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We are putting the "public" back into public education by creating real-world learning opportunities through community partnerships.

CommunityShare transforms cities into human libraries through an online platform and offline relationships that connect local community expertise and knowledge to real-world learning experiences with students and teachers. CommunityShare has connected over 11,000 students and teachers with community partners who have served as volunteer mentors, project collaborators, guest speakers, and more.

HundrED 2021


Web presence






June 2018
CommunityShare is an essential tool for curriculum planning. CommunityShare gives my students and me access to professional resources in Tucson that make what they learn in school more meaningful, relevant, and memorable.

About the innovation

What is CommunityShare

As achievement gaps and inequality continue to grow in our education system, we must find solutions that actively engage and prepare all students, regardless of socioeconomic background, for the careers of the future. With 40-60% of students chronically disengaged in school, this is a significant challenge. The top reason students cite for disengaging and dropping out of high school is lack of interest because school is not relevant to their lives and career aspirations. Not surprisingly, 95% of teenagers believe more real-world learning opportunities would improve school.

Fortunately, a large body of research illuminates several pathways for heightening student engagement:

• Pairing academics with real-world examples increases student learning

• Exposure to new ideas and people leads to student engagement

• Supportive relationships with family and community adults can significantly reduce dropout rates and increase student academic performance.

• Community engagement is a hallmark of strong STEM career programs

It is clear our communities can play a critical role in ensuring students have the support to reach their full potential. Communities can not only heighten student engagement but also expand students’ social capital, by allowing students and teachers to tap a wealth of real-world expertise and support through a network of community professionals. According to Harvard researcher Dr. Robert Putnam and many other researchers, social capital is a critical predictor of educational attainment, academic achievement and economic success, regardless of a student’s socioeconomic background.

Despite the power of real-world connections, most of the value in communities remains a latent, untapped resource. So why is community engagement not more central to learning and our education system? A survey of 9,000 teachers in Southern Arizona found that 84% of respondents want more engagement with community partners, but face two significant barriers: they don’t have time to find partners and don’t know where to look.

CommunityShare is working to address these two barriers by reimaging the relationship between communities and schools. Our goal is to create a more equitable learning ecosystem by creating a “public cloud” of social, cultural, creative, and intellectual capital that any teacher can access.

Our innovative, research-based model includes two key components: an online “matching” platform and “offline” education programming. CommunityShare’s online platform serves as a human library of regional wisdom and expertise, or as the Christian Science Monitor recently described, a “Craigslist for public education.” Community members – including artists, scientists, parents, retirees, and business leaders – register and create online profiles to indicate the expertise that they would like to share with teachers and students. Classroom educators then search online for community members whose real-world expertise matches the needs and interests of their students and the goals of their curriculum. Community members matched with classrooms can serve as volunteer mentors, project collaborators, content area experts, internship hosts, guest speakers, and more.

Our offline programming helps schools and communities build a culture and practice of community-engaged, real-world learning. We offer educator-driven professional development workshops, school-based artist residencies, grants to support innovative school and community partnerships, facilitated professional learning communities for visionary educators, and multimedia storytelling workshops that celebrate the impact of real-world learning.

Our platform and programming make it easy and efficient for teachers to find and engage community partners in order to:

● Increase student engagement through real-world learning experiences based on students’ interests

● Increase the number of parents and caring community adults supporting students (only 25% of students believe adults in their community value them )

● Heighten teacher support and connectivity (90% of teachers believe collaboration is critical, yet teachers spend just 3% of their day collaborating with other adults )

● Increase students’ awareness of and preparation for diverse career and academic pathways (critical since the average school counselor to student ratio (1:480) is nearly double the recommended ratio.)

● Increase equitable access to social, intellectual, creative, and cultural capital

Through meaningful engagements with community partners, students experience the real-world application of what they are learning in school, connect with caring adults and resources in their community, explore new passions and career paths, and imagine a future they perhaps never knew existed. In turn, community members share their expertise and gain a greater understanding of the schools and student populations in their communities, enabling them to become more informed and inspired advocates for a more equitable education system.

Though CommunityShare was launched in Tucson, Arizona, we have recently expanded to other cities in U.S. and welcome inquiries by schools, districts, government municipalities, education institutions, and others who are interested in bringing CommunityShare's online platform and implementation support to their region.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Students struggle with choosing their academic paths and finding relevance in what they are learning in the real world. Clearly defined outcomes and relevant impact stories mentioned on the website. They have plans to scale further through a common platform where different communities can sign up.

HundrED Academy Reviews

Loved the concept of engaging community to design experience based learnings for kids.

It's impressive how this innovation can connect the whole community with students and teachers. It's the perfect tool to give holistic meaning to learning as students can collaborate with the real world.

- Academy member
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process


How Occupational Equity Programs Are Accelerating Impact During the Pandemic - Youth Media, Online Networks, and P2P Mobilization - Connected Learning Alliance
Principles for Building a Learning Ecosystem - Lessons Learned from Tucson, Arizona - Digital Promise
A public cloud of social capital to connect schools and communities - Christensen Institute
Screen time isn't all bad: Technology can make invaluable connections for students
Empower Learners to Shape Their Own 'School' Day — In and Out of Classrooms | RealClearPolicy
The Future of Education: How Cities Can Leverage Community Assets, Social Networks, and Personal Passions in Extending Their Learning Systems Beyond the Classroom
Young & Schachter: To Reimagine the Future of Education, Innovation Isn’t Enough — We Need Inventions for an Entirely New Vision of Teaching and Learning
10 Innovations that Support Students' Community Contributions | Getting Smart
Financial Fix: Helping Hands: Learning from Tucson’s most innovative nonprofits
Fisher: Relationships Play an Essential Role in Our Lives and the Lives of Children. 5 Ways to Bring Them to Scale
The Global Search for Education: Engaging Learners with Community Inspired Projects
Tucson’s creative community, teachers join forces to enhance learning during coronavirus
We Must Use This Moment to Transform Public Education | RealClearEducation
Building Resilient Communities with Students at the Center - Digital Promise
Edweek Article about CommunityShare & Learning Ecosystems
CommunityShare Intro Video
What if volunteers had a Craigslist to help public schools?
CommunityShare Website

Implementation steps

Assess School Interest

Through conversations with teachers, principals and superintendents assess if real-world learning and community engagement is a current or future priority.

This assessment can be done through informal conversations, community events, surveys or focus groups.
Assess Community Interest
Meet with business leaders, nonprofits, government agencies, universities, parent groups, and others to assess if the community has interest in getting more engaged in the schools.
Identify Barriers & Opportunities
You can assess barriers and opportunities through conversations, surveys and other approaches.
Assess Expertise Needs
Survey teachers to ID the content expertise areas most in demand.
Recruit Community Partners
Recruit community partners based on the expertise/content area demands identified by educators (and hopefully students too!).
Partner with CommunityShare
Contact CommunityShare to explore using our online platform as a way to match community partners with teachers and students.
Provide Teacher Professional Development
Many teachers and schools need professional development (PD) regarding how to integrate community partners into their curriculum and classroom. Find a local partner who can provide this PD and/or contact CommunityShare regarding training opportunities.
Track Connections & Evaluate Impact
Use CommunityShare platform to track usage and develop metrics and tools to assess impact on students, teachers and partners.
Celebrate Successes
Share successful school - community partnership stories through events and media.

Spread of the innovation

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