This February, participants from across the country convened as part of the University of Washington-based Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC) at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle to reflect on their collective learning and future directions for the field.
Launched in 2015, the FLDC is a national effort to redesign family engagement in education for community wellbeing and justice by bringing together researchers, educators, families and communities. Early on, the Collaborative envisioned a transformative research-practice agenda for the field, and the project has since worked through partnerships to develop the practices, tools, and strategies to realize that vision.
Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, this third convening of the FLDC sought to cultivate solidarities amongst participants across different geographies and communities of color by engaging with each others’ practices and justice projects with nondominant families and communities.
With the help of master storytellers Roger Fernandes and Fern Renville, participants drew from Indigenous practices of storying to share and learn from each others’ lived experiences and co-design work. Participants represented a wide range of contexts — from New England to Los Angeles, from rural to urban settings, from public school systems to community organizing groups, and from Indigenous, African American, Latinx and Asian American communities. Across these multiple contexts, FLDC members shared their efforts to disrupt inequitable dynamics in schools and catalyze educational possibilities that build on families’ histories, epistemologies and lived experiences.
Participants also discussed cross-site findings from the multi-year FLDC project, including key principles for enacting family-centered design work, the multiple theories of change taken up by sites in their co-design with families and communities, and strategies for cultivating cross-geography solidarities in the work.
Workshops during the convening were led by local partners in Chicago (Global Indigeneity), Los Angeles (CADRE), Salt Lake City (University Neighborhood Partners) and Seattle (Southeast Seattle Education Coalition) who shared practices they developed in their local co-design partnerships, as well as lessons learned about centering families and communities in educational justice work. Listen to their comments below.
Executive director, American Indian Center, Chicago
Our work with the family leadership design circles has really been about finding ways to engage the Native community around this idea of how do we become good elders…. It’s very difficult to please everybody but when you find ways to connect people’s culture to their everyday lives or when you find ways to incorporate culture into different programs, that becomes the hook that really helps bridge that divide…. [P]eople become more receptive to sharing and engaging with one another and it becomes a way to not only teach, but be a fun way to bring the community together.
Executive director and co-founder, CADRE (Community Asset Development Redefining Education), Los Angeles
We have always taken our parents’ stories and turned [them] into theories, ideas, evidence, concepts that we would bring to the powers that be — to the school board, to our fellow allies — and reframe, if you will, what parents are going through so it’s not just an individual issue but it’s a systemic one and a structural one.… The benefit of this project has really been to valid and elevate the centering of families and the ability to connect people across the country and also connect community and academia.
Community engagement manager, Vietnamese Friendship Association, Seattle
We are working with students and families from over 30 different countries that speak 28 different languages that are spread out all over Seattle…. I’ve been in non-profit and education both professionally and personally for the past 20 years and I think this is a completely different way of doing community work in that we are partnering with organizations from other states. So in some regards you are the leader and [then] when you go to another state you go ‘Wow, we are way behind in what we do.’ So I think it gives us a fresh perspective in not being so siloed in our work here in Seattle but seeing the bigger picture on how we can make a bigger impact across the nation.
Community organizer and assistant partnership manager, University Neighborhood Partners, Salt Lake City
It’s easier said than done working in groups, moving from “I” to “we,” finding that middle ground to where we can move forward.… I feel that great things are going to happen but we all need patience and [remember] change doesn’t happen in one day.
Research assistant, University of Washington College of Education
What’s really struck me is that it’s a collective. It’s not an individual family, an individual community, but it’s really about how you build solidarity across different communities.… [T]here can be tensions and sometimes your progress in cultivating those just communities is not linear, so there are sometimes where you feel you’re going backwards instead of going forward, or sideways, and that’s OK because we’re in this together.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications