Execute & Evaluate

While every community’s needs and existing resources (human, financial, or otherwise) are unique, there are student-facing strategies that can provide a natural sequencing to help students articulate the value of their social capital, better understand who they currently have in their network, build the skill sets and confidence to make new connections, and practice this learning within safe spaces.

Communities must implement their plan with fidelity, including evaluating and updating approaches along the way, in order to track progress toward, and ultimately achieve, their vision of success for all students. In phase three of the Cultivating Connections framework, communities work their plan, beginning their student-facing work by introducing and translating social capital concepts, guiding students as they map their current relationships, building student social capital toolkits with the necessary skills and tools, and putting students into the driver seat as they expand and mobilize their professional networks.

Implement Your Plan: Introduce and Translate Social Capital Concepts

The term “social capital” can mean a variety of things to students. It can seem a foreign concept or one that holds negative connotations. An important first step in this work might be to start with defining what is meant by social capital and why it is an important and renewable resource, particularly as they are planning for college and career. This introduction could take a variety of forms, ranging from highly structured to more informal.

Notes from the field
Prioritize language that better resonates with students

Boston, Massachusetts

The term “social capital” can seem jargony or may connote, for some people, a transactional, or inauthentic relationship. The Boston team recognized the value in engaging students in the ideas of social capital but questioned the utility of sticking to the terminology. For example, in their pilot, Apprentice Learning chose to frame initial social capital conversations by asking students about their “team.” Who are the people that are rooting for them? The ones that are on their bench? Who do they currently have on their team and who do they need? This language better resonated with the students and was more consistent with the programming being delivered by the Apprentice Learning staff.

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Implement Your Plan: Map and Assess Current Relationships

Relationship mapping is a powerful tool for helping students visualize who is in their network and in what settings. While the goal should always be an asset-based discussion of student networks and how to leverage them, teams can employ different approaches depending on the needs of their student population. As students grow their networks, they should go back to their network map and update it so that at any given point in time, it’s a real-time reflection of who they know.

Notes from the field
Revisit relationship maps regularly to help students more deeply understand their networks

Pinellas County, Florida

In Boca Ciega High School in Pinellas County, FL, students were frequently encouraged to go back to their original relationship maps and continue to add contacts they might have either forgotten to list in the first place or had recently met. This kept networks at the top of students’ minds and many began to add the guest speakers in their classroom as weak tie connections. At Lealman Innovation Academy, students did the exercise at least twice to deepen their understanding of who was in their network. After the original mapping exercise revealed to the teacher that students did not have a clear understanding of who should be included, she decided to do the exercise again – giving students more practice in thinking about the connections they have in their lives.

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Implement Your Plan: Build Student Social Capital Toolkits

Armed with an understanding of who they already know and what their personal networks look like, the next step will be helping students understand what they need to build new connections. Communities can help students take full advantage of opportunities to expand their network by equipping them with the tools and skill sets to increase their confidence, agency, and ability to communicate about themselves. This tool development can take many forms – elevator pitches, strength and interests assessments, resume building workshops – and serve as opportunities for students to gain the confidence, know-how, and practice in talking about their goals, strengths, and experiences.

Notes from the field
Incorporate student skill-building to prepare them for real-world experiences

San Antonio, Texas

The San Antonio team provided several workshops meant to scaffold student learning to prepare them, one step at a time, for their participation in summer internship opportunities and employment after high school. Most workshops helped students develop the tangible tools (e.g., resumes, LinkedIn profiles) they needed to apply for the internships but also increased their confidence and preparedness for interviews. In a focus group conducted by the team, students shared that this was their first opportunity to develop a resume, create a LinkedIn profile, or network with employers. They expressed that these types of skill-building opportunities were missing from their education, where the emphasis on academics seemed disconnected from the skill sets students felt they needed for the “real world.”

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Implement Your Plan: Expand and Mobilize Student Professional Networks

Once students feel confident and are equipped with social capital-building tools and skill sets, Communities can provide them with safe opportunities to practice, whether in smaller, more intimate settings like classrooms or in larger networking events. This is an opportunity to pull in industry and community partners for support as hosts and/or participants. Equip students with follow-up strategies that will allow them to stay connected to the new additions to their network and possibly leverage these relationships down the line.

Notes from the field
Scaffold learning ahead of networking opportunities with employers

Nashville, Tennessee

Networking events were critical milestones for most of the Nashville pilots and several of the College and Career Readiness coaches called them the most impactful experiences for their students. However, they also recognized that many students require more time to prepare for these types of experiences, especially if held off-site. Across multiple events, the range of preparedness varied from students who showed up in business attire, confident in their ability to engage with employer partners, to those whose anxieties and concerns kept them from making it on the bus. This was true despite students having developed elevator pitches and a battery of questions to ask industry partners. Upon reflection, coaches realized that a scaffolded approach, building up to an off-site networking event, would have likely helped students gradually build up their confidence and ease their anxieties.

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Monitor and Adjust

Review student data on a regular basis in normal planning and curriculum cycles. Are your students learning the content? Are their networks expanding? Are they able to better leverage their strong and weak ties? Is the content/curriculum you’ve planned meeting your students’ needs?

While surveys can be helpful evaluation instruments, communities might consider alternative or additional ways of capturing information about their strategies. Methods like student focus groups or interviews may help give life to what the surveys are saying and bring in student voice in a more intentional and purposeful way. Allowing for staff and teachers to also provide their feedback is also critical for ensuring sustained buy-in and continuous improvement.

Notes from the field
Introduce social capital metrics into student tracking systems

Dallas, Texas

The Graduation Alliance team in Dallas, TX relied on a tool they called their workbook to keep track of their interactions with students. The workbook is comprehensive and helps the staff document conversations and resource-sharing with students. As a part of this pilot, the team incorporated additional social capital metrics (e.g. number of new connections, types of conversations they were having with supervisors) and regularly asked students about the new or stronger connections they were building during their apprenticeship. Utilizing an existing tool meant the team did not have to create a different tracker and ensured that social capital development remained top of mind during coaching check-ins.

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Develop an avenue for continuous student feedback and input

Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Chattanooga team discovered early on that students enjoyed participating in conversations about their relationships and networks. A focus group intended to be a one-time event became a monthly meeting of a group called the SoCap Student Leadership Ambassadors, who represented all 17 of the 10th grade advisory classrooms. This addition to the pilot plan ensured that the team remained student-focused and provided students with learning and experiences that they wanted. In return, the ambassadors supported and championed the content that was being delivered to them and their classmates during their advisory periods.

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Annually Reset

Spend some time reflecting with your team and partners on where you feel you made an impact, what could have gone better, and where you see opportunities for strengthening the work moving forward. Use your data from Monitor and Adjust (above) to update your Framework, Scope and Sequence, and annual plan (all created in Phase 2).

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