 2015 , NCES ELSI Database; 2016-2017.

Methods: To determine the number of high schools in a district we looked at all schools with students enrolled in 12th grade.  We then excluded alternative, charter, and virtual schools as defined by the Department of Education NCES database.  We also excluded juvenile detention centers, community colleges, educational services districts, and schools with fewer than 10 high school students enrolled. To define “urban” districts, we used the NCES classification and included all cities and large / midsize suburbs.

Washington has a lot of school districts with just one high school - is that a bad thing? (Part I)

TL;DR (“too long, didn’t read”, aka SparkNotes for those non-Millennial readers)

  • Washington has approximately 300 school districts

  • 79% of all Washington school districts have just one high school; of urban districts 38% have only one high school

  • Significant trade-offs exist between small and large districts

  • District boundaries driven more by history than by county/city borders

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Examining single-high school districts

During a recent project looking at Washington school district data, we noticed many school districts with only one high school.  We were specifically interested in the urban, single high school districts – places where the distance between rival high schools in neighboring districts is only a few miles.

And now that we have a blog, and a devoted readership base (tell your friends, sign up for our newsletter!) we decided it was time to dig into the data and answer a few nagging questions.  The first two we’ll answer today, the remaining in a follow-up, Part II post.

  • How common are urban, single-high school districts in Washington?

  • Are small districts bad?

  • How does Washington compare to other states?

  • What are the options for increasing school district scale efficiencies?

Setting the stage

First, let’s ground ourselves with the basic stats: Washington has ~300 school districts, with an average enrollment of 3,500 students.  Across the state, 79% have just one high school.

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These results aren’t terribly surprising since more than 75% of Washington districts are rural.  These are districts where we’d expect only one high school across a large land area.

What we’re really interested however, are the urban districts with one high school.  For the purposes of our analysis, we categorized urban districts as those within or adjacent to major cities and suburbs with more than 100,000 people.  All other districts we classified as rural.

Using this methodology, we found 38% of urban districts have just one high school. Examples include University Place (near Tacoma), Tukwila (near Seattle), and East Valley (near Spokane).

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Is this a bad thing?

Obligatory consultant answer: it depends. The research is quite mixed on optimal school district size.  What is clear are the trade-offs between small and large districts:

Large school districts

  • More specialized course offerings

  • Lower administrative costs per student

  • Potential for greater equity with larger districts

Small school districts

 

Aren’t district borders limited by county and city boundaries?

In Washington, as in many states, district borders are not beholden to municipal boundaries.  There are multiple examples of districts spanning county and city lines (e.g. Northshore and Nine Mile Falls) Boundaries are often a product of past rural consolidation efforts and previous political battles – essentially, there aren’t specific methods or rules that have resulted in the current patchwork we have today.

Check out Part II

In our follow-up post, we’ll look at how Washington’s school district map compares nationally, and discuss recent efforts to consolidate districts.


Data sources: ERDC; 2015 , NCES ELSI Database; 2016-2017.

Methods: To determine the number of high schools in a district we looked at all schools with students enrolled in 12th grade in the state of Washington.  We then excluded alternative, charter, and virtual schools as defined by the Department of Education NCES database.  We also excluded juvenile detention centers, community colleges, educational services districts, and schools with fewer than 10 high school students enrolled. To define “urban” districts, we used the NCES classification and included (all cities, and large and midsize suburbs).

Oh no! Another CSR article: The Über-Framework (Part II)

What’s your favorite CSR stock photo cliche? Here are three of ours…

What’s your favorite CSR stock photo cliche? Here are three of ours…

Last time, we discussed our learnings on why CSR is important.  Today, we dive into the fun part of designing and executing an impactful CSR strategy.

 

To determine the key elements of a CSR strategy, we went where any self-respecting consultant with too many pedigrees would go: Google.  There were over 50 million hits…

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So we refined our research strategy and instead looked at what the fancy firms and publications to develop an “über-framework” of CSR strategy (aka the 5 most important considerations cited by the experts).

I’ll be honest, we were a bit surprised by this chart – namely, how little variation there was across the various experts (was everyone in the same room at the Aspen Institute? More importantly, can we score an invite to the next one?)

Our takeaway: CSR isn’t rocket science, but like most things it requires intentionality and thoughtful planning to get it right.  If you’re an organizational leader who’s intimidated by CSR, don’t be.  You can get started now.

 

A few other thoughts and musings:

1.       “Play to your strengths” is good advice

Even if all the experts mentioned this lever, it’s still worth talking about.  Your organization’s core capabilities should be well-connected to your CSR strategy.  This will increase your impact and could lower the cost to implement.

