Back to top

Mobilizing Partnerships for Housing & Education

Like what you’re reading?
Share with a colleague or partner!


The partnership stages outlined in this toolkit reflect common phases of work in creating and implementing housing and education partnerships, ultimately leading to systems change and advancing economic mobility for children and families. Although these stages are not inclusive of all elements of cross-sector partnership, they reflect key areas of focus for housing and education practitioners seeking to better align their work. Even though the stages are numbered, it is important to note that progression through partnership is rarely linear, and organizations may focus on aspects of multiple stages at the same time, as seen in the example from Memphis, Tennessee, included below.

The toolkit offers considerations and suggested resources for addressing the complexities of each stage. Each partnership stage also highlights an example from the field, illustrating how housing and education organizations can align in pursuit of shared outcomes.

Understanding Partnership Readiness

The following assessment tool can help housing and education organizations determine their readiness for, or progress within, different stages of partnership. This tool reflects components of the StriveTogether Theory of Action™, which identifies four principles that are central to building partnerships and impacting outcomes, included here and integrated throughout the toolkit:

  • Engage the community by including a broad array of community voices and perspectives to understand local challenges and co- develop solutions.
  • Advance equity by identifying systemic inequities and disparities, coordinating work to eliminate disparities and transforming systems.
  • Develop a culture of continuous improvement using local data, evaluation and community feedback to regularly identify areas for improvement, and invest in practices that work.
  • Leverage existing resources to align work for maximum impact toward shared outcomes.

The questions in the readiness assessment depicted here reflect these principles and highlight key elements of each stage. Considering these questions can help readers identify which partnership stage, and therefore which aspect of the toolkit, is most relevant to their work.


Take Action

How does your work match up to the partnership stages and key questions? Take a look through the checklist below to learn about the partnership stages and consider key readiness questions. By clicking “Get Started,” you can check off the questions you’ve already answered, jot down notes for each stage, and share directly with a colleague or partner!
Get Started!Reset Checklist

Step 1: Ready to get started? As you move through the checklist, click on the boxes to check the questions you or your partners have already answered. You’ll have room to write notes or add additional questions beneath each of the partnership stages. Planning to share your checklist? You’ll have a chance to input the email addresses of partners and colleagues at the bottom of the checklist.


How does your work match up to the partnership stages and key questions? Take a look through the checklist below to learn about the partnership stages and consider key readiness questions.



Assess Existing Conditions

Stage 1 focuses on understanding local assets and opportunities and identifying community needs, which, in turn, helps to identify the types of outcomes that partners might want to prioritize jointly in cross- sector work.

  GOAL SETTING: Have we considered goals for the assessment? Have we determined how the assessment’s goals will inform the cross-sector work?

  LOCAL CONDITIONS: Do we understand local housing and neighborhood conditions and the problems that we are trying to solve through cross-sector partnership?

  TARGET POPULATIONS: Have we identified a target population or a disparity to address through a housing and education partnership? Has this focus also been identified by community members?

  COMMUNITY VOICE: Does the assessment of existing conditions include representative voices and input from communities where work is likely to take place?

  QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DATA: Have we collected quantitative and qualitative information to help inform our understanding of local conditions across multiple sectors, including assets and challenges? [This can include a review of existing reports and needs assessments, analysis of neighborhood data, community and stakeholder engagement, etc.]

  RACIAL EQUITY: Have the data collected been disaggregated by race whenever possible? Have we explored the stories behind the data to uncover the root causes keeping disparities in place?

Notes and Reflections on Stage 1: Assess Existing Conditions




Identify and Engage Partners

Stage 2 moves from understanding local needs to identifying and engaging with potential partners for cross- sector collaboration to address those needs.

  LOCAL STAKEHOLDERS: Do we understand the “landscape” of local stakeholders across multiple sectors (e.g., housing, education, community development) and the power structures within a community (e.g., who has decision-making and funding authority)

  DIVERSE REPRESENTATION: Have we reached out to a diverse set of housing and education stakeholders to develop partnerships for this work, including representation from the communities where work is likely to take place? [This may reflect ongoing engagement with stakeholders from Stage 1.]

  EXISTING PARTNERSHIPS: Are there existing coalitions or ongoing cross-sector initiatives with similar goals or interests, particularly among housing and education stakeholders? [This may suggest joining an existing coalition, or reassessing the landscape of existing collaboration after outcomes have been selected in Stage 3.]

  POWER AND AGENCY: Do we understand the power dynamics among our partner organizations? Have we considered strategies to ensure that all organizations have agency in the cross-sector partnership?

