As the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative began it’s third year in September 2017, we started to reflect on key questions about our identity: Who are we and what is our work as a collective? What is realistic, while also visionary? How do we activate the wide range of institutions and stakeholders across the STEM learning ecosystem? During our second year (2015 – 2016), two areas of work bubbled up for us: work at the citywide level, where we could make systems-wide impact, and place-based STEM ecosystem development in a specific community – Austin on Chicago’s West Side. For a look at the Cooperative’s engagement in Austin with local stakeholders, see our Year 2 report here. Reflecting on this work, the Cooperative’s Leadership Team convened in October and November 2017 to update the mission and foundational language.

Our prior mission stated that the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative aims to increase youth and family access to quality STEM experiences in both formal and informal settings, from cradle to career. Through our discussions and reflections, we felt that this mission was too general and did not speak to our important role as a convener of stakeholders to address inequities in the STEM learning landscape. Our updated mission and foundational language is grounded in an asset-based approach, recognizing that there is incredible expertise among our partners, from community-based organizations to large institutions.

UPDATED MISSION:

Convening stakeholders in Chicago’s STEM ecosystem to address inequities in the STEM learning continuum by facilitating cross-sector knowledge building, collaboration, and collective action.

WE, The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative:

  • Are guided by the premise that access to a continuum of high-quality, in-home, in-school and out-of-school STEM experiences across all years of development can provide a strong foundation for success in adulthood and support civic, college, and work readiness.
  • Understand that the STEM ecosystem reflects the combined digital, in-school, and out-of-school actions of all stakeholders who impact STEM learning opportunities for students and families, recognizing that STEM learning can happen any time, anywhere, at any pace.
  • Recognize that access to STEM learning opportunities in Chicago is unequal, both historically and today, and therefore, we strive to advance policies and practices to close opportunity gaps and address inequities, at both the system and local level.
  • Convene cross-sector stakeholders (families, community based organizations, public agencies, schools, funders, corporations and cultural institutions) to move from a fragmented STEM landscape of efforts towards a coordinated approach.

WE ACTIVATE BY:

  • Engaging in collaborative knowledge-building, rooted in research and implementation evaluation, that takes the form of thoughtful share out and discussion of best practices – allowing research to inform our collective practice and knowledge to flow across sectors and domains.
  • Collaborating via affinity groups, cross-sector partnerships, and regular convenings among stakeholders to build trust, drive common motivation, and develop shared language and common understanding of assets and opportunities within the ecosystem.
  • Collective Action through common agenda setting that closes opportunity gaps and, ultimately, strengthens the lives of citizens and communities.