Strengthening and Transforming ESL Programs through Community Networks

Hello colleagues,

Next week begins a 3-day discussion about how engagement in the Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative has strengthened and transformed its participating ESL programs. In this “pre-discussion” message, I want to introduce you to the initiative so that next week’s contributors can focus on sharing their terrific work and what they have learned from this project over the last two years.

Networks for Integrating New Americans is an initiative to support the economic, civic, and linguistic integration of immigrants and refugees by strengthening local community networks that coordinate their efforts toward this goal. More specifically, the goals of the Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative are to strengthen adult education programs’ ability to do the following by working in collaboration with local partners: 1) improve immigrants’ access to effective and innovative English language programs; 2) support immigrants on the path to citizenship; and 3) support immigrants’ career development through training and education.  To advance these goals, the project provides technical assistance, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) and led by World Education and its partners: IMPRINT, National Partnership for New Americans, Welcoming America, Network Impact, Inc., and Community Science. You can read more about the initiative on our project page.

All around the country, networks made up of varied community organizations and stakeholders, including ESL programs, are collaborating in order to build a more seamless system of services, create new opportunities for newcomers, and foster more welcoming communities. ESL programs play a key role in these networks by educating partners about the educational needs of newcomers, and by collaborating with local stakeholders to more effectively help immigrants and established residents live, work, and learn together. Next week’s discussion will offer many examples of this. 

On Monday, the project’s technical advisor on network development, Madeleine Taylor of Network Impact, will describe the key elements of networks, the promise they hold for advancing social change and collective impact, and how they advance the work adult educators do to support immigrant integration. Immigrant integration is a dynamic, two-way process in which immigrants and the receiving society work together to build secure, vibrant, and cohesive communities. The initiative uses organizational networks as the primary vehicle for promoting immigrant integration because when organizations in the immigrant and receiving communities are collaborating and aligned, they are able to mobilize both communities to address common needs, share their unique strengths, and find a constructive path through times of transition.

On the subsequent days, ESL leaders from three of the five participating networks will describe the work of their networks, how it has impacted the way they define and carry out their ESL work, and what the challenges have been. The five networks are located in Boise (ID), Providence (RI), Lancaster (PA), Central Valley (CA), and White Center (WA). We hope you’ll join us!

Andy Nash, TA Coordinator

Networks for Integrating New Americans

World Education

Comments

If you want to go quickly, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

                                                      African proverb

 

Increasing numbers of change agents - nonprofit organizations as well as funders and social entrepreneurs - are building networks for the purpose of achieving outcomes together, especially when what is involved are challenges that are too complex for individual organizations to address alone.  These change agents, including ESL program leaders, can now tap into a growing body of knowledge designed to help them be more intentional and deliberate in their network building. Most nonprofit organizations have experience with partnerships or coalitions. What is new is that investment in the design, launch, management, and evaluation of social impact networks has led to an expanded understanding of how to build and use networks most effectively. 

 

An important characteristic of social impact networks is that they assemble individuals and/or organizations as equal partners to advance a social change agenda through mutually reinforcing activities. One of the greatest advantages of network organizing is to increase impact through peer-based collaboration, where each member contributes its unique strengths and partners with others who bring complementary capacities. For example, in the Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative, ESL providers have joined with libraries, colleges, employers, refugee resettlement agencies, housing agencies, and many other stakeholders to bring their collective knowledge and resources to the challenge of immigrant integration.

 

Another key advantage of networks is that they can, and often do, produce many types of value. Each of the following benefits is potentially relevant to ESL programs and community efforts to support the linguistic, civic and economic integration of immigrants and refugees. Effective network organizing can: increase individual member capacity through peer learning and exchange; build visibility through coordinated outreach; surface innovative solutions to a shared problem; spread new ideas and practices widely; and increase social impact by coordinating varied types of activity from service delivery to policy change. The five diverse networks that are supported through the Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative aim to capture some of these advantages by network organizing in a systematic and deliberate way.  For example, four adult education agencies in Providence, Rhode Island, have instituted a system of cross-referrals and are strengthening their individual organizations by sharing lessons related to evaluation and staffing. The Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative in California has fostered ties between the ESL providers and other key stakeholders, including unions and community-based organizations, to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. In Pennsylvania, members of the Lancaster County Refugee Coalition offer training for volunteer ESL teachers who work independently and are working to align ESL services within broader career pathways initiatives.

