An initial obstacle involved how the collaboration would be supported. Within a climate of significant spending cuts in LAUSD, board members were asking why money should be invested in a city location rather than a school location. Also, many of the schools were overwhelmed with pressures to improve test scores and other high-accountability tasks. It was therefore important for the staff heading the collaboration to share the research about this population and to communicate with the school board, the superintendent, and many people within the school district that it was necessary to do things differently and to base activities and programs on an understanding of the importance of reengaging students who were out of school and work.
Some EWDD/WIB stakeholders felt that LAUSD—being a billion dollar organization—didn’t really need the city’s help. However, others recognized that many of the youth who leave school do so because they either need or want to work. EWDD/WIB has unique services that can help them find an internship or other opportunities to work and earn money. Also, the vast majority of the resources that youth are referred to beyond the 16 YouthSource Centers are provided by LAUSD. An understanding of these benefits helped ease EWDD/WIB stakeholders’ initial concerns.
At the onset of the collaboration, it was sometimes a challenge to keep everyone focused on why the collaboration was important. Key stakeholders realized the importance of staying positive and focusing on what needed to get done. To address potential resistance, it was sometimes necessary to provide additional information to people who did not understand how the collaboration would work. It was occasionally necessary to work around people who were not yet on board, instead going to the people who would keep the collaboration moving forward and who believed in the work.
Whenever there is a systems change effort, small things arise (e.g., negotiating office space, figuring out who pays for office supplies). However, the small things tended to fall away after the stakeholders got to know one another and realized the multiple benefits of the collaboration.