The following is a conversation between Alejandro Gibes De Gac, Founder & CEO of Springboard Collaborative, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving. 

Alejandro Gibes De Gac, Founder and CEO of Springboard Collaborative

Denver: Springboard Collaborative closes the literacy gap by closing the gap between home and school. It’s also taking this moment, a moment created by the pandemic, to reimagine the educational system as it is being rebuilt. This is a significant story, and here to share it with us is the Founder and CEO of Springboard Collaborative, Alejandro Gibes De Gac

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Alejandro!

Alejandro: Thank you so much for having me. 

Denver: You founded the organization, I don’t know, about 10 years ago. 2011, I think it was. What inspired you? What motivated you, Alejandro, to launch it? 

Alejandro: It’s been a while now, I suppose. Family engagement is the beating heart of our work, and so I always start the origin story with my family.

I am half Chilean, half Puerto Rican. My parents escaped political persecution after my dad, in 1973… he wrote a play in protest of the dictator Pinochet, and it went over about as well as you would expect. 

And growing up in a home with no money but lots of love, it taught me what has become Springboard’s founding insight, which is that parents’ love for their children is the single greatest and the most underutilized natural resource in education.

Denver: I can imagine. My goodness. 

Alejandro: He was tossed into a dictatorial prison, a military prison camp. He was held there for two years, tortured, kind of all the unsavory things that happen in a dictator’s prison, but he was luckier than many to make it out alive and even luckier to meet my mom while in exile, in Paris of all places. 

My mom is the youngest of 13 siblings in Puerto Rico, and she was the first one in her family to go to college, just one of two kids in Puerto Rico that got selected for a graduate school scholarship in Paris. My mom and dad met at a theater festival where my dad pretended he had the perfect role for my mom; she pretended she was an actress. Technically, it’s acting, and the rest is history. 

So they traveled the world performing social justice theater. My sister and I were born in far-flung places. We lived in Puerto Rico for a little while, and then my parents made the decision to emigrate to the US so that my sister and Melina and I could have better educational opportunities, even though it meant giving up their theater dreams, the kind of sacrifice that only a parent would make. 

And growing up in a home with no money but lots of love, it taught me what has become Springboard’s founding insight, which is that parents’ love for their children is the single greatest and the most underutilized natural resource in education. I brought that perspective with me, first to Harvard; and when I graduated, I joined Teach for America and became a first-grade teacher in North Philly. 

When I was teaching in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, I saw myself in my students; I saw my parents in their parents, and pretty quickly, I realized the connection was deeper than just our shared language and culture and experience of childhood poverty. It was the look. My students’ parents looked at their kids the same way that my parents look at me, with the same eyes that my sister looks at my nieces, with the same eyes that I’m going to look at my baby girl when she’s born in July — eyes that are full of all the love, commitment, and potential that any parent sees in their kid. 

And yet, I became frustrated that my school, and more broadly, our system was approaching low-income parents like my own as liabilities rather than as assets. And I felt like we were missing a big opportunity. Kids typically spend 75% of their waking hours outside of the classroom. In the COVID era, lots of kids are spending 100% of their waking hours outside of the classroom. And if we don’t find a way to bring parents into the teaching process and equip parents to support learning at home, how are we ever going to close the achievement gap, let alone the opportunity gap? Long story short, that’s the circuitous path that brought me from my upbringing to the role that I have now.

Denver: What are some of the ways that you can… and you’re absolutely right. I think schools for low-income families do look at parents as liabilities and not assets, and you know that is the critical factor as you said. What do we need to do to increase the level of engagement of parents?

Alejandro: It’s interesting. So we spent a while at Springboard, a couple of years leading up to the pandemic, reflecting on what exactly is the method that’s driving impact within our work so that we could spread that method far beyond the boundaries of any of our programs. We codified it. We open-sourced it coincidentally a couple of weeks before school started to close. And it answers your question in terms of: How can teachers and families work together to support student learning?

