Building Bridges, Not Walls: The Power of Culturally Affirming Community Engagement

Culturally Affirming Community Engagement

At EduSolve, we believe in the transformative power of education. But education doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It thrives on connection, understanding, and a deep appreciation for the diverse experiences our communities bring. That’s where culturally affirming community engagement comes in.

What is Culturally Affirming Community Engagement?

Culturally affirming community engagement goes beyond simply including diverse voices. It’s about creating spaces where those voices are truly heard, valued, and celebrated. It’s about fostering genuine partnerships between organizations and the communities they serve.

Here’s what that looks like in action:

  • Understanding the Landscape: Taking the time to learn about the unique cultural values, traditions, and communication styles within a community.
  • Building Trust: Approaching engagement with humility and a willingness to learn from community members.
  • Centering Community Assets: Recognizing and leveraging the strengths and expertise that already exist within the community.
  • Empowering Co-Creation: Collaborating with community members on solutions and initiatives that address their specific needs and aspirations.
  • Creating Safe Spaces: Ensuring that all voices feel respected and valued, regardless of background or experience.

Also Read:What Happens When a Child Lacks Social Emotional Development?

Why is Culturally Affirming Engagement Important?

The benefits of culturally affirming community engagement are far-reaching. Here are just a few:

  • Increased Participation: When communities feel seen and heard, they’re more likely to participate in initiatives that impact them.
  • Improved Outcomes: Programs and solutions designed with community input are more likely to be effective and sustainable.
  • Stronger Relationships: Building trust and collaboration fosters long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Empowerment: Community members gain a sense of ownership and agency in shaping their own future.

The Benefits of Culturally Affirming Community Engagement

The benefits of culturally affirming community engagement are manifold, extending to individuals, communities, and society as a whole. By fostering an environment where cultural diversity is celebrated and respected, we create spaces where people feel valued and empowered to fully participate in community life.

One of the key outcomes of culturally affirming engagement is increased trust and cooperation within communities. When individuals feel that their cultural identities are affirmed and respected, they are more likely to engage with others in meaningful dialogue and collaboration. This lays the groundwork for building strong, resilient communities that can address shared challenges and work towards common goals.

Furthermore, culturally affirming community engagement can lead to greater innovation and creativity. When people from diverse cultural backgrounds come together, they bring with them a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and perspectives. By tapping into this diversity, communities can generate fresh ideas and approaches to solving problems.

How Can You Get Started?

Culturally affirming community engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some initial steps to consider:

  • Conduct a Community Needs Assessment: Gather information from community members to understand their priorities and concerns.
  • Assemble a Diverse Advisory Board: Ensure your team reflects the makeup of the community you’re working with.
  • Invest in Cultural Competency Training: Equip your staff with the knowledge and skills to build strong relationships across cultures.
  • Develop Culturally Relevant Communication Strategies: Consider language preferences, communication styles, and preferred channels of communication.

Also Read: How to Teach Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in the Classroom?

Strategies for Culturally Affirming Community Engagement

So, how can communities foster a culture of cultural affirmation and inclusivity? Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Promote Cultural Awareness: Offer opportunities for community members to learn about different cultural traditions, histories, and perspectives. This could include cultural competency training, multicultural festivals, or community workshops.
  2. Facilitate Intercultural Dialogue: Create spaces for open and respectful dialogue between people from different cultural backgrounds. Encourage community members to share their stories, experiences, and ideas with one another.
  3. Support Culturally Responsive Programming: Ensure that community programs and services are designed with the needs and preferences of diverse cultural groups in mind. This might involve offering language interpretation services, culturally relevant programming, or outreach efforts targeted at specific cultural communities.
  4. Empower Marginalized Voices: Take proactive steps to amplify the voices of marginalized communities within decision-making processes. This could involve forming advisory councils or task forces comprised of representatives from diverse cultural backgrounds.
  5. Collaborate Across Sectors: Foster partnerships between community organizations, government agencies, businesses, and other stakeholders to address systemic issues affecting cultural equity and inclusion.

Building a Brighter Future, Together

Culturally affirming community engagement isn’t just about checking a box. It’s about fostering genuine connections and creating a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. By partnering with communities in a way that respects and celebrates their unique cultures, we can build a stronger, more inclusive society for all.

Ready to learn more about how EduSolve can help you implement culturally affirming community engagement practices? Contact us today!

Also Read: What is Strategic Management in Education?

Celebrating EduSolve’s Milestones: A Testament to Effective Community Collaboration

We are thrilled to announce significant milestones achieved by EduSolve, an organization dedicated to revolutionizing K-12 education through community collaboration. Under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Dana Godek, EduSolve has made remarkable strides in addressing educational challenges and enhancing the learning experience for students across various communities.

A Visionary Leader at the Helm

Dr. Dana Godek, an esteemed expert in educational policy, social wellness, and community engagement, has been the driving force behind EduSolve’s success. Her extensive experience and passion for education have enabled the organization to forge meaningful partnerships with local communities, ensuring that the solutions implemented are both effective and sustainable.

Key Achievements

  1. Collaborative Solutions for Educational Challenges EduSolve has excelled in identifying and addressing complex educational issues by working closely with community stakeholders. This approach has ensured that the solutions are tailored to the unique needs of each community, fostering a sense of ownership and active participation among all involved.
  2. Enhancing Educational Outcomes Through its innovative programs and initiatives, EduSolve has significantly improved educational outcomes for students. By focusing on both academic and social aspects of education, the organization has created a holistic learning environment that nurtures the overall development of students.
  3. Strengthening Community Engagement EduSolve’s commitment to community engagement has been a cornerstone of its success. By involving parents, educators, and local leaders in the decision-making process, the organization has built strong support networks that contribute to the continuous improvement of educational standards.
  4. Promoting Social Wellness Recognizing the critical link between education and social wellness, EduSolve has implemented programs that address the social and emotional needs of students. These initiatives have not only enhanced the learning experience but have also contributed to the overall well-being of the students and their families.

