The JPA and the Urban Leaders Fellowship: Mentorship in Policy and Practice

The JPA was pleased to welcome Bianca Shiu as their 2019 Urban Leaders Fellow. She was selected to work with Education, one of the JPA's five critical Impact Table areas. The Impact Table work being done in the areas of health, education, wealth, housing, safety, informs the JPA's systems change recommendations which are focused on improving outcomes for Oakland's children, youth and families experiencing the highest disparities. Here are the goals of each of the Impact Tables:

  • Health - Children and youth are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy.
  • Education - Children and youth thrive in school and are prepared for college, career, and community success.
  • Wealth - Families are economically stable and youth succeed after high school.
  • Housing - Families have quality, affordable, stable housing.
  • Safety - Families live in safe, vibrant communities.

The JPA employs a collective impact approach in their government and community partnerships to amplify systems change. After much work in their respective areas, the Impact Tables started assessing points where they could begin to align their data to tell a bigger story. Chronic Absence (CA) was an area of signficance that surfaced, and the Education Impact Table was tasked with reporting to the JPA on the scope of this problem. One of the discussions covered the opportunities for collective impact to address CA. Bianca was given the task of assembling a case study and interviewed several systems leaders, gathering their insights on operationalizing collective impact in their organizations. At the conclusion of her seven-week fellowship, she shared some of her impressions:

  • Why did you choose the Urban Leaders Fellows Program over others? Please say a little about how your goals and background contributed to this choice and direction? What are your plans after you complete this fellowship?
  • As a middle school teacher in East Oakland, I see on a day-to-day basis just how important it is to support our children, and I truly believe that our youth are the city's most valuable assets. I chose to do the Urban Leaders Fellow program because I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how citywide policies, specifically policies that impact my students, are decided on and implemented. Now that the fellowship is over, I have returned to the classroom to continue empowering Oakland's youth to advocate for themselves.
  • Describe your fellowship project with the JPA and deliverables.
  • During my time with the JPA, I wrote a case study on how to effectively operationalize collective impact in order to inform the JPA’s work as it transitions to the Oakland Thrives Leadership Council. By interviewing five collective impact initiatives located domestically and abroad, I gleaned best practices and insights around key areas including governance, funding, and community engagement. This case study was sent to impact table co-chairs and project managers to inform their input on the upcoming transition.
  • What was the most unexpected or surprising thing you discovered from this experience, and how has this affected the way you view the policy process, including the pre-policy work?
  • I realized how important it is to have systems and processes in place, especially for larger organizations. While it seems intuitive that more people means more power, having a big group can overcomplicate and slow down the work unless there are established working agreements.
  • The mission of the JPA is to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families experiencing the greatest disparities in the City of Oakland. Given your experience here, what do you believe a child, youth, or family needs to be whole and healthy from a high-level systems perspective?
  • Our youth need access to the resources that allow them to focus on being the best versions of themselves. It's hard to be the best version of yourself when you're hungry. It's hard to be the best version of yourself when you don't have a home. It's hard to be the best version of yourself when you have to walk around with your guard up all the time. Our kids need to know that they matter, and they know they matter when they see the city investing in them and their future. They need to have their basic needs met, and they need to have opportunities to explore what makes them come alive.
  • What advice would you give or what would you say to inspire someone thinking of serving in government or some aspect of public policy work?
  • Making systems-level changes can be slow, but it's not impossible. People created systems, so people can change systems. You just have to find the right people to reimagine and create with.

The JPA thanks Bianca Shiu for her service and wishes her the best for any endeavors she may undertake!

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