 

Network building for social impact has evolved into a distinct field with an emerging set of best practices.  Key insights from network science and from seasoned network practitioners are now available on websites and in publications that include the following:

 

Tomorrow we’ll hear about what a network approach looks like, concretely, as networks work to advance immigrant integration, and how working together actually strengthens the individual ESL providers.

When working on issues around trauma caused by partner violence and/or immigration and other political violences, I spent time in meetings with child welfare providers, trying to understand how they viewed their relationships with immigrant and refugee women whose children were removed from houses because of perceptions of 'unfit' parenting.   I was hoping to see all of the ways in which immigrant/refugee women were touched by/came into contact with a web of providers exactly so that we (providers) could learn from and with one another as well as with 'clients' , 'students', 'participants',   An example of how this collaboration played out:  I would do a literacy scan - looking for print, calendars, common literacy-print items in houses to get a sense of how/when/where people used print in their every day lives. Child protective providers looked for milk in the fridge, bleach in the cupboard.   Shared constituencies, different lenses. Image removed.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. This seems like a highly innovative approach. Very client-centered. Even ethnographic. I am an anthropologist by training and appreciate your attention to discovering what immmigrant and refugee women may need based on what you observe in addition to what you learn from formal interviews or surveys.  I'd be curious to know if this approach is leading to more or better collaboration among providers, e.g., cross-referrals.

In response to Network Organizing for Collective Impact, I just wanted to share that our CVIIC network in the central valley is meeting to develop a plan for a new funding opportunity in California which requires collaboration in order to receive the funding support. The focus of the funding is Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is well known in our central valley, that no one agency can do all the work. We need each other's expertise and experience in legal services, education and outreach services, and administrative and organizing services. Also, recently, on a webinar the Networks for Integrating New Americans group learned that United Way is specifically looking for collaborative groups and networks to fund rather than single organizations. In California, adult education programs are required to join a regional effort in order to receive state funding for adult non-credit programs including ESL, ABE, and ASE. More funding sources are requiring collaborations and networks to gain the collective impact they can offer.

Lisa Agao’s post:

Fresno Adult School has strengthened our programs significantly through our Central Valley networks including Citizenship Academy and Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative. Collectively, the network partners recognize that the vitality and health of our Central Valley is, in fact, dependent upon the degree to which immigrant integration is supported and celebrated.

Our movement toward networking began in 2012 with the initiation of our USCIS grant. As part of the USCIS grant requirements Fresno Adult School needed a BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals) accredited partner with expertise in legal assistance to support the ESL/Citizenship adult school program. A local law school provided that expertise and partnered with the adult school to increase our students’ services with free legal assistance.

The partnership between the adult school and the law school expanded to include other agencies also interested in immigrant integration. The Citizenship Academy network was able to host a USCIS citizenship oath ceremony at California State University, Fresno in June, 2015. This event received the attention of not only the ethnic media, but also our local mainstream news media including the local paper and local TV affiliate for ABC.  Approximately 200 new citizens were sworn in with close to 800 people in attendance. Immigrant stories were filmed. Fresno Adult School’s student project on famous immigrants was on display. This event would not have been so successful without the partnerships of our state university, national voter registration organization, immigrant rights organizations and the library.  

The CVIIC network provides support for public policy that affects our immigrant community. This network includes many of the same partners mentioned above and many more. Unions, ethnic media, private attorneys, and community based organizations joined forces initially to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. This work has expanded to include collaborative efforts to support citizenship.

CVIIC also hosts immigrant training events led by political and public service leaders, educational leaders, and law and policy experts.  Immigration reform and all things related to immigrant integration are discussed at training events.  Fresno Adult School’s principal was one of the featured panelists at a recent convening. The training offered by CVIIC is important to the network partners so we are all aware of current laws and policies and their effects on immigrants in our community. Services can be adjusted to better meet immigrants’ needs and agencies can better communicate about negative or unintended consequences of policies and advocate for change as needed.

