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

CommunityShare

Marker Arizona, USA
CommunityShare transforms cities into human libraries through an online platform that matches local expertise and knowledge with the needs and goals of students and teachers. Since launching in 2015, CommunityShare has connected nearly 7,000 students and teachers with community partners who have served as volunteer mentors, project collaborators, guest speakers, internship hosts, and more.
Introduction

What is CommunityShare?

“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. ”

- Brett G., Principal

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 Rhode Island and welcome inquiries by schools, districts, government municipalities, and education institutions who are interested in bringing CommunityShare's online platform (and implementation support) to their region.


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814
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1 - 18
Age Group
2015
Established
Resources Needed
CommunityShare's online platform can help you reveal, connect and share the existing wisdom, expertise and social capital in your community with teachers and students.
HundrED Criteria
innovativeness
impact
scalability
Local communities are often underutilized by schools and educators. CommunityShare provides an innovative platform that connects the skills and experiences of passionate community partners – individual professionals, community leaders, organizations and businesses – with the goals and needs of educators in schools and informal learning environments.
We have connected over 6500 students to community partners in Southern Arizona since we launched CommunityShare in 2015. To measure impact we gather both quantitative and qualitative outcome data through surveys to teachers, community partners and students. Here are some of the outcomes from this past school year. • 88% of students indicated CommunityShare increased their understanding of the real-world application of content they are learning in school. • 77% of students said their CommunityShare experience increased their understanding of careers in a “significant” or “life-changing” way. • Students used these words when describing their CommunityShare experiences: inspired, curious, confident, strong, thoughtful, creative, smart enough to do things, happy, energized, and touched. • 100% of teachers indicated that CommunityShare increased student engagement, ownership of their own learning, and real-world understanding of curriculum content. • 91% of teachers reported that their CommunityShare experience will influence their pedagogy and future lesson planning. • 100% of teachers indicated that their social capital (community connections & relationships) and openness to engaging community partners in the future increased.
We are rebuilding our platform this summer so that it will be multi-tenant, which will enable us to provide any region/city with its own regional CommunityShare platform. Each regional hub (school district, educational nonprofit) will need staff on the ground to support the off-platform activities of recruiting community partners, supporting teachers/schools with community-based learning strategies, etc. Because each region is unique it may look different in different communities. We are developing a manual to share our lessons learned in Southern Arizona. We have begun piloting CommunityShare in Rhode Island and are exploring expansion to several other regions throughout the US this year.
Posts

See this innovation in action.

Q&A
My main question is about impact and scale. Is it working? Do people come and do they keep coming?
F
Comment
CommunityShare opens doors for students that they did not previously realize even existed. They see new possible career paths that match their passions and become more empowered to pursue them.
A
Comment
CommunityShare enables students to exercise agency in exploring their interests and passions while also expanding and deepening the interpersonal relationships that help unlock and accelerate learning. CommunityShare operates as a network, co-created by students and adults and designed for equity. The platform allows a community of learners to foster shared identity and sustain cultures of learning and growth. With those conditions met, network members more easily navigate the challenges of complexity inherent in our world. So many of us are making this essential shift-- learning how we learn-- and, doing so by growing our networks and connections.
S
Comment
Community Share brings people together, from all walks of life, regardless of socio-economic status. A carpenter down the street, a native artist from a small village outside of town, or the local doctor might come in to the school to speak to the kids. Or the kids venture out to a local business to speak with the professionals, and ask them questions. All of these experiences provide the platform to have personal conversations about what we are doing in our neighborhoods, what is important to us, sharing how we make things, how we learn. It is these discussions where real learning and enrichment takes place.
K
Comment
As a parent, I have seen CommunityShare in action and my child has gained valuable real-world insights and connections to the people who live and work in our town. Every community should have this.
J
Comment
CommunityShare breaks through the wall that separates schools and our community. It brings needed expertise to our schools and creates important human connections that reinforce the value of public education for adults who are no longer directly connected to our schools. One outcome may be a higher percentage of approved school bonds.
E
Comment
The most amazing feature of CommunityShare, among all the amazing features, is the engagement of all the parties involved — the partners who come together in the interest of engaging students in authentic learning experiences that they, students, relish. The passions of volunteers, educations and learners are swirled together in a magical blend of community.
D
Comment
CommunityShare provides me with a simple and meaningful way to bring previously unavailable resources to my students. It is a platform to nearly limitless opportunities and talent that enables my classroom to be a place that students can see the context of who they are and how they fit in the world around them.
A

Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Assess School Interest
Through conversations with teachers, principals and superintendents assess if real-world learning and community engagement is a current or future priority.
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02
Assess Community Interest
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03
Identify Barriers & Opportunities
Identify the barriers to community engagement and opportunities for overcoming those barriers for teachers, schools and community members.
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04
Assess Expertise Needs
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05
Recruit Community Partners
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06
Partner with CommunityShare
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