From Idea to Action: Third Annual Institute for Building Expanded-Learning Systems

“This is not a mystery. It’s what we want for our own kids: activities where kids discover themselves and the world around them.” Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago

In August, Every Hour Counts hosted, “From Idea to Action: An Institute for Building Expanded-Learning Systems,” a two-day event that brought together teams of leaders from 19 communities around the country to discuss the essential elements of expanded-learning systems. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, steadfast supporter of after-school and of our host city partner, After School Matters, set the tone for the event with his belief that after-school can transform lives: “Our obligation does not end at 3:30 pm on June 10. For our kids to live up to their potential, we need to live up to our obligation.”


City of Chicago Panel (from right to left): Moderator Mary Ellen Caron, CEO of After School Matters; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Robbie Robinson, Managing Director of BDT& Company, After School Matters Board of Directors Vice Chair; and Gillian Darlow, CEO, Polk Bros. Foundation

We kicked off the event with city leaders distilling their system-building work into six-word stories that captured the essence and spirit of their communities and their systems.


A force multiplier for expanded-learning. Richmond, VA

When we come together children thrive. Pittsburgh, PA

Equity drive, evolving collaboration, sometimes difficult. Madison, WI

Come on you horse riders, giddy-up! Grand Rapids, MI


Over the course of the Institute, attendees participated in workshop sessions, led by Every Hour Counts partners, and spent time as a team developing local action plans. Every Hour Counts will release a report sharing key lessons from the Institute. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the takeaways:

  • Partnerships: “There’s no substitute for trust between a principal and a community provider or intermediary.” Lucy Friedman, President, ExpandED Schools, shared this tip in the Forging School and Community Partnerships workshop. Building trust between stakeholders and setting a common vision for action emerged as a key strategy for successful partnerships.
  • Policy: “Policy happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Danica Petroshius, Penn Hill Group, framed the Influencing Policy workshop with this statement. Karen Kingsley, of Youthprise, and Danielle Kim of Boston Afterschool & Beyond, shared examples of their policy successes, such as Youthprise securing $2 million from the Minnesota state legislature to fund youth development work with Somali youth. The presenters and participants also developed a list of policy tips to guide expanded learning systems-builders in their advocacy, such as work with other groups and coalitions to expand and leverage capacity and develop a message that works with all parties.
  • Youth Engagement: “Leadership roles for teens and opportunities to make decisions about program activities keeps us engaged in programs.” An After School Matters teen panelist shared this insight during the Engaging Older Teens: The Inside Scoop session.

After School Matters teen panelists share their perspectives on elements of strong high school programs and how to empower youth through youth voice.

Participants also had the opportunity visit After School Matters program sites to learn how building blocks of their system contribute to programmatic success.


Persistence and problem solving were two of the skills highlighted by teens through their sewing projects at Urban Threads Studio.

On each Monday for the next three weeks we will feature guest blog posts from Denver Afterschool Alliance, After School Matters, and Boston After School and Beyond to share more details on different aspects of the institute. To learn more, check out our photo album of the entire event and read the live tweets from the Institute at #systemsinstitute.


One thought on “From Idea to Action: Third Annual Institute for Building Expanded-Learning Systems

  1. Pingback: From Idea to Action: Reflections from Denver Afterschool Alliance | Expanded Learning Perspectives

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