In summary, Fresno Adult School has both contributed to and been strengthened by our participation in networks. We recognize the central role and responsibility that adult education should take in community networks.

Having worked with you and some of your immigrant integration colleagues, Lisa, I appreciate the ESOL perspective you bring to the effort.  There are many immigrant integration and rights networks in the U.S., but connecting those efforts to the ESOL classroom and instruction is not nearly as common. It truly takes extra effort to design ESOL lessons that reflect themes like DACA or stories of ordinary and famous immigrants and that are CCR and CASAS-aligned so that teachers can use. Maybe you can share the Cesar Chavez Day lessons you developed that were used school-wide? 

In response to Silja's question about Cesar Chavez Day lessons: Our Central Valley partners in our network have worked together to create both new projects to celebrate, such as Welcoming America and the Citizenship Oath ceremony, and to strengthen existing annual projects that have already been established such as the Cesar E. Chavez day of celebration that occurs in March. The Chavez Day includes an essay contest. However, in order to better align to College and Career Readiness Standards and Common Core State Standards, the essay contest requires students to read complex text (scaffolded as necessary for ESL and ABE learners) and pull out evidence for one particular core value that Cesar Chavez exhibited in his own life. The  students then write about that core value with evidence from the text and then reinforce that argument for that core value from evidence in their own lives. Many of our students across all programs are immigrants themselves or know immigrants in their families. Students, even from Southeast Asia and other countries, have many personal experiences to connect to Chavez' life. The Central Valley network partners who are from across agencies were readers of the essay contest for the adult education level. Network partners followed a grading rubric established not just for the adult school program, but for the entire school district through a Chavez planning committee. Winners were selected by the network and were honored with small scholarships and certificates awarded during the district-wide celebration at a large media-covered event. The activities connected to Chavez Day were also shared with another AEFLA funded agency in our network who also had their own Chavez Day celebration. So in summary, together we share our resources and support both existing efforts that the adult school is already engaged in as well as new efforts. We share our resources and lesson materials with each other within the network to increase students' academic achievement. In addition, our schoolwide events are often connected to community fairs that bring our network partners to the adult school for a day so that our students are connected to resources and civic engagement activities such as signing up for voter registration and obtaining library cards. 

 

uscitizenpod.com: Cesar Chavez and Civil Rights (USCIS 100:51)
http://media.libsyn.com/media/uscitizenpod/20100331.mp3

uscitizenpod.com: Citizenship Quiz in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 to Oct 15) http://goo.gl/B3ndWa

ElCivics.com: Cesar Chavez Day
http://www.elcivics.com/cesar-chavez.html

ListenAndReadAlong: Biography - CC - Cesar Chavez - Hero of the Migrant Farm Workers Labor Union
http://youtu.be/pp0XIH4tVKE

cde.ca.gov: César E. Chávez
http://chavez.cde.ca.gov/ModelCurriculum/Intro.aspx

There are 5 national networks connected to the Networks for Integrating New Americans. So, after listening to the other networks and their projects, I realize that the Central Valley network could really use more employers. We are very focused on literacy skills, Citizenship and DACA, and community engagement projects that connect our students to the community (resources).  Some of the other networks are really focusing on connecting immigrants to employment, especially highly skilled immigrants who just need additional language skills and the equivalent certification to get connected to jobs. Down the road, we need to engage local employers more. Thank you for that question!

Lisa

Glad to be part of this discussion and happy to have the opportunity to share information about our WeRI network and I'm happy to answer questions or provide more information.

Over the past four years, four adult education agencies located in Providence, RI, have been meeting to coordinate our services, share best practices and learn together as we face new challenges such as staffing, funding, performance outcomes, etc.  We came together because through our own relationships with each other we knew that we shared similar philosophies -- listening to and putting students first, working together is better than alone, empowering students and staff is critical, and more.  We all serve ESL learners at various levels.  We shared data, referred students to each other, exchanged lesson plans and spent a lot of time brainstorming ways that working together would strengthen each of us individually and collectively.