Notes and Reflections on Stage 2: Identify and Engage Partners




Prioritize and Develop Shared Outcomes

Stage 3 reflects the process of identifying a shared outcome that serves as a common goal and primary focus for partners in their cross-sector work.

  OUTCOMES AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Have we identified shared housing and/or education outcomes that directly address local disparities (including racial disparities)? Have we identified outcomes with quantitative and qualitative indicators that can serve as a common goal with a measurable target, allowing us to be held accountable for improving outcomes through our cross-sector work?

  PROGRAM PLANNING: Have we clearly identified how our work will achieve the intended shared outcomes? [This can include the development of a logic model or project plan, for example.]

  BASELINE ASSESSMENT: Have we shared the assessment of existing conditions with the community, in a baseline report card or similar publication, to gain feedback and inform shared outcomes?

  COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Have we engaged community members and other partners to gain input on and support of the shared outcomes? Have we considered strategies for ongoing community engagement?

  ORGANIZATIONAL ALIGNMENT: Do the shared outcomes align with the mission and strengths of each organization involved?

Notes and Reflections on Stage 3: Prioritize and Develop Shared Outcomes




Partner and Implement Cross- Sector Solutions

Stage 4 outlines the key components necessary to implement cross-sector work to make progress toward shared outcomes.

  COMMUNITY IMPACT: Will the partnership benefit the target population and address the challenges/problems identified by the assessment of existing conditions conducted in Stage 1? Have we considered the potential unexpected harm that might result from our partnership or shared work and sought input on how to mitigate it?

  SUPPORT AND RESOURCES: Do we have support from organizational leadership, initial funding and staff capacity to support implementation of the cross-sector work?

  PARTNER RESPONSIBILITIES: Has the role that each partner will undertake to achieve the shared outcomes been clearly defined, along with the accountability of each partner’s leadership? Does this accountability structure encourage equitable power dynamics?

  PROGRESS MONITORING AND DATA SHARING: Are we able to implement ongoing outcome measurement and reporting to track progress toward shared outcomes? Have we engaged principles from collaborative or continuous improvement as we monitor progress? Have we established agreements on and a process for data sharing? Do we regularly share data with our partners?

  IMPLEMENTATION TIMELINE: Have we developed a realistic implementation timeline that reflects ongoing community engagement? Have we identified and/or tested organizational and programmatic changes that are necessary to support implementation?

  MESSAGING AND COMMUNICATION: Have we developed key messaging to describe our partnership goals and activities that will help cultivate ongoing community engagement?

Notes and Reflections on Stage 4: Partner and Implement Cross-Sector Solutions




Sustain Partnerships for Systems Change

Stage 5 emphasizes the need to secure ongoing resources and commitment to sustain the benefits of cross-sector work and pursue broader systems change for greater impact.

  SUSTAINABILITY: Have we developed a sustainability plan and identified committed funding and staff capacity to continue implementation of this work and achieve the intended results, including systems change? How will we mitigate harm if the partnership’s work in the community must end?

  ONGOING COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Are the community members and populations affected by this partnership engaged and represented in the ongoing implementation of this work, with effective two-way communication between partners and the community?

  CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: Do we use outcome data and other information collected during implementation to continuously inform and improve our work? Have we adapted our strategies based on what we’ve learned from initial implementation efforts?

  DATA INFORMED: Are community data and the indicators for our partnership’s shared outcomes accessible, disaggregated by race, and shared with relevant partners and other sectors to inform action and reduce disparities?

  POLICY AND SYSTEMS CHANGE: Have we identified and/or taken action to change local, state or national policies to improve community-level outcomes? Are these policies designed to address disparities and eliminate barriers to the equitable distribution of resources?

Notes and Reflections on Stage 5: Sustain Partnerships for Systems Change


Questions answered? Notes captured? Click here to Download your checklist as PDF

Better yet, send your checklist directly to a colleague or partner! You can write a message here:


Now enter one or more email addresses, separated by commas, below.  
To consider these partnership stages in action, take a look at this case study from Memphis, TN, where local partners have been progressing through and preparing for each of the five stages. To jump right in with the partnership stages, take a look at Stage 1: Assess Existing Conditions.

Case Study: Advancing Mobility from Poverty in Memphis, Tennessee

As part of Enterprise and StriveTogether’s partnership, Enterprise staff have been working with communities in StriveTogether’s national network, providing technical assistance as local partners come together to address shared housing and education outcomes. An example from Memphis, Tennessee, is highlighted here to illustrate how the collaborative work of local organizations has led to an emerging cross-sector partnership. At the writing of this toolkit, the Memphis partnership was focused on the third partnership stage: preparing to prioritize shared outcomes, identify strategies for achieving them, and determine partner roles and responsibilities.