Examples of well-connected CSR programs: Subaru – Zero-Landfill, Warby Parker – “Buy a pair, give a pair”, Starbucks & Arizona State University — bachelor’s degree partnership

 

2.       Avoid spreading “propaganda” couched as CSR

In the CSR world, the means are just as important as the ends.  CSR should produce mutual benefits for the community and the company – otherwise it’s just propaganda. (exhibit A: Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” campaign, aka “Dieselgate”)

 

3.       Collaborate with key stakeholders

You could have the best intentions – but if your CSR strategy isn’t actually built with the people it’s meant to benefit then you’re SOL.

 

4.       Diversity and inclusion plans are not CSR – they’re table stakes

In our research, we came across multiple articles and corporate reports citing diversity / inclusion as part of CSR strategies.  We couldn’t disagree more.  Diversity and inclusion is a growth strategy.  Companies that can’t attract, retain, and promote a diverse workforce (defined broadly) will be at a competitive disadvantage – end of story.

 

Innovative approaches to CSR

We also came across a few examples of companies really taking a comprehensive or innovative approach to CSR that we’d like to share.  Here are a few:

  • LEGO: Foundation-funded research on play-based learning, employees trained as “play agents” in communities

  • MOD pizza: industry-leading benefits

  • Orix: employee-governed charitable foundation

  • Unilever: expanding distribution into rural areas through job training

Thanks for reading. Let us know if you like the content so far or have suggestions for future posts and deep dives – send us an email on the contact us page.  Our next post will take a more local and quantitative tack where we dig into data on Washington state school districts… stay tuned!


  1. Boston Consulting Group: Total Societal Impact

  2. Bridgespan (Chris Addy, Maya Chorengel, Mariah Collins, Michael Etzel — published in HBR): “Calculating the Value of Impact Investing

  3. FSG (co-founders Michael Porter and Mark Kramer): Creating Shared Value (FSG site, HBR article)

  4. HBR (V. Kasturi Rangan, Lisa Chase, Sohel Karim): “The Truth about CSR

  5. McKinsey Quarterly (Tracey Keys, Thomas Malnight, Kees van der Graaf): “Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility

  6. Stanford Social Innovation Review (Jody Kirchner): “Three Steps to Making CSR Count

Oh no! Another CSR article: An inaugural listicle (Part 1)

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We at Kinetic West pride ourselves on distilling complicated, long, intimidating, or even boring research and data into bite size chunks that are interesting and actionable.  We plan to use this blog as an opportunity to share our learning journey, recent work, and interesting developments in the social impact sector.

For an inaugural "learnings" post, we've decided to take a look at Corporate Social Responsibility (or for those in the know, "CSR").  As we've made our transition from public sector teachers to private sector consultants and now to a space in between, we wanted to dig into another topic that also resides at this intersection.  But don't worry… we'll keep this short and sweet.

First off, what is CSR?

CSR has many alphabet soup / euphemistic monikers (CSV - creating shared value; ESG - environmental, social, and governance; social impact; corporate citizenship; sustainable business) that all seek to capture the same concept. To put simply, CSR is when organizations act beyond profit maximization to benefit the communities in which they work.  Examples of CSR programs include employee volunteer days, supply chain waste reduction, non-profit partnerships, to name a few.

 

The business case -- aka 4 reasons why CSR is important

One could think CSR sounds great for organizations with lots of time and endless resources, but you have customer orders to fulfill, employees who are depending on you, and shareholders who are expecting results yesterday.  CSR is important however, precisely because each of these constituencies care about it too.

 

1.       Your customers care about CSR

 

2.       Your employees care about CSR

 

3.       Your shareholders care about CSR

 

Let’s also take a step back here for a 4th reason: CSR is the right thing to do for our communities.  If organizations can have the rights of people, they should also have the moral responsibilities of people.

 

CSR counter-point

Or… if you’d rather not do CSR, if you don’t have the time or resources to create and execute a CSR strategy, then don’t.  But then don’t advocate for lower corporate taxes or engage in complicated tax avoidance.  Pay your fair share and let our government handle societal improvements.

On our next episode, we'll share our learnings on the most effective components of a CSR strategy -- synthesizing leading scholarship and pretty (expensive) graphics so you don't have to.

Increasing postsecondary enrollment is critical to reaching WA 70% credential goal

New article on the Seattle Times discussing the importance of postsecondary enrollment to reaching 70% postsecondary credential attainment in Washington. The article highlights the Edmonds School District’s postsecondary enrollment strategy, as well as Kinetic West’s recent study with the Partnership for Learning and the Washington Roundtable.

Read the full story here.

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