Design the Supports

Communities must have a clear system of program elements addressing social capital in order to ensure their vision becomes a reality for their students. Once a community has developed a theory of action and better understands their current assets, they can narrow in on where current practices could be enhanced or strengthened with social capital development strategies, tools, or resources. Leveraging existing programs, resources, and infrastructures in this work ensures alignment and sustainability long-term and reduces the chances that staff with limited capacity see this as an additional burden. There are also a host of organizations and comprehensive programs available for purchase that can help fill in gaps.

The second phase of the Cultivating Connections framework includes developing a framework to structure the student experience, creating a scope and sequence that sets grade-level expectations for social capital development, identifying opportunity areas and how to solve for them, writing an evaluation plan for continuous monitoring, and training their team to ensure high-quality implementation and delivery.

Frame Your Program

Use the Asset Map from Identify Your Assets in Phase 1 to determine a clear Framework for how and when to provide access to social capital concepts, skill building, and experiences. It is important to build this work comprehensively into the range of college and career pathways efforts already underway. Social capital development should not be contained within a program that just some students have access to, but instead be integrated across the full body of work underway to prepare students for their futures. What do we want to be true for ALL students?

Scope it Out

Using the Theory of Action you created in Create A Theory of Action in Phase 1, your existing school, district, and state expectations/standards, and the framework from Frame Your Program above, customize a Scope and Sequence for social capital concepts and expectations by grade level. What should this work look like at every grade? How will we measure success?

Notes from the field
Bring your values into social capital development work

Boston, Massachusetts

A major priority for the Boston team was ensuring that social capital conversations, materials, tools, and resources did not suggest (explicitly or implicitly, to both young people and adults) that students were lacking in relationships or that their networks and experiences held no value. Continuously centering the lived experiences of the district’s most vulnerable students—including Black and Latinx students, students with disabilities, emerging multilingual learners, queer and trans students, and students from economically disinvested communities—with an emphasis on asset-forward language led to robust and necessary conversations about framing and preparing the adults for meeting students where they are. The team continues to discuss how to best ensure that everyone involved in this work—from district leaders to community partners to teachers—approaches this from a perspective that recognizes and celebrates the unique contribution that each student brings to their communities.

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Identify Gap Areas

Compare your scope and sequence with your asset map from Identify Your Assets in Phase 1. Where are there gaps in what you currently offer based on what you would like to offer? Are there tools or resources that need to be built? Make a plan for building these or doing some research about solutions that may be available for purchase.

Notes from the field
Consider bringing in external support and expertise to help enhance student learning

Pinellas County, Florida

If the types of expertise that would help students gain the skills to mobilize their social capital aren’t available in-house, communities might look to external partners to help meet that need. This was a strategy used by the two pilot schools in Pinellas County, FL. At Boca Ciega High School, the teacher who led the pilot found a great deal of value in investing in a Dale Carnegie course focused on professional development and communication. The feedback survey administered at the end of the year showed that students found this experience among the most helpful because it gave them practice in introducing themselves and asking questions of others. Similarly, the teacher at Lealman Innovation Academy did not have a structure for work-based learning and invested in support from Junior Achievement and their work-based learning curriculum. Both teachers looked to external expertise to bring additional and well-respected learning to their students.

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Write Your Plan

Develop a plan for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the strategies and activities you’ve identified in your scope and sequence. Who will own the different aspects of the plan? Are there any other people (staff, partners, etc.) who might need to be brought in? When will you assess student impact?

Notes from the field
Dedicate appropriate staff time and leadership to developing the approach

San Diego, California

The San Diego team made a conscious decision to have a dedicated staff member on the Avenues for Success team (housed under San Diego State University) lead the social capital pilot. This person was responsible for integrating social capital strategies, tools, and resources into the team’s existing framework and programming. While not every community might have the resources and capacity for an entire position, it is necessary to think about how much time is required for developing a social capital approach and who might be equipped to lead that work, particularly at the front end. For the San Diego team, this person also helped build the knowledge and the internal capacity of their staff for supporting student social capital development.

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Center Equity and Asset-Based Strategies

Consider any additional supports needed to better ensure the full participation of all students, particularly first generation college-going students, those with diverse learning needs, and English language or multilingual learners. What materials might need to be modified? Who might you need to partner with or intentionally include? How might you best leverage the assets they bring?

