Two years ago, GO’s board selected me to follow Jonathan Klein as the organization’s second Chief Executive Officer and its first BIPOC and female CEO. The last two years have been challenging, but it has been an incredible experience learning together how to achieve impact as we navigated through a global pandemic and GO’s first CEO transition simultaneously.
I am so incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished over these last two years while we also took time to reflect on our last decade and a half of impact and began strategic planning. From passing a joint board resolution for the equitable expansion of dual enrollment in Fresno (a resolution recently shared by Ed Trust-West as an exemplar for other communities) to the passage of Measure S and expanding the right to vote in Oakland, to launching our first org-wide campaign with the Parent’s Guide to Financial Aid series (A Parent’s Guide to Financial Aid|A Parent’s Guide to College Conversations) — we have both leveraged longstanding GO tactics and developed new approaches to the work that are well-suited to the years ahead, like our new Guide to Special Education written by West Contra Costa families and organization-wide learning journeys to build understanding of complex education topics. It’s these new approaches and GO’s strategic priorities that bring me to your inbox today.
I am delighted to share with you GO’s Strategic Plan, which we finalized at the end of 2022 and have been working to implement internally over the last few months. This plan will guide GO into its next chapter, one in which we hope to increase our impact and work toward the ambitious growth targets – doubling the number of students served over the next 3-5 years.
As part of implementation, our c3 and c4 boards came together this past January for their annual joint retreat to consider the future and a variety of paths forward. We reflected on our current strengths (our frameworks, our network, our infrastructure) as well as our desire to answer the call to expand our impact to more communities and to enact change at the state level. After a thoughtful discussion, following 18 months of strategic planning, the board accepted the recommendation that GO shift to a Regional Cluster model in which we will maintain community leadership teams in our existing locals and prepare to add community leadership teams in other interested communities.
I am beyond excited to lead the organization as we implement this transformational strategy and prepare to broaden our impact across the state. Clusters will be grouped by geography and led by a regional director or managing director depending on their size and complexity. Our first two clusters will be the East Bay (made up of Oakland and West Contra Costa) and the Southern Central Valley (currently composed of Fresno with pilot programming in surrounding communities).
We have also begun building a Local Impact Team. This team will consist of content experts who will support cluster leaders and community leadership teams. Creating this new Local Impact Team will help to ensure that we remain committed to our grassroots impact in communities while we continue to pursue our state-level work and support more sustainability for staff, which are both priorities of our strategic plan. This approach also creates more consistency and coordination throughout the organization, which increases our collective power.
I’m excited to announce that Natalie Walchuk, West Contra Costa’s founding Executive Director, will be promoted to Vice President of Local Impact when she returns from her sabbatical in August. She will manage cluster leaders as well as the functional leads on the Local Impact Team, and she’ll serve as a thought partner to me on organizational strategy. I’m excited for this partnership because of all the ways that Natalie and I complement each other as leaders and humans in this work. Her laser focus on family voice and local communities coupled with my passion and expertise on state policy are a personification of GO’s new impact model. As Bay Area and Central Valley kids, we are able to bring an authentic and balanced lens to our Northern California strategy.
Natalie and I are excited to continue collaborating and to bring our grittiness, our passion for results, our willingness to roll up our sleeves, and our determination to stick with the hard, not-always-fun parts of this work in pursuit of better opportunities for our students and families. We are also looking forward to welcoming a Managing DIrector of Strategy, Talent, and Operations to our senior leadership team in the fall.
The movement to Regional Clusters is exciting for so many reasons, but I want to highlight just a few of them for you:
We’re showcasing what we’re good at. Through the process of refreshing our strategic plan, we’ve gotten clear on where we are strongest. At the local level, that is building and amplifying the leadership of families and making information accessible and actionable for the community. At the state-level, coalition based work is our sweet spot and allows us to infuse family voice into critical tables of power.
Organizing ourselves in this way allows us to create economies of scale so that we can continue to serve our current communities while also answering the call of communities that have wanted GO’s support for many years. By 2025, we plan to add 1-2 additional geographic clusters to our portfolio. We are currently working to greenlight the first of these clusters in the Northern Central Valley. This growth is especially exciting for me because it is both the region where I grew up and the place where drafts of GO’s current vision and growth strategy were penned in the early days of the pandemic. This region is home to more than 100,000 students enrolled in priority districts within Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Merced counties.
Creating regional clusters allows us to support aligned short-term campaigns and projects where GO’s infrastructure and expertise can help families accelerate and amplify their impact locally without needing to spend the time setting up their own 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4). We’re excited to partner with communities that would like to try this approach in their cities.
Two years ago, as I became GO’s Chief Executive Officer, I asked you for your patience as we began writing GO’s next chapter and developing our path forward. I have so much gratitude for the many many hours of Zoom calls, coffee meetings, phone conversations, focus groups, emails, and survey responses that helped us arrive at today. When I introduced myself to you in 2021, I invited you to continue with us on this journey. Thank you for accepting that invitation! And now, as we officially launch the first full fiscal year of our new strategic plan, I hope that you’ll continue to join us and support us as we bring our new cluster strategy to life.
P.S. We’re hiring! To fuel our shift to the cluster model we’ll be looking for staff at all levels. Check our careers page for opportunities to join our team. The next rolling deadline for our Managing Director of Strategy, Talent, and Operations role is Wednesday, July 12th.
P.P.S. National Parent’s Day is July 23, 2023. Watch your inbox for details on how you can support GO’s family and parent programming in the new school year.