 We call the method Family Educator Learning Accelerators, or FELAs for short, and they’re 5- to 10-week cycles during which parents and teachers share a game plan in order to help kids reach learning goals, plain and simple. That’s what works about what we do. And we’ve got these six simple steps. 

The first of which is to build a relationship. You don’t get far if you don’t have trust between a teacher and the families they are working with. And whether you do that through an in-person home visit, as we did in the days of yore, or through a virtual conversation like the one we’re having right now, there’s got to be a moment to form a team.

 And then in step two, you measure where the starting line is for a student. You have to know what their baseline is in order to be able to set a meaningful growth goal, which is step three. And that learning goal, it’s got to be achievable within a 5- to 10-week window. We’ve learned any shorter than 5 weeks… it’s not quite long enough to build a habit. Any longer than 10 weeks and the finish line is too far away to motivate behavior change between the teachers and the families. 

Step four — practice, practice, practice. Kids practice with their teachers, whether it’s in-person or virtual. Kids practice with their families at home, and we have an app that guides that daily interaction so that even a parent that isn’t themselves a reader can still feel as a confident teacher. And then finally, the teachers and families need to practice together as a team at least four times over the course of the cycle, whether it’s an in-person workshop or virtual, in order to share skills and create mutual accountability. 

Then step five, at the end of the 5 to 10 weeks of practice, you measure progress. You see how kids did relative to their learning goal. And the very last step is to celebrate together. Punctuating the experience with a quick win is what crystallizes longer-lasting habits that we see, both with teachers and also with families at home.

Denver: This continues on, this engagement between the parent and child, long after that 5 or 10 weeks. Let me ask you a question about parents and school, and have you seen anything in terms of social norms, where you get a critical mass of parents in a school where it begins to take on a life of its own and other parents begin to say, “Hey, maybe I better get on the bus here?”

Alejandro: It’s such a good question. And we’ve been thinking a lot about it in terms of how we can make systems change kind of beyond the reach of any one program, which is hard to scale to meet the need at the scale at which the need exists. 

There’s a fair bit of research behind this as well. There’s something about the 25% threshold, that if you can get 25% of people within a community to embrace a new practice, then pretty quickly the culture begins to tip, and that new practice becomes standard practice. So in any of our programs within schools, we aim to have at least 25% of the teachers and families engaging in this way in order to begin to tip the culture of the school so that this is just woven into the fabric of that school community. This is how parents and teachers support each other in order to help kids reach learning goals. And why would you do it any other way? 

And you can extend that same logic beyond just the school. If you can get 25% of schools within a district, you can begin to tip the culture. If you get 25% of districts within a state, 25% of states within the country… there’s a pathway to try to create a groundswell of teachers and families that are experiencing success together in order to make that just a lasting part of our education system. 

Denver: If you and your wife have four kids, and only one’s going along, I think you’re going to need more than that to tip the other three. But that’s just a heads up, OK?

Alejandro: Fair enough.

They estimate the COVID slide will set Black and Brown learners back between 9 and 10 months in their learning, and that could have between 15% and 18% cut in their lifetime earning potential.

Denver: Independent of Springboard Collaborative, from what you’ve seen, how worried are parents with this pandemic? I remember the summer slide. I guess we got something called the COVID slide. Is that gap widening? I think we intuitively know, but have you seen how significant that is?

Alejandro: It’s widening in a big way. And McKinsey has better research than I do. They found that, they estimate the COVID slide will set Black and Brown learners back between 9 and 10 months in their learning, and that could have between 15% and 18% cut in their lifetime earning potential. It’s a pretty significant step back from which our country’s most vulnerable young learners may not recover. 

And families are worried. in a survey from Learning Heroes that primarily focused on Black and Brown and low-income families, that survey found that parents are more worried about their children’s learning than even their ability to keep up with the bills. It’s the top thing on the priority list. And that’s because so many of the families that we work with, they’ve learned the hard way just how important it is for their kid to have a better educational experience than they did. They want desperately to be able to play a role in order to make that happen. And yet they lack the guidance and support and partnership of the school in order to be able to step into that role of teacher at home. 