The partners initially involved in this collaboration include—

  • Seeding Success, a StriveTogether network member, focused on transforming cradle-to-career systems, that seeks to ensure that every child and their family have the support and resources they need to reach their full potential.
  • Urban Strategies, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that specializes in results-informed human services development, planning and strategy implementation as part of comprehensive neighborhood revitalization.
  • Local housing and government agencies, through The Memphis Housing Authority, City of Memphis and Shelby County Government.


As this growing partnership continues to progress, it is useful to reflect on the core elements that have facilitated collaboration:

  • Leadership and staff capacity from an established organization. The reputation of Seeding Success as an experienced convener of diverse groups and as a trusted, data-driven partner brought legitimacy to the emerging housing and education collaboration, and dedicated staff time helped facilitate partner engagement.
  • Prioritization of community voice. The organizations involved already had staff committed to community initiatives and were engaged in ongoing relationships in the communities where their cross-sector work potentially would be targeted. The partners brought this prioritization of community-driven initiatives to their collective work, while also focusing on the broader systems change needed to advance economic mobility.
  • Existing capacity for working with data. The staff of Seeding Success included those with analytic capabilities, and Seeding Success had existing data- sharing agreements with local education partners, which facilitated access to a broader range of data for assessing the local context through the dual lenses of housing conditions and educational experiences.
  • A commitment to economic mobility and systems transformation. The organizations involved already were focused on addressing racial disparities to advance mobility from poverty for children and families. A shared recognition of the crosscutting influence of residential segregation and other socioeconomic and racial disparities has allowed these organizations to consider the role of various sectors in addressing inequities.


Though this partnership in Memphis is currently focused on the third stage, partners have collaborated on aspects of each of the five partnership stages. The partnership’s progress and preparations for implementation and sustainability over time are summarized here, offering a reminder that partnership progress is rarely linear.

Stage One: Assess Existing Conditions

As a starting point, local partners came together to assess existing conditions, first outlining goals for the assessment that reflected a strategic focus on specific populations (e.g., residents of public housing and students in households with low incomes). The assessment focused on a quantitative analysis of housing costs, affordability and quality, which revealed racial inequities and the severity of housing challenges and shortages in Memphis.

Stage Two: Identify and Engage Partners

To better understand community priorities, Enterprise’s technical assistance included a series of more than 40 semistructured interviews with local organizations working on issues related to housing and education. This stakeholder engagement provided valuable context for the data analysis conducted in Stage 1 and gave the core team of partners the opportunity to gather more information about existing power structures and coalitions. Findings from the interviews then were presented to a broader group of partners to discuss opportunities for and barriers to partnership.

Stage Three: Prioritize and Develop Shared Outcomes

In addition to understanding local priorities and identifying partners, the stakeholder engagement interviews conducted in Stage 2 also helped to sharpen the partnership’s focus on outcomes in target communities. An example of the outcomes-focused discussion guide used for these interviews is included in Appendix F. Following this initial engagement, the partners now are preparing workshops that will bring community organizations together to define shared outcomes, identify progress indicators and consider pilot interventions to advance those outcomes. The workshops will feature data collected through the assessment of existing conditions as context for the discussions. To better understand the interplay of housing and education challenges locally, the partners have continued to refine the assessment of existing conditions to more closely investigate student mobility and the relationship between neighborhood housing challenges and school attendance zones.

Stage Four: Partner and Implement Cross-Sector Solutions

Although the partners in Memphis have not yet progressed toward implementation, a number of earlier efforts have prepared them well for the upcoming stages. For example, the assessment conducted in Stage 1, as well as existing data- sharing agreements, will enable partners to structure the data collection and outcome measurement needed for their aligned work. Partners also have begun to consider different options for governance structures that will support their strategies to achieve shared outcomes.

Stage Five: Sustain Partnerships for Systems Change

The partnership’s initial work also has laid the foundation for the final stage of sustaining partnerships for systems change. As a StriveTogether network member, Seeding Success has helped to embed key principles from the StriveTogether Theory of Action™ in the partnership’s work, from engaging with community and advancing equity, to developing a culture of continuous improvement. Looking ahead, the partnership will seek additional funding to ensure that staff can continue to convene partners, share information and data, and implement cross-sector strategies.