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action guide

The Action Guide is built on the four-pronged strategy as outlined below. It can be adapted for varying situations, from state to more local purposes. The strategy:

  • Builds on assets, i.e., school-owned and community-based programs currently in place in your locality or state – and of which current leaders are proud. Mapping these resources can become a relationship-building enterprise among citizens, policymakers, and professionals who come together to identify what programs and services exist (Mapping Assets).
  • Prioritizes networking and building/strengthening relationships with elected officials, appointed policy leaders and decision-makers at local and state levels, and with well-connected citizens and professionals. It includes school leaders involved with various coalitions who share your goals, have political clout, and can help navigate the world of financing for public programs and interventions (Building an Action Team).
  • Requires keeping abreast of the larger state and federal policy picture and of state budget and funding processes and available opportunities. For that, again, relationships with officials and colleagues are essential to ensure you are at as many “tables” as possible. Showing up and participating at the “tables”[2] enables you to attach your initiative to policy goals being advanced by state education, health, behavioral health, Medicaid, youth development, and other officials including the state board of education, through both direct budget proposals and executive actions that impact the budget (Connecting with the Policy Environment).
  • Emphasizes framing positive messages that connect diverse stakeholders’ aspirations, both the broader public interest and the more narrow professional self-interest, with the universal student support, youth development, or educational initiatives you are advancing (Communications).

See the below graphic for a visual representation of the strategy. This graphic can also be downloaded here.

Framework for Sustainability


Each of the Action Guide’s sections, which correspond to the four prongs, provide both overarching “big picture” ideas and more discrete action items, and contain links to downloadable tools to help you plan for your situation. In addition, there is an assessment page in each section which will help you engage in continuous improvement guided by ongoing review and evaluation of the actions you are taking towards sustainability.

This Action Guide is intended to provide a variety of stakeholders – school administrators and student support leadership, community agency and other program directors, and civic leaders, among others – with the tools, information, and guidance to create an action plan to sustain interventions that promote students’ cognitive, social, emotional, and physical health and educational success.

These child development and prevention approaches may be referred to by a variety of terms, but the purpose of all of them is to improve youth outcomes. The evidence tells us that such interventions boost the capacity of youth to manage emotions, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively and ethically. “Such social and emotional competence bears directly on children’s ability to learn and achieve in school.”[1]

To be effective, however, such interventions must be sustained over time, rather than merely piloted for short periods. That is the challenge this Action Guide takes on.

The Action Guide builds on the similarities of these programs. Rather than pursuing the sustainability of individual programs in a fragmented fashion, it outlines steps to build and sustain a comprehensive state or local approach that encompasses all child and youth development programs currently being implemented. It focuses on promoting the overall concept of these approaches in a positive manner and builds on partnerships, assets, and knowledge of the political environment.

One can argue that sustainability is an ongoing developmental process and requires intentional, strategic actions for a prolonged period of time. How to determine which actions at what times as well as how to assess whether those actions are in fact leading to sustainability are among the central aims of this Action Guide.

The Action Guide is intended to evolve and develop as more users submit their success stories and feedback. We hope that you will share collaborative efforts from your community, recommend external resources, and provide feedback on the usability of the Action Guide. If you are interested in partnering with the Center or in Technical Assistance for using the Action Guide, please contact us.

As you explore the four sections of the website, we encourage you to register so that you can bookmark favorite pages and leave comments.


[1] Price, Hugh, “Social and Emotional Development: The Next School Reform Frontier,” Economic Studies at Brookings, May 2015.
[2] We are using the term “table” to describe the formal and informal meetings, committees, and task forces where input is sought, ideas are discussed, and decisions take shape before final written documents are issued.

Updated June 2015

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