With our acceptance as a NINA network site, we named ourselves the “WeRIN” network – a name with many meanings.  As we met over Friday potlucks, we began to understand each other’s agencies much more – from how a public housing authority operates an adult education program, to a non-profit participatory English language program that links language learning, leadership development and community-building, to a labor workplace-based, and community-based that offers an adult education program to a collaborative of public libraries that runs a continuum of adult education services. We knew our educational and employment outcomes were among the best in the state and we sought to enhance economic integration for our students and move our network development to the next level.

Over the past two years, we have had some highs and lows.  Our public housing partner had to suspend their membership with WeRIN due to significant staff changes but they are slowly coming back into the fold.  We considered adding new partners to WeRIN but have at this point decided to wait until our own goals are more defined.  We can see a level of auxiliary member to our network as being an effective strategy.

However, what is most striking as a result of involvement with NINA is our move from I to We in all that we do.  At the ground level, this has meant using the same registration form, coordinating classes so that together two of the agencies serve the full continuum of ESL classes in both the morning and night, discussing shared students’ progress, holding joint registrations, sharing a waitlist, and more.  One agency has obtained grant funding to offer a class for another member’s  students.  We have realized that we each have our own extensive networks and we have tapped into those networks for the good of WeRIN. 

Our next steps are to learn together as a network to engage with employers and communicate the expertise in ESL that we have to offer.  We are excited about our future, together.

Thanks, Karisa, for giving such a clear picture of what coordination among ESL providers might look like ("holding joint registrations" was a new idea for me!). Can you say more about how you're deciding the members of your network? I see you mention possible "auxiliary members." What are those and how would they be different from the core members? And are you considering bringing in members that are not ESL providers in order to better coordinate with other groups focused on immigrant integration?

Through some trials and tribulations, we have agreed that "bigger isn't necessarily better".  We had phases in our development where we thought we needed to add many new members but I think we are on the right path now where we have our original core members and have really worked to strengthen who we are and our mission in working together.  We are being very strategic in considering anyone to add to our core but we felt much more empowered when we realized that there can be different levels of membership in our network.   I'm not sure who we may want to add to the core in the short term future but I think this will emerge organically.  What we have realized is that we each have networks that we can tap into much deeper and access for our WeRI work and we haven't yet maximized that avenue. 

Thank you Andy, Madeleine, Lisa and Karisa – great discussion! I live and work Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, located in the south/central region of the state with a population of 500,000. Currently, Lancaster County resettles more refugees than other region in Pennsylvania, resettling between 400 and 600 families each year. Many of these families make Lancaster County their permanent home.

Lancaster County is well know for it large population of old order Amish and Mennonite communities and for its high quality farmland. What many people don’t know about Lancaster County is its strong manufacturing base with many employment opportunities for a wide range of skill levels. It is also a community in which working collaboratively is highly valued. 

About four years ago, the refugee resettlement organizations and a local college collaborated to discuss strategies for how to improve services and outcomes for resettled families. This meeting led to the first community conference on refugee resettlement. The conference focused on issues that new arrivals face and led to the establishment of our network – The Lancaster County Refugee Coalition.

Key members of the network were identified and work groups were established. One of the most active work groups was the Adult ESL Work Group. Members of the workgroup included staff members from the two AEFLA funded agencies and volunteer ESL teachers from a variety of churches and nonprofit organizations. This work group transformed our ESL services by connecting providers, aligning our services and producing new classes and training opportunities.

The group got off to a rough start and attempted to create new programs rather than align existing resources and services. Eventually, the network found its footing and began to focus on strategies for connecting providers to each other so that they can share important information; align services to promote access to all levels of services with ease of flow between providers; and finally, to produce high quality training to ESL volunteer teachers who are working independently in their communities.

The ESL Work Group of our network meets monthly. Most meetings include professional development for ESL teachers. As a result of our network, we now have a list of all ESL programs throughout the county. We have a central hub for independent volunteer programs to access resources, technical assistance and training. One of the new ways that our ESL Work Group has connected is to match new and inexperienced volunteer teachers with experienced teachers. This has been a very successful model. New teachers can observe an experienced teacher, get help with curriculum and resources and have a mentor to get ongoing support.

