Need: In a recent survey, 63% of state education agency (SEA) respondents stated their current communication plan on key reform issues needs improvement. Since SEAs are responsible for engaging support from all key stakeholders in complex decision-making for students, care must be taken with how communication is delivered within and outside the organizations.
Support Strategy: In response to this need, the Central Comprehensive Center (C3) and South Central Comprehensive Center (SC3) at the University of Oklahoma began a collaborative effort to build and sustain strategic communications processes for SEAs to communicate effectively with stakeholders to support educational initiatives, policies, and practices. The goals of this collaborative effort are to increase effectiveness of SEA communications plans and processes, broaden support for education reform priorities in each SEA, enhance stakeholder input into state education initiatives, and sustain education reform initiatives. Collaborative members include the Central, South Central, Great Lakes, Midwest, Northwest, and Southeast Comprehensive Centers, as well as the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center.
As part of a broader strategic communications initiative, C3 and SC3 facilitated a convening with the collaborative members, centers, and SEAs on July 1-2, 2015, entitled, “Strategic Communication: Navigating Policy and Politics in a Competing Information Environment.” Over 70 participants including leaders from 14 different SEAs, representatives from 11 Comprehensive Centers, and communication experts shared best practices and lessons learned. Participants also examined vital communication areas such as leadership and politics; policy and implementation; internal and external dissemination; stakeholder involvement and support; message refinement; and strategies SEAs should use to align communication processes with priorities.
“The ‘nuggets’ of information shared by presenters and colleagues attending the conference were invaluable, and I look forward to building on ideas,” said an SC3 SEA participant. “Thank you for making this event possible. Feel like I’ve gained more in the past 24 hours than I have in the past two years,” said a C3 SEA participant.
Next Steps: Initiative plans include another convening in 2016 and a Community of Learners to be developed among SEA communications and policymaking leaders. The Appalachia Regional, North Central, and Texas Comprehensive Centers have also joined the collaborative. C3 and SC3 continue to work with SEA leadership to provide support for establishing sustainable processes and strategic communications plans, specific to each state in their regions. The long-term outcome is that SEAs will use more effective communication to support reform initiatives, meaningful practices, and policy changes with stakeholder support. Once strong processes are in place for strategic communications, SEAs will be better positioned to have greater success with implementation and sustainability.
Additional strategic communications resources will be available Spring/Summer 2016; materials, presentations, and videos from the July 2015 convening can be found at www.sc3ta.org/events/StratCom15.html or www.c3ta.org/events/StratCom15.html.