Looking Ahead

As we celebrate these achievements, EduSolve remains committed to its mission of transforming education through community collaboration. The organization continues to explore new avenues for partnership and innovation, ensuring that every child has access to quality education and the opportunity to thrive.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Dana Godek and all our partners for their unwavering support and dedication. Together, we are making a lasting impact on the future of education.

Stay tuned for more updates on our ongoing projects and initiatives. For more information about EduSolve and how you can get involved, visit our website or contact us directly.

Let’s continue to work together to create a brighter future for our children!

We invite you to join us in celebrating this momentous achievement and to support our ongoing efforts to enhance education through community collaboration. Your involvement can make a difference in the lives of countless students and their families. Thank you for being a part of our journey!

School closures – A cliff or a Mountain Range?

According to NCES national data, we are in the midst of a cliff. Not just the ESSER cliff when federal Covid-19 recovery dollars will come to an end. That is already confounding grants administration and grant compliance leaders. We are in the midst of an enrollment cliff and every single state is impacted. Axios reports that over 1 million students left public K12 last year. The most significant dips are in primary grades. Why does this matter? It’s a leading indicator for the next 10 years in terms of FTE and funding. 

Here are the deets:

  • Prekindergarten and Kindergarten: 13 percent decrease
  • Grades 1 to 8: 3 percent decrease
  • Grades 9 to 12: 0.4 percent increase

State Summary:

  • Mississippi and Vermont had the largest percent declines (5 percent), and Washington, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Maine also had declines of 4 percent or more.
  • 18 states had declines of 3 percent or more.
  • 29 states had declines between 1 percent and 2.99 percent.
  • The District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Utah had changes in enrollment of less than 1 percent.

Why is this happening?

  1. Demographic Changes: Changes in birth rates, population migration patterns, and overall population growth can directly impact school enrollments. If there are fewer children being born or families are moving away from a particular region, it can lead to decreased enrollment.
  2. Private Schools: The growth of private schools can draw students away from public schools, leading to a decrease in enrollment. Families with resources reentered schooling post-pandemic by choosing private over public schools.
  3. Homeschooling: Homeschooling has become an increasingly popular choice for some families, particularly in situations where parents feel they can provide a more tailored education or have concerns about the quality of public schooling. The availability of online education and remote learning options might attract students who find this approach more flexible or suitable for their needs.
  4. Economic Factors: Economic downturns have led to families relocating due to job changes or financial instability, which can impact enrollment numbers. In some cases, families might also need to move to areas with lower costs of living, which could influence their schooling choices.
  5. Demographic Shifts: Changes in the composition of the population can result in declining enrollment.
  6. Policy Changes: Changes in education policies, such as changes to attendance zones, school funding, or curriculum standards, can influence families’ decisions regarding public school enrollment.

These shifts have various implications for public school superintendents. Consider Anchorage where FTE and funding have hit the community hard. The Superintendent made a heartfelt case to the community, who accepted the changes with bittersweet courage. Denver schools are using a constituent committee to explore options and make recommendations to their school board. San Antonio has mapped out the case for enrollment declines positioning parents as partners in the new reality.

EduSolve worked with multiple district leaders to organize a self-checkfor executive leadership to help them get ready for potential closures and the road ahead.

One thing is clear in the immediate, potential budget cuts, resource reallocation, and changes in staffing are only a few of the new strategies that will be necessary in the coming years as school closures become part of the norm.

Rainy Days and Mondays

Tax revenue in states outperformed their pre-pandemic growth trajectory in most states. That’s good; right? Maybe. Consider that annual revenue growth rates continue to slow and is on track for negative growth by the close of FY23 and into FY24 when Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funding will all but dry up.

The cut-off from COVID-19 federal investments and weak economy are creating a perfect storm for shortfall in state and local public education agencies1.

Many states experienced tax revenue gains for the second year in a row in fiscal 2022, but annual growth rates cooled when compared with the record pace set in the previous fiscal year. What feels like a surplus now will feel very different as slow growth intersects with the end of federal budget subsidies. The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) reports rainy day fund balances continued to grow in fiscal 2022 after increasing 58% in fiscal 2021, and the median balance as a share of general fund spending is projected to be 12% in fiscal 2023.

The rainy day for most states may be upon us as NASBO is also anticipating a 3.1% annual decline in general fund revenue amid weakening economic conditions. This decline will hit the coffers of local school districts and schools hard in FY25.

So What?

School funding is a blend of federal, state, and local dollars. Local funding largely comes from property taxes. Formula federal money typically targets low-income students or other distinct groups and has steep compliance requirements that will reactivate once ESSER ends. State funding is where things get complicated, and states will need to get thrifty.

What should school districts do?

  1. Recognize states may adjust their public education funding formula. All but four states have a fixed formula that hasn’t been adjusted in the current economy. Connect your legislative agenda to preserve or increase the formula now, before the conversations start without you.
  2. Conduct a first wave of cuts using creative approaches like shortened instructional staff annual calendars or shortened school weeks.
  3. Consider step-back planning now to proactively budget for the eventuality of the end of ESSER.
  4. Prioritize ROI and LOI based on which investments produced the greatest yield.
  5. Save the people = hiring talent is particularly tricky in the public education sector now, so retain staff, but realize that federal compliances on qualified and certified requirements kick in as soon as 18 months from now.

The plan to step back from big budgets is becoming more and more critical as annual revenue growth rates respond to a slowing economy.

Now is the time to prepare for the rainy day before the bell on Monday.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Public School Revenue Sources. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from