We have a lot more work to do in aligning ESL services to not only the varying levels of instruction but also to the places that our students will transition – employers, job training providers and post-secondary education. Our current work is focusing on career pathway strategies for ELL’s. Next steps will be to engage employers and training providers in order to better align instruction. Our goals for the ESL Work Group are:

  1. Design an open enrollment ESL class for new arrivals
  2. Create a structure for every refugee to access and participate in ESL classes

Another way our network has strengthened our ESL programs is that it has enabled us to secure collective impact funding from our local United Way for ESL instruction. We would not have been able to access this funding as individual agencies.

Visit out website at http://www.lancasterrefugees.org

Cheryl, thanks for describing the ways ESL providers have come together to help each other develop professionally and to design new services. You talked about the way you collaborate as ESL providers, but I know that your network includes refugee resettlement agencies and other organizations as well. Can you talk about how you are working across agencies to plan ways to better integrate refugees in Lancaster?

And I'd like to ask all of you (Cheryl, Lisa, and Karisa) if you could say something about the difference between a one-project collaboration with partners and a long-term network that's in it for the longer haul. Why not just come together around individual funded projects?

Andy – yes – our network is comprised of a variety of social service providers including two refugee resettlement organizations, health care providers, a school district and a college with a mission to improve refugee integration in Lancaster County by empowering the community to incorporate refugees into social services and community systems. Collectively, we are working to improve economic and civic integration, too. In terms of economic integration, our resettlement organizations have employment programs that provide job readiness instruction and mentoring coupled with a large network of employer partners. We have done a good job connecting new arrivals to entry-level jobs and now we are working to connect immigrants and refugees to career pathways that provide access to jobs that pay a living wage. As far as civic integration, our newly opened community school is providing opportunities for refugees and immigrants to connect to their children’s school and to meet people in the community. We are also exploring a formal training for community health workers for immigrants and refugees who have obtained English language proficiency so that they can become helpers to both new arrivals and to folks who are struggling. 

In response to the question of networking for the sake of a common goal vs. networking for the sake of funding - I would say that funders are looking for authentic collaborations that have come together with a common purpose and collective goals and not collaborations that have come together to meet the requirements of a funder. Our network has been meeting for the last four years and we would continue to meet with or without funding because of the value our network brings to each of the members. Sustainable networks and organizations put the mission first and find ways to fund the work that moves toward mission fulfillment. We are in this for the long haul - as Madeleine's reference to the African proverb states, if you want to get there fast, go alone - if you want to go further, go together. 

 

Appreciate your question Andy about networks working on one project vs. a longer term working relationship and also wouldn't have thought I would have said this years ago but our WeRI work is much larger and more important than one shot opportunities just to obtain funding.  I have two comments about this.  First, I believe our entire NINA project has come to recognize that working on a common project is very useful for a network but it must be grounded in a common purpose and commitment to ongoing work.  Our WeRI network was stumbling for a bit but was very much reinvigorated when we rallied around a common project, in our case, the ALL Access project (www.allaccessri.org) where we found multiple ways to work together.  Second, as we experienced both small and large successes and worked through challenges, our core members now truly don't think about a grant opportunity or solving a problem in terms of what's in it for the individual member but rather what's in it for WeRI.  This is one of the first times that I have ever thought in working with others in this way but knowing that WeRI has a common purpose (how to best serve students) and our developed trust is very empowering.

Could you say more about the United Way grant the Lancaster network just got?  What you're proposing that will have a collective impact, who your partners are?

My program is a partner in the We RINetwork with RIFLI and Karisa.  As a network we are considering whether we are well positioned to submit an LOI for UW of RI's new grant cycle. 

The United Way of Lancaster completely transformed its funding model and is only funding collective impact projects that impact the bold goals established by the community needs assessment.