Denver: Let’s talk a little bit about how you reimagined what you were doing at the organization when the pandemic hit. And you’re someone who likes sprints, I know, and I’ve always found sprints to be very effective. But you undertook a design sprint. Tell us about that. 

Alejandro: It’s true. So it’s funny. In a lot of ways COVID didn’t break our model because we broke it ourselves a couple of years ago. We decided to set a goal that was deliberately unachievable with our in-person program model in order to force ourselves to innovate and find a way to scale our impact exponentially, instead of just being caught up in incrementally growing our programmatic footprint year after year after year. 

But almost inevitably, we’d suffer the fate of so many direct service nonprofits where you experience a logarithmic growth curve; you get bogged down by your own cost and complexity over time, and you stop well short of ever solving the problem at the scale at which it exists. 

Denver: Let me stop you there for a second to just ask you: What inspired that? Because I look at so many organizations who have the urgency of the moment, and they’re putting one step in front of the other. This clearly is a break with the present, and looking out to the future — and making your center of gravity out there someplace and working backwards — Tell me a little bit… because a lot of organizations don’t do this. They may think about it, but they never operationalize it. Tell us what went through your thinking …and that of your leadership team and your staff to make that leap. 

Alejandro: It’s a few things coming together. Part of it is that our ambition is to solve the problem at the scale at which it exists. And there’s 10 million low-income Pre-K through third-graders who aren’t getting the foundational literacy skills to be able to access their education and ultimately realize their full potential. It’s a huge number. We were reaching 10,000 of those children, meaningful for those kids and families, but a drop in the bucket relative to the problem. So that was part of the impetus, just realizing that we chart this out, and we’re just not on a course to change the status quo. 

Part of it was just this visceral image I had in my head of like sitting at Springboard’s 25th-anniversary gala, awkwardly swirling my wine and grappling with the fact that the problem is as big as it ever was, and what have we been doing all this time? So that was another piece of it. 

And then the other piece is that we had thought partners in two organizations. One that’s called Spring Impact, which is a consulting firm that specializes in franchising in the social sector. So we had them in one year, trying to figure out: what’s the train-the-trainer, kind of a lower-cost version of our model that can spread more broadly? And then in the other ear, we had a group called the Billions Institute, which is organized around the idea of codifying your methodology, unleashing it in the world, and challenging yourself to reach an order of magnitude beyond anything that’s kind of on your current trajectory.

Denver: Cool. So taking where we’re at right now, let me bring you back to where you were, I guess. You looked at this pandemic in sort of three phases. Maybe you can walk us through that continuum. You have the relief, the recovery, and the reform. So why don’t you take us through that in terms of how one is moving into the other. 

Alejandro: The relief phase. This is just when schools are trying to get their feet under them. Priority number one, which is the health and safety of their kids, families, teachers… and learning just wasn’t yet back on the priority list. So in that phase, we went directly to teachers and families in order to provide them with resources that could be immediately helpful amidst school closures.

So for teachers, we’re partnering with a teacher’s union, the AFT, and we led trainings to help teachers learn in short order how to meaningfully partner with parents to support learning at home. That hasn’t been a part of pre-service teacher training in our education system, and that leads to all kinds of problems downstream. So that was the focus of our efforts with teachers. 

And then with families, we released a bunch of our content. So our app provides families with daily reading tips to support their children’s learning at home. And we also created a two-month learning plan so that families didn’t have to wonder “How can I make sure that my kid is making progress? And what are we doing today, tomorrow, and the next day?” So that was just kind of the short-term phase of direct-to teacher, direct-to-family: how can we be immediately helpful with this week and next? 

The recovery phase, which frankly is lasting longer than I’d anticipated.

Denver: Of course.

