Early Wins and Lessons Learned: How the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem Engages Families
Supporting families to find, access, and benefit from informal STEM activities is no easy task. For those involved in this work we know that there are too many barriers for too many families. We also appreciate that the work is difficult and complex.
Many of us have been involved in informal ecosystems, partnering on an ad hoc basis to make it easier for families to participate in our programs and for youth to find their next STEM experience that sustains their interests. This work of partnership and coordination takes time and resources; for organizations and nonprofits that are already overextended and underfunded this a challenge.
Considering the importance of this work and recognition of its difficulty, the STEM Funders Network launched the STEM Learning Ecosystem Initiative at the Clinton Global Initiative. These funders took on the challenges and advanced the work to leverage resources and broaden the reach of STEM outreach with youth and adults. The Initiative’s goals include 1) supporting communities in the design and development of STEM Learning Ecosystems through technical assistance, coaching, and peer-to-peer learning and 2) informing the STEM education field about promising practices for creating connected STEM-rich learning opportunities for youth and their families from preschool through higher education and into the workforce. In September 2015, 27 communities piloted the national STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative; in 2016, 10 Ecosystem communities were funded, followed by another 17 in 2017.
The Bay Area STEM Ecosystem, one of the partners in this STEM Learning Ecosystem, was launched in 2016. The Bay Area STEM Ecosystem is made up of a cross-sector network in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its guiding principle is to increase equity and access to STEM learning opportunities in underserved communities. The collaborative efforts of this Ecosystem help support individual partners’ goals for enhancing family engagement.
An important function of the STEM Learning Ecosystems is to share successes, challenges, and opportunities for growth. The leadership of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem is especially open to examining and sharing their learnings. In this case study we share some of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem experiences—successes and challenges—to shed light on the work of collaboration and collective impact of STEM ecosystems.
We hope that this case study offers ideas to further your work in family engagement and broaden participation in STEM. We welcome your input and questions. Just like the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem, we want to use the design process to listen, design, gather feedback, and refine our work to support family engagement.