Lancaster County Bold Goals - By 2025

  • 100% of children will enter kindergarten ready to learn
  • 100% of adults will have post-secondary education credentials
  • decrease individuals and families living in poverty by 50%
  • 100% of individuals and families will have a medical home

So, for our project, we needed to demonstrate how we would address the five conditions of collective impact – common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and backbone support. Our common agenda is clearly defined in our mission and our desire to improve refugee integration. For shared measurement, we needed to describe the data that will be collected to assess client-level outcomes and the work of the collaborative. Each of our organizations collects a great deal of data so our job will be to develop a way to share our extant data and create a dashboard that shows client level progress so that United Way can show progress toward achieving the bold goals. For mutually reinforcing activities, we needed to demonstrate the kinds of actions that our collaborative will take together. Examples in our project are creating an open-entry ESL class to accommodate new arrivals, providing expanded cultural orientation classes, starting up a health care access point at the community school, recruiting and hire navigators to promote education attainment, medical home connection and financial stability and creating a data management system. For continuous communication, we needed to explain how our collaborative will maintain consistent and open lines of communication. For example, our collaborative meets every month, we have a coordinator who facilitates communication, we maintain a website and we have a system for document sharing. For backbone support, we needed to define the role of our lead agency. The lead agency will guide the vision and strategy of the project, facilitate meetings, support our aligned services, support our system of data collection, work to connect our project to the community and advocate on public policy issues that impact our clients. 

Hello everyone, Thanks to our guests for outlining how effective networks offer adult education programs the opportunity to be much more strategic in supporting immigrants and refugees to integrate successfully into our communities.

My question is along the lines of Andy's question, but also a little different. I would love to hear from the program administrators how working as part of a network has shifted their responsibilities. In what ways has your job changed? Are there ways in which your job has been made easier? What are some of the challenges you have encountered?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP
 

Great question, Susan. In my case, I am the chief executive officer in my organization and my organization serves as the lead agency for our collective impact project. The most significant way that my job has changed is the amount of work it takes to be authentically involved in an active and working network. The meetings are the tip of the iceberg. There is a great deal of work involved outside of meetings. This has to be a priority. Also, it is very important that your board of directors in fully behind this work and support the external focus required to make a collective impact project successful. I think the biggest challenge is time management and setting priorities. 

Ditto from the Central Valley. Time management is an important skill to develop. Meetings are only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the planning for events, and preparing for resources to share with our schools and programs, I also complete the reports connected to the USCIS citizenship grant. I believe one of my jobs is to keep my principal and vice-principal informed of the work behind the scenes so they know what it takes to support networking. The work is not always seen until an event happens or a report is due. I am a teacher plus the network coordinator for our technical assistance grant with NINA. In order for networking to be sustained, most networks must seek grants or funding sources. So there must be an administrative commitment to the work connected to networks. One tip I have learned is to create a summary PowerPoint of each event and share it with our partners after the event is over. Right now, we have a presentation with many pictures of our recent Welcoming America event running on a recycling loop on the large screen video monitor in our school foyer. And speaking of the board (Cheryl's reply above), our principal spoke to our school board about our upcoming post institute training in Washington D.C. which includes a presentation at the White House. All of this exposure helps secure administrative support in networking. Very good question!

I want to add to Andy's description of the Networks for Integrating New Americans that the impetus for the focus on immigrant integration came not only from OCTAE but also from the White House Task Force on New Americans of which OCTAE is a member. This past April, the White House Task Force issued a strategic action plan, Strengthening Communities by Welcoming all Residents. And this month, they launched a campaign to strengthen immigrant integration.with technical assistance and support from non-governmental partners led by our partner  Welcoming America, a national organization dedicated to transforming communities into more welcoming places. These new developments make our initiative even more relevant to adult education. The welcoming communities movement is here to stay and we in adult ed need to be part of it.

I've been following this discussion with interest, and I find myself curious whether established immigrants have, or could with help, take on a strong role in these welcoming networks.  Perhaps "resettlement agencies" are developed and run by established immigrants--Somalis helping Somalis, Sudanese helping Sudanese--but I do not know if that's the case.  Has the power of established immigrants been harnessed in some of your networks?  Are there examples of network partners enabling established immigrants establishing or strengthening an organization poised to help immigrating countrypersons?  

