thrive's core strategy

Core Strategy: What We Do

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Ed note: The contents of this page are reproduced from the original 20/20 Vision for School’s website for archival reference.

20/20 Vision for Schools mobilizes and equips New Yorkers of all social sectors to engage the issues of sustainable reform in meaningful ways. (Read more about our original mission and purpose.)

We achieve this by empowering community stakeholders — individuals and institutions like businesses, non-profits, congregations, parents, students, etc. — to join educators to address the challenges of educational inequity holistically. We believe that sustainable reform will be achieved when the responsibility for educating children is shared by community stakeholders and the constituencies they lead, not outsourced exclusively to politicians, teachers, and academics.

To this end we:

  1. Inspire action by raising awareness about issues of educational equity and ways in which community stakeholders can engage the issues meaningfully.
  2. Mobilize stakeholders (both individuals and organizations) to move from awareness to action by equipping them to respond to felt needs strategically.
  3. Nurture stakeholder/school Partnerships by implementing planned actions
  4. Document and sustain Reform by rigorously evaluating impact metrics tied to four key educational outcomes: graduation and attendance rates, and reading and math proficiency.

 The Critical Path: How We Get There

20/20 moves community stakeholders from no engagement with schools to holistic engagement according to the following critical path.

Along the way, engaged stakeholders will:


  • Hear 20/20 Vision-cast.
  • Qualify interest.


  • Designate leader/team.
  • Receive ongoing 20/20 training and coaching.
  • Adopt a school.
  • Cultivate school relationship/s.


  • Customize strategy to match school needs with stakeholder assets.
  • Establish cooperation agreement.
  • Recruit and train volunteers.
  • Implement strategy.


  • Measure impacts.
  • Document results.


“Why do we tolerate a world where children born with God’s genius are going to schools that are not nurturing that genius? … You’ve answered a call to do more, to act more.” – Hon. Corey Booker to 20/20 Vision Organizers, 9/18/08

20/20 inspires action by raising the consciousness about educational inequity through awareness efforts that include ideation, publishing, speaking, conferences, and social and traditional media campaigns.

Since September 2008, 20/20 and its partners have convened 2,500 leaders at various New York forums (conferences, churches, network meetings, and college groups); facilitated multi-sector strategic roundtables with more than two hundred community stakeholders; published scores of articles and blogs in local and national publications; and published introductory curriculum that has been taught in more than twenty cities around the country.

Many of the articles, talks, and curriculum published by 20/20 are available for free at our Resource page.

In addition, 20/20 has moved public education from a back burner issue within many high leverage New York City churches, to a compelling priority by translating the issues in ways that resonate within that culture.


Invite a 20/20 representative to speak at your event or host a 20/20 Vision Cast at your church or gathering by emailing info [at] thrivecollective [dot] org. Please include an descriptions of the event and audience, date and time, honorarium information, and preferred topics.



“Adopting schools is an idea whose time has come.  20/20 Vision is a workable strategy for scalable impact that moves congregations.” – Rev. Gary Frost, President, Concerts of Prayer Greater New York

Mobilizing Community Stakeholders for scalable engagement requires a plan, and 20/20’s School Engagement Paradigm moves them from no relationship to holistic, transformational relationships.

Primarily, 20/20 accomplishes this through a community organizing and training School Engagement Paradigm consisting of three core elements: Vocational Calling, School Adoption, and Student Leadership Development (depicted on the 20/20 Matrix). Within that Paradigm, 20/20 equips grassroots volunteers and organizations to implement Best Practices that respond to felt needs of local schools, like mentoring, academic enrichment, student leadership, and arts education.

Vocational Calling. Vocational calling challenges anyone with a meaningful relationship with a young person to view that relationship as an opportunity to invest in a life, and in a school.  By this definition, students, parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, coaches, custodians, employers, mentors, neighbors, retail managers all have a role to play in transforming education. They are already positioned to affect meaningful change, if only their leaders would equip and activate them for that purpose.  20/20 partnerships with Community Stakeholders facilitate volunteer recruitment and training.

School Adoption. 20/20 also urges Stakeholder Organizations to adopt at least one public school within walking distance for meaningful advocacy and service. Adoption begins by educating one’s institution on the unique realities of the school; developing trusting relationships at the school; adding real value to the school through acts of service like beautification and event sponsorships; establishing an ongoing presence at the school by providing mentors, coaches, tutors, enrichment programs, etc.; and affecting policies that promote and sustain educational equity.

Student Leadership. Finally, empowering student leaders means equipping them to become change agents within their own schools. When 5-10% of a given community believes and acts a certain way, the rest of the community is likely to follow. 20/20 partners establish a culture of leadership within schools by developing a pipeline of student leaders consisting of up to 10% of the student body at any given school.


Operationalizing the School Engagement Paradigm within a Stakeholder Organization requires catalytic leadership. 20/20 coaching, training, and coordination produce leaders who equip others to volunteer in meaningful ways.

More specifically, 20/20 empowers Community Stakeholders to fulfill three core functions: Champion, School Liaison, and Student Organizer.  It is possible for one individual, such as a business executive, youth worker, pastor, retired teacher, parent, or other to embody all three leadership roles, but responsibilities may be shared among a team within a Stakeholder Organization as well.

Champions envision and equip their constituencies to care about the issue and act within their individual capacities towards education reform.  For example, within a church context, this may be the senior pastor or some other member of the congregation’s senior leadership.  Ideally, a church champion would leverage pulpit access or other ministry influence to prepare people for “works of service” within schools (Ephesians 4:12).

School Liaisons nurture the relationship with the adopted school. In some cases a pre-existing relationship may exist via an employee, member, or relative with access to the school.  More often, the School Liaison will initiate outreach, and find creative ways for the organization to meet felt needs.

Student Organizers develop the leadership capacity of students themselves through mentoring or small group instruction, with the goal of cultivating a pipeline of students ready and able to catalyze change within schools.

20/20 Leadership is cultivated through an organizing and training strategy that equips leaders to engage education reform, and transform schools directly.


“I’m excited about what you’re doing about the drop-out rate of high school students. It’s very important that what is envisioned by 20/20 takes root from the pulpit to the pews, and we become an army of people to invest in the life of tomorrow. I’m delighted to service and support 20/20 Vision for Schools.” – Dr. Tony Evans, President of the Urban Alternative


Community Stakeholders and the constituencies they lead are an underutilized leverage point in the fight for educational equity.  Consider, for example, the multiplier effect that can be leveraged within churches all over New York.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

One thousand six hundred schools feels like a lot, until compared with 7,100 churches.  Yes, there are at least four and a half churches in the five boroughs of New York City for every one public school.

Actually that 4.5:1 ratio scratches the surface, as 7,100 is a partial number of NYC churches that only includes congregations that identify as evangelical, Pentecostal, and/or charismatic (“New York’s New Hope” by Tony Carnes, Christianity Today, December 2004). A number that includes Orthodox, Catholic, and mainline Protestant churches is unavailable at this time.  Nor is an ecumenical number representing the houses of worship of all faiths.  Suffice to say, the real ratio is much larger.

[Explore Case Studies of 20/20 Stakeholder Partnerships.]

Within those congregations, on any given Saturday or Sunday, 50-80% of the people in the pews are directly connected to a school.  They are students, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, or otherwise related, teachers, custodians, support staff, or principals and administrators.

In other words, congregational members are already positioned for impact if only their leaders would activate them for service.

Imagine if 80% of the members at 4.5 churches engaged every school in New York City for reform.  Dare we expect change to come?

20/20’s Paradigm Shift Overcomes Mistrust

The biggest challenge to Stakeholder participation in education reform, especially churches, is generational mistrust between community and school leaders.

Evangelicals, in particular, largely abandoned public education when the Supreme Court outlawed a 30-second nonsectarian, state imposed prayer almost half a century ago.  For decades since, evangelicals have tended to talk about public education only to complain; erroneously claim that prayer is forbidden in schools; demand vouchers for private schools; protest sex education or science curricula; advocate evacuation in favor of religious or home schools; or visit campuses only to proselytize.

Churches must overcome mistrust by cultivating credibility and embracing schools as partners for equipping students to maximize their potential.  Credibility starts by redefining campus ministry success the way the school defines success.  A growing youth group roster or congregational conversion numbers should not matter to educators.  Neither should they define church outreach to schools.  Instead, more relevant metrics include: graduation and dropout rates, reading and math proficiency, extracurricular program offerings, and mentor/mentee relationships.

[Read “Ten Ways Your Church Can Be Good News to Public Schools.”]

Credibility grows as congregations and other Stakeholder Organizations establish resumes of trust through acts of service that respond to felt needs at the school.

The People are Motivated

Churchgoers and other Community Stakeholders are uniquely motivated to right the wrong of educational injustice because of certain fundamental beliefs.

For example, within the Judeo-Christian tradition, pursuing justice is a Scriptural mandate. (Cf. Micah 6:8: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”)  And the faithful, called to love one’s neighbors as oneself, are described as salt and light, “that the world may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).  Salt that loses its preservative and flavoring effects – or otherwise remains inside the saltshaker of our parishes, mosques, and synagogues – is useless.

When spiritual leaders nurture this motivation by equipping those in the pews for “the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) and activating them for good deeds within schools, breakthroughs occur.


As inspiring as the Case Studies of community engagement are, sustainable reform will be achieved when educational outcomes improve for the city’s most at-risk populations.  To that end, we rigorously track and measure eight metrics related to our Core Strategy, plus related measures for specific programs and services.


The first set of metrics measure the activities connected to our Mobilizing efforts.  This set is not an exhaustive list of evaluation criteria, but provides the benchmark for stakeholder activity.

  • Leaders Trained
  • Schools Adopted
  • Services or Programs Initiated
  • Students Served


The second set of metrics relate to the transformational impact of 20/20′s community Partnerships.  Fundamentally, 20/20 exists to transform schools.  We believe that stakeholder engagement will catalyze transformational impacts within adopted schools, and we test this assumption by tracking the correlation between 20/20 activity and student performance improvements in four key areas:

  • Relative Reading Proficiency
  • Relative Math Proficiency
  • Relative Promotion and/or Graduation Rate
  • Relative Dropout Rate

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