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6 critical collaborative leadership practices to engage diverse youth

Collaboration should be the way we do business for young people. We know that no one youth program can support every child’s needs and engage youth from every background. But by working in collaboration with other programs, we can bring our commitment to enriching the lives of young people to even more of them.

Sometimes, collaboration happens by accident. Not long ago, Minnesota 4-H staff in Kandiyohi County were meeting with staff from other local youth-serving organizations to find out how each of them could better meet the needs of immigrant youth. Immigrants and refugees now comprise more than 20 percent of the students in U.S. public schools, and this percentage is expected to grow to 30 percent by 2015. The number of English language learners has also increased, doubling in size from 1995 to 2005.

In both rural communities like Kandiyohi County and in urban ones, changing demographics have not only diversified the youth to be served, but have also opened doors to tapping into other youth programs’ specialty methods. In order to support a child's academic achievement and psychological well-being, we must work together to best create healthy and productive environments and relationships.

Krista Lautenschlager, program coordinator from Kandiyohi County 4-H, and a member of the Center’s diversity and inclusion shared learning cohort, explained that while they worked on the problem of how to increase their own programs’ reach by working together, they realized that by using collaborative leadership practices they could create, as described by Delgado and Rahani in 2005,  “environments that actively affirm newcomer youth’s original ethnic identities, while also supporting their ongoing self-exploration and transformation.”

Lots of thinking has been done on program leadership collaboration and how to do it well.  The Turning Point Leadership Development National Excellence Collaborative has identified six critical collaborative leadership practices:
  • Assessing the environment for collaboration – understanding the context for change before you act.
  • Creating clarity, visioning & mobilizing -- defining shared values and engaging people in positive action.
  • Building trust & creating safety – creating safe places for developing shared purpose and action.
  • Sharing power and influence—developing the synergy of people, organizations, and communities to accomplish goals.
  • Developing people—mentoring and coaching, committing to bringing out the best in others and realizing that people are your key asset.
  • Self-reflection – personal continuous quality improvement and being aware.
How have you as a youth work professional looked for opportunities to work together with other organizations to meet the needs of immigrant youth? How has your leadership style helped you to implement the key practices for collaboration into your practice? Does your community make serving immigrant youth a priority to make sure that young people are successful?

-- Judith Conway, Extension educator

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  1. Thanks, Judith for bringing up this subject. Partnering with other organizations is essential for creating any sustainable program--especially for organizations that are not already rooted in a particular community--in order to create ownership. Only in this way can you really create common goals and vision and share power and influence. I know in my own practice, when I approach a potential collaboration in the spirit of humility (for what I can learn from those I'm hoping to collaborate with) and transparency (about my own intentions in wanting to collaborate), I find that this state of mind sets me up for success.


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