 

 

In the Central Valley, we are a network of networks. Our CVIIC network leader is a recent new Citizen and our Citizenship Academy leader is also an immigrant and naturalized citizen.  Mi Familia Vota, one of our partners, for example, utilizes volunteers for the community Citizenship Workshops. We recruit volunteers from the Fresno Adult School office assistant class, many of whom are immigrants themselves. Also, recently I talked to a new volunteer who is a retired postal carrier who is bilingual. I did not ask him if he himself is an immigrant, but he speaks English fluently, like a native English speaker,  and he just wanted to help out.  We also have one agency connected to CVIIC that is very connected to an indigenous population that has limited to no literacy skills in their own language, much less English or Spanish. So, yes, having immigrants help immigrants is powerful. I think, our challenge is bringing in more of the receiving (non-immigrant) community to our network work.  We are poised to head that direction with training on how to engage our elected leaders and local government officials.  Good question. Thank you. 

Dear ESL leaders,

 

The stories and examples that you have so generously shared over the last few days offer powerful proof of the value of network organizing to advance the economic, civic, and linguistic integration of immigrants and refugees. Here are a few things that you’ve mentioned about your work that strike me as especially promising because they are all critical to a network’s success as well as its sustainability.

 

One is starting with or developing a shared philosophy in addition to a shared purpose, since shared philosophy can help build trust and trust is the essential “glue” of networks. Another is sustained forward movement, however incremental.  While keeping a larger vision in mind, all of you are alert to opportunities to improve or expand your work together and are taking steps to do so.  Powerful as well is your capacity to advance two different but related dimensions of the work simultaneously. Here I mean the work of network building itself, e.g., strengthening the internal structure and operations of your network and adapting these as necessary, as well as the work “on the ground” that integrates and builds on members strengths to benefit newcomer and welcoming communities. 

 

In addition, I think we’ve heard very clearly that, while external funding may be an initial impetus to partner, the collaboration process itself, if organized effectively, can lead to increased commitment to new ways of working and open up new frontiers in important and innovative efforts to serve and integrate new Americans.  

 

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the discussion!

 

Madeleine

Thank you, Madeleine, for pointing out and synthesizing some of the key lessons learned across the immigrant integration networks. Your guidance has been invaluable throughout. Many thanks also to the three Network Coordinators - Cheryl, Lisa and Karisa - for sharing your experience and insights in what I know is a very busy time of the year for all of you.  For me personally, this initiative has been and continues to be a deep and inspiring learning experience.

I want to thank each of our guests for sharing the exciting work being done through the Networks for Integrating New Americans project: Silja Kallenbach and Andy Nash from World Education, networking expert Madeleine Taylor from Network Impact, and the three leaders from the networking adult education agencies, Cheryl Hiester from the Literacy Council of Lancaster Lebanon in Lancaster, PA representing the Lancaster County Refugee Coaliton; Lisa Agao from the Fresno Adult School in the Central Valley of California representing Citizenship Academy and the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, and Karisa Tashjian from Providence, RI representing the WeRIN.

Since my adult education agency is one of the core members of the Lancaster County Refugee Coalition, I can speak to the enormous benefit our networking efforts are providing to the refugee (and immigrant) families we serve. Before our network started, conversations between and among other organizations and providers of services were sporadic at best. Currently, our core team meets monthly, with specific working groups meeting more often to collaborate toward shared goals.  We also hold quarterly meetings for anyone in the community who has an interest in refugee integration.

Just yesterday, we held our fall quarterly meeting with about 40 people in attendance representing refugee resettlement agencies, adult education and training -- including ESL, of course--, K12, higher education, health care providers, behavioral health providers, children and youth agencies, housing agencies, WIC, representatives from the faith community, and unaffiliated individuals who are interested in refugee issues, and probably a few others that I have forgotten. At this meeting we engaged in an asset mapping activity in which we worked in small groups to identify the assets in our community to address the needs for new arrivals as well as those who have been in the community from three months to three years. We also identified the gaps that exist. Our next step will be to align the assets with the gaps and then identify who else we may need to involve in the community to help address the gaps.

It was a thoroughly engaging exercise, and I think we all learned a lot -- even those of us who have been doing this work for a long time. I have no doubt that this activity will lead to more support for refugee integration in our community.

Thanks again to our guests. Members should feel free to continue sharing their experiences and raising questions about networking. We can certainly keep the conversation going.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP