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Partnering to help Waco youth

I’ve taken the time over this past month to reflect how our work with the Texas Opportunity Youth Network is truly a working example of moving through the collective impact process. Last year, our partners at Heart of Texas Goodwill convened a meeting with the Aspen Institute’s Texas Opportunity Youth Network (TOYN). This meeting brought together stakeholders to learn about the network and how it could help build our local capacity to connect Opportunity Youth to living wage workforce pathways. It was readily apparent the network aligned well with local efforts to support Opportunity Youth.

Prosper Waco was then asked by the partners to step into the role of strategic convener and serve as the Waco backbone organization in the network. This allowed us to apply for a TOYN grant with Goodwill, CIS, and the Cove to plan a collaborative workforce training project that builds the capacity of all partners to skill and place Opportunity Youth into high-demand, living wage jobs. Excitingly, our group received the grant and as we began project planning, the City of Waco approached us and asked if we would be interested in exploring the YouthBuild program. YouthBuild is a national pre-apprenticeship program that provides on-the-job skills training, credentialing, mentoring, and job placement support in the construction trades and other high demand industries. This interest from the City of Waco was funny timing, as YouthBuild was one of the models and potential funding sources we planned to explore. You know your group is moving in the right direction when another key partner approaches you and willingly comes to the table. Playing the strategic convenor certainly has its challenges at times, but it is also very exciting when the will of the group aligns so well around a common agenda and mutually reinforcing activities.

I’m looking forward to observing and reflecting over the next six months as we move through the planning process. While we aim to use the collective impact framework in all of our areas of work at Prosper Waco, it is not the same cookie-cutter journey. This is one of the things I love most about my work; what we do is in response to the will of the community, and our approach must be intentionally tailored every time. Overall, I think it’s very important to constantly reflect on the work and think through what works and what could be improved. Stay tuned for more collective impact musings from me in the future!

Tiffany Gallegos-Whitley is Director of Strategic Initiatives at Prosper Waco.


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