Alejandro: That’s the phase when schools begin to realize COVID slide is real. We’re seeing those effects now, and we need to have a strategy for COVID learning loss recovery. This past summer, through this year and moving into the summer ahead, we’ve been supporting 10 times as many schools as we had ever worked with previously and present.

If there’s a silver lining in the way that the pandemic brought schools to a grinding halt, is that we’ve got a chance to reinvent the education system. We can’t just reach for the familiar set of classroom interventions that have failed to move the needle for the last 25 years. We’ve got a chance to build new muscle memory and to kind of reinvent education with families at the center. 

Denver: That’s incredible

Alejandro: We’ve been doing that work virtually, and the goal is to help kids not only avoid regression during school closures but instead, make significant reading progress. And we’ve seen some encouraging outcomes on that front. 

The reform phase, to me, what’s exciting, and if there’s a silver lining in the way that the pandemic brought schools to a grinding halt, is that we’ve got a chance to reinvent the education system. We can’t just reach for the familiar set of classroom interventions that have failed to move the needle for the last 25 years. We’ve got a chance to build new muscle memory and to kind of reinvent education with families at the center. I want to make sure we don’t miss that opportunity as a country.

Denver: We’re really at a crossroads, aren’t we? 

Alejandro: We certainly are. 

Denver: Yes.

Alejandro: I think it could go one of two ways. In one scenario, schools don’t experience success with working alongside families to support learning at home. And I worry that’ll confirm the biases that we were discussing earlier… that the parents just aren’t capable of being their children’s teacher, and we’ll miss an opportunity to learn how to do that well. 

The other scenario is if we can get enough teachers and families to support one another in order to help kids reach learning goals during the pandemic, we can help them to build habits that’ll outlive school closures, and it’ll create a new path forward for our education system, one in which we’re helping kids have access to learning across the continuum of home and school. 

That’s the opportunity that’s in front of us, and we’re thinking strategically at Springboard about:  How can we seize this moment where our education sector is paying close attention to parents and their role in learning at home?  How can we seize the moment to make some lasting change? 

Denver: Alejandro, what does this do to an organizational culture where you’re not just helping kids learn how to read, but you’ve elevated this pretty much to transforming the American educational system?  How does that play out among the staff and the volunteers and the board?

Alejandro: Yes, it’s a lot. I’ll be frank. It’s a lot to take on, and we’re learning as we go, as we continue to grow quickly, that we’ve got to keep people focused. So increasingly, we’re thinking about our work in these three concentric spheres. 

The smallest of which is our direct impact. That’s Springboard delivering its own intervention. Next is our widespread impact. That’s Springboard working through others to deliver the intervention more independently and affordably– that’s our train-the-trainer model. And then the third biggest and most expansive sphere is our systemic impact. That’s how do we take the method, the FELA method, and make it standard practice across our education system, across subject areas, across grade levels? It’s just the way that parents and teachers work together in our school system.

Those are three very different bodies of work, and we’re learning that team members need to focus on one. So there’s a team that focuses on our direct impact, and their job is to be the best at implementing programming. There’s a team that focuses on our widespread impact, and their job is to be the best coaches of others that are using our method. And then we’re leaning into what it looks like to build out a team focused on our systemic impact, which requires a very different kind of thinking, spreading an idea as opposed to spreading a program.

It’s a testament to the fact that when parents and teachers work together, they get a whole lot more done, and they can turn the COVID slide into a COVID springboard.

Denver: Let me ask you a little bit about the impact because you guys are fanatical about measuring your impact. Of all these programs, tell us a little bit about the work that you’ve done and the results, the outcomes that you’ve been able to achieve. 

Alejandro: A couple of things there. So my biggest, I don’t know if it’s true… among my fears, among many fears that I had when the pandemic hit was that families might be too overwhelmed, especially the families that we work with that are kind of bearing disproportionately the brunt of the impact of the pandemic. And in so many different dimensions, I was worried that those families might be too overwhelmed to continue to participate at the rate that we’ve seen historically. 

And that’s kind of the secret sauce of Springboard, the way you get a different outcome… with the very same teacher who’s been there all along… is by getting 90% plus of families to attend a weekly workshop, learn how to teach reading at home, and turn that into a lasting daily habit. That’s the magic of what we do, and I was worried that magic might be lost. But I was heartened that that hasn’t been the case, and if anything, we’ve seen increased participation of families, even in the virtual programming that we’re doing, despite all the challenges of the digital divide. We’re getting on average 91% of parents that are attending weekly workshops virtually to learn how to best support their children’s reading at home. In D.C., in DCPS, we had 99% average family workshop attendance, higher than anything we’d ever seen before in person. 

That is meaningful, not just as a testament to the fact that parents broadly, and especially these parents that are all too often written off, are willing to step up and play the role of teacher at home. It also matters in terms of kids’ learning outcomes. I will say that data’s been harder to come by during the pandemic since teachers just aren’t giving the same classroom-based assessments that they typically do. But we were able to structure an analysis in New York with a group of schools where they looked at the last reading score that was administered before schools closed, so late February, early March as a starting point. And then they were able to readminister that same literacy assessment, the i-Ready assessment, when kids came back to school virtually in September, the following year… so that entire period of spring closures in the summer. 

And over that time period, we looked at two groups. One was a group of kids that participated in Springboard’s train-the-trainer programming, so kind of our lighter touch, lower cost, do-it-yourself version of our program. And then we had a control group, kids that were participating in kind of distance learning as usual in that school. 

And the outcomes were night and day. The kids that participated in the treatment group in the programming averaged a 256-point gain, relative to just a 41-point gain for the control groups, that they made six times the reading progress that their peers in the school had made. And for me, it’s not a testament to Springboard’s programming. This is the lightest touch version of what we do. It’s a testament to the fact that when parents and teachers work together, they get a whole lot more done, and they can turn the COVID slide into a COVID springboard. 

As an organization, we hold tightly to the problem and loosely to the solution. We never fall in love with a solution and get too wedded to the way that we’ve always done things. And we do that in the spirit of staying committed to ever deepening our understanding of the problem we’re trying to solve, and finding better and better ways to solve it, both in terms of impact and cost-effectiveness.

Denver: I love that you have such a simple theory of change: parent engagement. That’s the heart of everything that you do. Alejandro, as a relatively young leader of a nonprofit organization, how do you think your concept of leadership is maybe different from the generation or two before you? And secondly, has that concept evolved even further during this pandemic?

Alejandro: It’s an interesting question. And I’ll respond with the humility of still very much being on a learning curve about my own leadership. I think part of it stems from the fact that as an organization, we hold tightly to the problem and loosely to the solution. We never fall in love with a solution and get too wedded to the way that we’ve always done things. And we do that in the spirit of staying committed to ever deepening our understanding of the problem we’re trying to solve, and finding better and better ways to solve it, both in terms of impact and cost-effectiveness. So I think the implication of that for my leadership is that it’s somewhat more participatory. Anyone in the organization can help to deepen our understanding of the problem and in fact, it’s their responsibility to do so. 

I think the other thing worth mentioning is my partner in running the organization, Aubrey. This thing wouldn’t work if it weren’t for the two of us together. We have a partnership that, I’m forgetting the particular business book that describes it in this way, but a visionary-integrator partnership. My role is along four functions. One is to see the vision, see what’s ahead. Second is to help build the strategy. Third is to bring resources into the organization, which is a combination of human capital, financial capital, social capital, intellectual capital. And then the fourth is to influence the field, to kind of spread our impact beyond the boundaries of our business. 

I can focus on those things only because I have Aubrey as a counterpart, the president of the organization who is in charge of managing the leadership team, of integrating across all of the functions to ensure that the pieces come together, and of creating the strategic and operational plan that brings that vision to life. So it’s really the combination of the two that helps us to cover a whole lot more ground. 

Denver: That’s really interesting. That’s Aubrey White, for people, who’s the president, based in Philadelphia. And I’m hearing more about that, Alejandro, you almost need a couple people at the top. These jobs have become too big and too complex. And when one leader tries to take on everything, it doesn’t work as well. But when you have people with complementary skills, the way you and Aubrey do, it really can be a great little team working together to take the organization where it needs to go.

Denver: Alejandro, with everything that you have going on, what would you say your number one challenge is right now? 

Alejandro: The biggest challenge for the organization is quickly enough securing the resources in order for us to meet surging demand, and that’s a combination of both of our sales efforts, our partnerships with schools, and our fundraising efforts. Both of those pieces need to come together, and they need to come together in short order in order for us to keep our foot on the gas and not to have to put the other foot on the brakes.

The biggest challenge for my own leadership… I think of that differently because of the way that Aubrey and I have kind of bifurcated our roles. I tend to live with both feet in the future, as you can tell from our conversation, and Aubrey lives with both feet in the present. And the two of us spend a lot of time talking to make sure that we’re in lockstep. 

One of the challenges of the pandemic is that things are changing so quickly, and the organization is under such pressure and stress as we strive to meet the moment. I’ve got to have a foot back in the present, and candidly, that’s difficult for me. I want to keep paving the road ahead. But I’ve learned as a leader that I also need to be able to toggle between the future and the present pretty fluidly in order to make sure I don’t get a little too far ahead of where the organization is. 

Denver: You don’t want to be ahead of your team or your board or anything, but everybody else. How are you wrestling with that? How are you getting back to the present? Because I can see your center of gravity is the future, and you would like to spend all your time there. But when a team is struggling with the day-to-day, as every non-profit organization is doing, they want to see their leader in the middle of this struggle and not looking out the window in terms of where this organization is going because we have to survive today. What have you been able to do to get yourself back? 

Alejandro: It’s a work in progress. And to me, it feels a little clumsy. It doesn’t come nearly as naturally as vision and strategy, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to still do it. So what I’m learning is that where my attention goes, energy within the organization will follow

So for me, the first step is just pay much more close attention to the day-to-day metrics: What’s the enrollment like today at this one school in Detroit?  And if I can zoom in on a level of disaggregated data that wouldn’t typically be kind of on my radar screen, that’s the best way that I found to kind of make sure that I’ve got a foot firmly planted in the present, that I’m asking thoughtful questions about the present, and lending attention and support so that the team as a whole knows that I’m at their side in this moment even while the other foot is firmly planted in the future, ensuring that we’re orienting toward the opportunities that lie ahead.

Denver: I can even say from the words you used– attention and support– that when you come back from the future to the present, you have to do so with a light touch, I would guess, because they’ve been kind of living that day-to-day, and they probably are not looking for the CEO to come in there and say, “What the heck is going on here?” So it has to have just the right touch to give a little nudge, but not to be dictatorial in any kind of way, not that you would ever would be. 

Alejandro: Totally. I think it’s about asking thoughtful questions that reflect a nuanced understanding of what’s unfolding on the ground.

Right now, 93% of parents think their kid is reading on grade level, even though in reality, only about a third of kids actually are reading on grade level.

Let me close with this. Looking ahead at the next decade, Alejandro, the decade of the 2020s, what will be your number one priority to help assure the relevance and health of the organization, and to deliver against mission?

Alejandro: I love that question. So the current priority is to help 100,000 kids reach reading goals by December 31, 2022. That’s the aim that we set that’s kind of put us on the path that we’ve been on and that, frankly, helped us to weather the pandemic since we’re doing a lot of innovation in order to reach that new order of magnitude. As soon as we do that, we 10X it again; then the target becomes to help a million kids reach reading goals. About five years after that, once we do that, we 10X it again at which point the goal becomes to solve the problem at the scale at which it exists for all 10 million low-income Pre-K through third-graders who are being disserved in terms of their literacy.

 In order to do that, it means, as an organization, we need to stretch. In this first phase, we stretched from our direct impact to our widespread impact. How do you go from doing something yourself to showing somebody else how to do it? In order to reach the next phase, if we’re looking 10 years out, we need to learn how to stretch beyond widespread impact toward systemic impact. What does it look like to catalyze a culture shift that makes family engagement standard practice in our educational system? 

The way I see it, and it’s just starting to become more clear within the crystal ball, so to speak, but there’s both grasstops and grassroots strategies, and those exist both on the supply side — How do you get more teachers and families that can successfully use the method together? And on the demand side — How do you get more teachers and families that are asking for it in the first place? So this is a preview of coming attractions. 

But on the grasstops supply side, here, I think the most interesting thing you’ll see in the next 10 years is our partnerships with graduate schools of education in order to embed the FELA method into pre-service training as a practicum, so that any teacher that starts on day one in this country in the classroom, does so already with the skillset and mindset to be able to meaningfully partner with parents. On the grassroots side, in terms of supply, we’re investing in software that can help teachers and families to… they can guide them through the six steps of the FELA method so that they can set and achieve goals independently without being part of an institution that’s formally embraced the FELA method.

On the demand side, the grasstop strategy is going to be policy. So how can we advocate federal, state, and local levels to ensure that resources are allocated toward family engagement? It’s significantly underfunded at the moment. And then lastly, at the grassroots level within the demand-side strategy. The question is: How do you get more and more families to advocate for a seat at the table? And I think actually the best pathway for doing so is to create visibility around data. So right now, 93% of parents think their kid is reading on grade level, even though in reality, only about a third of kids actually are reading on grade level. 

So if you don’t even realize your kid is falling further and further behind, then you can’t possibly advocate for them as vociferously and as effectively as you’d like to. So we’re going to turn the lights on. We’re building a parent-facing literacy assessment, a way for any parent anywhere to get a line of sight into their children’s reading development. And the bet that we’re making is that by turning the lights on, we’ll unleash a groundswell of parent activism that can flip the power dynamic in the school system… so that school systems serving low-income families feel every bit as accountable to them as do school systems serving higher-income families. If all those pieces come together top-down, bottom-up, I think that we can transform the education system for the better and for good. 

Denver: I love that part. You’re using data not to measure impact; you’re using data to drive impact. And that is such an interesting distinction. I’ll tell you, this sounds both exhausting and exhilarating, and it’s one where you’re always going to be a startup. Every time a 10X comes, whatever got you there is not going to get you where you want to go. So it is almost a perpetual string of startups. Will that be a way to look at it? 

Alejandro: I think that’s exactly right. There could be interesting combinations from a governance perspective over time. If I look back into the crystal ball, it may make sense to have multiple organizations under one umbrella that are taking on different portions of the work.

What it is to be a tech company that’s kind of building a platform that’s intuitive, that has a user community that anyone can use is different than what it is to lobby for policies, is different than what it is to partner with massive institutions and advise them on how to implement the method. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but I can promise you it’ll keep us all on our toes.

Denver: I’ll be watching Tell us about the Springboard Collaborative website, the kind of information the visitors will find there, and maybe how they can help you out financially, if they should be so interested. 

Alejandro: I appreciate that question. So is our website. It’s got a lot more information about our model, our impact, and ways to get engaged. We’re a nonprofit, and we raise dollars for every kid and family that we work with through our programming, and we’re constantly seeking that support. We also make significant investments in our innovation and R&D as you can tell, and that’s work with which we rely on our philanthropic partners. 

I will also mention We set up a separate website that open-sourced our methodology kind of in an unbranded way. So it doesn’t have too many of the Springboard’s fingerprints on it. It can grow far and wide. So for folks that are eager to learn more about the method and kind of how families and teachers can work together, that’s a place that has a lot of free resources. 

Denver: Fantastic. Well, thanks, Alejandro for being here today. It was just a delight to have you on the show.

Alejandro: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed our conversation.

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