In 1991, Martin J. Blank—who became IEL’s president in 2009—led a task force commissioned by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, a major step forward for interagency collaboration. The group brought together leaders from across the country to think together about communicating the importance of school-community partnerships. The work of this task force led to the publication of the seminal report, Together We Can: A Guide for Crafting a Profamily System of Education and Human Services.
This document—which was initiated during the George H.W. Bush administration and issued by the Clinton administration in 1993—reflected the bipartisan recognition that partnerships between schools and communities are powerful resources for helping young people thrive.
Although it has been over two decades since the publication of Together We Can, four main points from the guide that resonate today:
- The vision of communities where learning happens and the emphasis on the importance of embedding strong schools and effective human services and youth development opportunities in communities.
- A recognition that systems change is not a linear process; rather, it is a spiraling enterprise designed to change systems. The guide notes, “Straight liens can stop dead when they run into roadblocks or ricochet off obstacles. A spiral, however, develops a process of working together that loops back on itself to gain strength.”
- A warning against “projectitis,” which the report defines as “the tendency to add new programs to existing systems without developing mechanisms to expand innovations for everyone with similar needs.”
- An emphasis on collaboration as a primary tool for changing systems.
As more and more educators, families, and community partners work together to help young people succeed—and the field of community schools has grown—the core message and tools in Together We Can remain a powerful resource for the field.
The U.S. Department of Education printed 100,000 copies of the guide in 1993, making Together We Can one of its bestsellers. Together We Can is available for free online.