New Schools for Baton Rouge Students at Computers
By: Ashley Cash

Does Baton Rouge have the resources to deliver?

Throughout the month of February, we will be ‘sharing the love’ with our supporters across our blog and social media. Ashley Cash, our development lead, kicks off the month with a blog entry on how our donors are driving school reform efforts in Baton Rouge. 

Coming to Baton Rouge from the northeast, I’m always struck by this community’s passion for education. For decades, so many have done so much to transform schools. And they’re still in the fight. All of these efforts required the community vocalizing a demand for change, a political push for legislation, and perhaps most significant of all…a substantial financial investment.

We have been in awe by the generosity of civic leaders, investing millions of dollars into this new school reform effort. And as we continue to make asks of you, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on why our collective plan today has the potential to be dramatically different than what we’ve done before.

The spark came from a Stanford Social Innovation Review article that captured my attention before the holidays titled, “What’s Your Endgame?”. While it talks mostly about the differences between ways nonprofits and for profits can scale, it got me thinking: What is Baton Rouge’s endgame? What do we all hope to achieve in education and how can we ensure this movement today is different than anything we’ve seen before?

I think the answer, in theory, is simple. We have shifted to think much more about the big “v” Vision and how we can promote collective impact. In essence, we are beginning to bridge the gap between what any single entity can achieve and what the problem requires to change. Our endgame is citywide education transformation.

This vision may sound a little pie in the sky and given the level of financial investment it will continue to require, it may sound out of reach, but let me be clear, Baton Rouge has the opportunity to do what no other city has been able to.

And we can afford it. We’ll afford it by making “leverage” our new favorite word.

Leverage government funding. State and national governments recognize the dire need of education systems and have committed billions of dollars to these efforts. So let’s influence where those dollars are going in way that fits within a comprehensive strategy.

Leverage local investments for national commitments. With over thirty donors to date and 75% of our fundraising from sources within our state, we’re working to mobilize all local assets while bringing in national resources to fill gaps. The collection of diverse advocates demonstrates local demand for better, and national education champions are noticing.

Leverage all strengths, including private solutions. An emphasis on shared vision has led us to begin discussing out-of-the-box solutions to support the expansion of excellence, including facilities and talent development. Our solutions not only require financial investment, but partnerships as well.

So while our endgame is the expansion of excellent schools serving kids and families across the city, the way we’re going to get there is to build on the generosity of advocates and leverage resources like crazy. By thinking big and not limiting ourselves to the resources we think we have, by starting to aim for the radical solution instead of getting caught up in the practical one, we’ll achieve that big “v” Vision and stretch our dollars so much farther.

As we ask again for everyone to continue to share with us your expertise, time, and well, your treasure, know that we ask based on deep belief that Baton Rouge has the greatest chance of demonstrating wide scale, sustainable change.

Stick with us. Keep digging deep. The best is yet to come.

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Baton Rouge, LA 70801 (225) 384-0271 [email protected]

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