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Project U-Turn

Read the Project U-Turn Collaboration Profile


Project U-Turn began in 2004-2005 as a city-wide collaborative to address the dropout crisis in Philadelphia. As of 2011, Project U-Turn has representatives from over 50 organizations, including the school district, city agencies, foundations, youth-serving organizations, universities, parents, and young people. By identifying and examining the problem, promoting the crisis as a system-wide issue rather than an education issue, involving and sustaining a diverse array of partners, and working to both prevent students from dropping out as well as re-engage those who have already dropped out, the collaboration has achieved a number of key accomplishments and has been able to grow through its best practices and lessons learned.

Project U-Turn’s collaborative structure includes the following:

  • A flexible arrangement with no Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or rules of engagement
  • A consistent and sustained collaboration membership
  • Regularly scheduled monthly meetings and pre-meetings, as necessary
  • A workplan developed and updated every two years
  • Key priorities that are identified every six months to ensure flexibility
  • Strategic funding decisions

The collaboration’s best practices include:

  • Being able to support the Philadelphia Youth Network to work as an intermediary
  • Building relationships and trust
  • Providing funds to partners to ensure sustainability
  • Linking funds to the workplan and identifying partners to pursue or receive funds
  • Conducting a needs assessment
  • Sharing data

The collaboration learned these lessons:

  • Involve the right people who have decision making capabilities, resources, and a collaborative mindset
  • Recognize where the collaboration is on a developmental trajectory
  • Manage leadership transitions within and outside the partnership by educating new leaders, having consistent partners, and embedding its work within the work of different systems
  • Be flexible and willing to adapt as needed

Additional key resources and information about the collaboration: Project U-Turn Resources