Dear Friends -
 
This is my last official communication to you as CEO of All Hands Raised Partnership. It is with a heavy heart, as I have LOVED being in this role, working in this community to see and serve our kids. 
 
I am reminded today that when I began this journey 11 years ago it was on the shoulders of those who managed this mission before me. Thank you to Cynthia Guyer and her team for bringing objective data, broken down by race, to wake up this community and the nation about real high school graduation rates. The shocking reality that you uncovered—of our failed system for a majority of our kids of color—was a foundation to build a collective action movement for this humbled community. Now that we were finally honest about the complexity of the problem, the time was ripe to be courageous and bold in creating complex solutions. 
 
The way this community came together to build the All Hands Raised Partnership was inspiring, it was hard and it was revolutionary. Together, we have written four chapters in our shared work. I hope you see yourself in them:
Chapter 01 (2010-2013)
Two organizations disbanded imploring the Portland Schools Foundation to adapt a local cradle to career framework—the All Hands Raised Partnership was established with a mandate to build a new and necessary collective action system from birth to career in Multnomah County. We had no blueprint on how to do it, yet we had a broad coalition of the willing from every school district, and across higher education, business, non-profit and political leaders in the market.

We established the most inclusive civic infrastructure ever managed by a small nonprofit, a dashboard of metrics that remain and priorities that finally pivoted us to explicitly state our highest priority was on racial equity. The chasing of practice, not money, began. And many local investors took a risk, providing resources to fuel this new and unchartered initiative. Nationally, StriveTogether was building a learning community for this cradle to career movement, creating a place to stretch and grow with other teams doing this work. And, the first local learning community was formed to build this new system, supporting the transition from 8th to 9th grade, because the data showed that this intervention would positively impact high school graduation rates. 
Chapter 02 (2013-2015)
Together with partners from across the county we began to imagine what it could be like to work together free of mandates that come with government or foundation contracts. Meetings were co-developed and co-led with these partners, and moved convenings from transactional to relational. Feedback was consistent, and it went something like this: "I am not sure what is happening, I just know there is a tension and an honesty at every All Hands Raised meeting that is wildly different than the usual Portland nice." With the Coalition of Communities of Color as our primary partner, we began weaving work that matched with the priorities established by the community.

We rolled up our sleeves with schools and community partners, fully immersing ourselves in the messy work around attendance and the complicated factors “below the iceberg” impacting our kids’ ability to attend school. We began to see clearly how a student missing school was a canary in a coal mine for the health and well-being of a family and their community and it shined a light on the 24/7 nature of the work. Together with partners from government and nonprofits, we started using current student-level data to create shared solutions and with support from StriveTogether, and local funding partners, we introduced continuous improvement work from the manufacturing sector to this social space: plan, do, study and act. With this focus, we began to see shifts happen.
Chapter 03 (2015-2017)
Status-quo busting partners locked arms and focused on those tricky transitions for all children and youth at the front and back end of the K-12 system. Racial equity was always front and center: Those key transitions—pre-school to kindergarten and high school to post-secondary—hit kids from ignored communities much harder. We redefined what it meant to be successful after high school to go beyond college and include the many exciting and living wage opportunities in construction and manufacturing. 

In addition, we stayed with the messy work well below the iceberg and began facilitating six school community site teams across our district partners to restructure their discipline referral systems (and resulting school culture), which has always worked against our black and brown students. Using data in new wa ys—incl uding engaging those who actually work directly with the students: teachers, counselors and mentors—we got honest. Partners began to experience data differently, from data being used to blame and shame, to being used to inform and inspire, and creativity took over. We began to see new practices emerge, old practices let go, and the needs of kids be the guiding light.
Chapter 04 (2017-2019)
Thanks in large part to a committed group of long-term partners and investors, we stayed the course, remained true to the original vision and saw encouraging progress at the 22 school community site teams doing the work. And a sense of hope and excitement emerged across our partner schools where real change was happening organically, without a mandate or a grant. Teachers began learning best practices from other teachers, within their school and across the county. 

When Franklin High School's work to improve FAFSA completions skyrocketed after doing continuous improvement work, we facilitated their sharing of learnings with their colleagues from across the county. And Multnomah County began leading the state in rising FAFSA completion rates. We continued to introduce people working in the same school building—who you would have thought knew each other already—in ways that ensured they were now strategic partners, working on the same team, for the same kids and families. In all of our work, we focused on relentlessly weaving together necessary partners to break the silos for our kids and we saw progress across all of our work areas.
Chapter 05 (2019-2021)
You are here! The All Hands Raised Partnership is your partnership. All of us must keep our hands up and stay at the table until we actually create the culture change necessary to work with greater efficiency and purpose as a community. As long as the purpose is bigger than the pain we can do this. The head winds will continue to blow (the status quo was designed to be top down after all) and compliance and box-checking systems remain. But don’t give up. The hard work you are doing pales in comparison to the challenges faced by the kids who benefit most from us improving. Kids are resilient; you must also be.
 
And so the work goes on, and so will I. Many of you have asked what’s next for me. I will take a good breath, provide counsel for executives and their teams and continue to be of service to my hometown and state. In the meantime, please do all you can to support Lavert Robertson and his team in moving forward our shared work, remembering the words of David Brooks, “Vulnerability is the only means we have to build relationships. And, relationships are the only means we have to experience joy."  

My contact information going forward is: Dan Ryan LLC  dan@danryan.llc  (business, under construction for most of the next six months) or  dryanpdx@gmail.com  (personal).
 
Sincerely,
Dan 
 
P.S. – If you did not have the opportunity to read this editorial in the Portland Tribune on our shared work , I hope you will.
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