More Collaboration Profiles


  1. Collaboration Profiles
  2. Project U-Turn
  3. Project U-Turn

Project U-Turn

Lessons Learned

Learn more about the lessons that Project U-Turn has learned as they collaboratively work to alleviate the dropout crisis in Philadelphia.

Involve the right people

Project U-Turn has found that it is important not only to invite the right organizations to the table but to invite the right people from those organizations. To do this, they found that it was important to do the following:

  • Involve those with decision-making capabilities. This means that members are able to make decisions at the meeting without needing to receive approval from others within their organizations.
  • Include people who can bring resources including financial resources, in kind resources, and expertise to the collaboration.
  • Promote a collaborative mindset among members, so they can see themselves as part of something larger than their own body of work. The collaboration found that data can be used to drive the work strategically and help members understand what their roles are and how the collaboration’s goals and actions relate to their individual organizational goals.

Maintain a developmental trajectory for the partnership

Throughout the course of the collaboration, Project U-Turn has found that it is important to recognize where the collaboration is in the developmental process (e.g., laying the foundation, strategizing, or operationalizing and implementing), to recognize how that influences which partners, and which people should be involved.

Manage leadership transitions within and outside the partnership

During the course of the collaboration it is important to be able to manage transitions in leadership. Project U-Turn had to focus its efforts on getting the support of the newly elected mayor and superintendent as well as others in leadership positions. It found that leadership changes can dramatically change how partner organizations see themselves connected or not connected to work; therefore, it is important to make contingency plans for all shifts in leadership. To do this they found it is important to:

  • Have consistent partners. Partner with members that are committed to the work, are not politically appointed, and are able to weather the transitions.
  • Educate leadership. Meet with new leadership before they are elected, participate in the hiring process if possible, or meet with them early in their tenure to educate them about your work. Be aware of their agenda and understand how you might need to reframe your work to fit within their agenda.
  • Embed your work in systems’ workplans. Find a way to embed your work in systems’ workplans and make the collaboration’s goals something that is also their goal. For example, Project U-Turn was able to work with the juvenile justice system to illustrate the importance of education for youth involved in the system. Over time it has been able to see education issues take hold within the juvenile justice system.

Be flexible

One of the overarching lessons that the Project U-Turn collaboration has recognized is that while the goal of the collaboration never changes, the strategy used to reach the goal has to be fluid. It recognizes the need to be able to take advantage of new opportunities and adapt when it faces challenges. Project U-Turn found this need to adapt approaches throughout the process is one reason that having a strict MOU structure would not work. See Collaboration Structure for more about how the collaboration is structured to ensure flexibility.