Notes from the field
Bring in community partners to provide support to English Language Learners

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Because of the breadth of their implementation plan, the Chattanooga team spent additional time and resources to get English Language Learners the support needed to more fully engage in their pilot. They invested in translated materials and worked with ELL teachers to adapt their delivery but found that one of their most effective strategies for increasing access to the learning was in inviting a partner from a community-based organization to help translate and provide guidance for students. As the team noted, having a person who shared a common background and could speak their home language participate in the planned experiences helped build excitement and interest among students who were otherwise feeling disengaged.

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Intentionally connect students to individuals that reflect their backgrounds and experiences

San Antonio, Texas

Throughout the pilot, the San Antonio team was committed to engaging professionals that reflected the experiences and racial and ethnic backgrounds of participating students. The STEM panel, for example, was made up of professionals and undergraduates whose stories resonated with the high school students. They were first-generation professionals, many of whom had grown up in the San Antonio region. Similarly, the near-peer mentors recruited through the Alamo Fellows program were all first-generation college students and STEM majors who had attended schools in San Antonio ISD or neighboring school districts. The near peer mentorship experience benefitted both the mentors and mentees as it provided the young mentors to also see themselves as role models and an opportunity to “give back” to their community and future generations.

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Train Your Team

Identify the people that need purposeful learning and engagement around this work. Develop a training plan that encourages buy-in, customizes for the audience, and equips plan implementers or advocates for driving the work. Some of your team might just need a “101” training while others would find it beneficial to go deeper into ideas on mindsets or best practices before engaging with students.

Notes from the field
Provide staff with what they need to best support students and employer partners

Indianapolis, Indiana

In Indianapolis, Modern Apprenticeship Program (MAP) apprentices benefit from a Youth Apprenticeship Manager (YAM) who serves as their coach, support, and liaison to their supervisor. The YAMS meet regularly with both apprentice and supervisor to make sure the assignment is going well and that all parties are getting the support they need. Before launching the pilot, the MAP team convened the YAMs for a social capital orientation to introduce them to the goals of the project and to outline what this work would mean for them. In addition, to avoid adding more to YAMs’ workload and to maintain some consistency, the MAP team developed a “script” to be used with students and supervisors. The YAMs were given the freedom to make the script more personal but were provided the language to help deliver consistent information to all of their apprentices and industry partners.

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Prepare Your Partners

External partners (community organizations, industry partners, alumni, and families) are essential to this work but may not have thought about the importance of social capital in their work or about how they serve as facilitators of student social capital. Ahead of implementation, consider what strengths these partners bring, how you want to engage them, and what they may need to be prepared to support students in this work. How will you continue to engage them over the course of the year?

Notes from the field
Bring in alumni to tell their social capital stories

Montgomery County, Maryland

The Montgomery County social capital project team found different ways to incorporate the “success stories” of near-peers who have recently earned bachelor’s degrees and achieved career success into the social capital pilot. In the introductory social capital asynchronous module they developed for the student orientation, the team featured a video of a recent ACES (Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success) graduate discussing their academic and career journey. The featured graduate shared the people in their network that helped through their transitions from community college to a four year university. In addition, the social capital project team hosted a summer bridge program, which included a series of professional panels and opportunities for students to network with several graduates of Montgomery County Public Schools and the ACES program who shared their career and postsecondary journeys. Hearing from people with similar backgrounds and experiences can be affirming to students. It reinforces that their aspirations are feasible, can generate ideas about who in their network they could leverage, and garner support and guidance.

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Make social capital development an explicit expectation for employer partners

Indianapolis, Indiana

Helping students build new connections and mentoring relationships is often stated as a benefit of work-based learning and other career-connected learning opportunities but is too frequently assumed to be something that comes about organically. To move past the assumption that social capital building is happening during these experiences, it is important to make this an explicit expectation for students and employer partners alike. The Indianapolis team developed the Expand Connections Challenge, where apprentices were incentivized to meet and have meaningful conversations with people within their worksite. The team previewed the Challenge with worksite supervisors and set the expectation that they provide opportunities (e.g., staff meetings, work events) for apprentices to form new connections and encourage them to share their career interests and educational aspirations with colleagues. Over the course of the pilot, one student even had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with the company CEO, who connected her with other people with whom she shared career interests.

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Continue to Phase 3: Execute and EvaluateNext