Just do it: How your school can make the biggest impact in your community

Statistics show selfless school administrators and teachers of private schools are making a tremendous impact on their community of families, but they often struggle to have the same influence on their local community. How can a private school have maximum impact on their community where it leads to future school growth?

The great advertising executive David Ogily said, “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product.  Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

How do you take a “big idea” and implement it to influence a community? Sports titan Nike set an example we all can follow.

Nike had a global community image as “sweat shop” owners and set ambitious goals to change it.  The corporation wanted to turn their negative image into a positive one by becoming a leading positive sustainability corporation.  They also wanted to change their reactive response to the less than desirable reputation to an offensive accommodative response.  How has Nike done it?

First, Nike acted on the “big idea” to make an environmental impact by eliminating all C8 PFCs (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals).  They have also phased out 90 percent of all PFCs from their products.  Then, Founder Phil Knight began to effectively lead the corporation to engage in a comprehensive effort to steer the organization’s culture beginning with the supply chain. Nike has been proactive in forming partnerships with their competitors; Adidas, Puma, H&M, C&A, Li Ning, and G-Star to establish a cooperative goal of reaching zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC) by 2020. Due to Knight’s leadership, Nike’s annual revenue has grown from $24 billion to $32 billion in the past five years.

Nike created an internal program called “Considered Index.”  It is an evaluation system for footwear and apparel that enables product creation teams to easily compare materials and make informed, sustainable choices during the design phase.  Buy in at every level of their organization was critical for them to move toward their aggressive and innovative goals.

Private schools can apply the lesson learned from Nike by coming up with a “big idea” to be managed by a strong Head of School. Claiborne Christian School had the “big idea” of implementing the School Growth Innovation Lab and saw a 65 percent school enrollment increase in five years.  Head of School Lee Taylor provided strong leadership by focusing their energies in investing in the training, skills and development of their teachers and staff. Taylor then networked with other local community leaders for encouragement, accountability, and mentoring. After 5 years, Lee’s school has experienced the highest level of student growth among schools in Louisiana. Their momentum for more future growth is strong.

For effective change, cooperation with one’s community is a vital element in a successful school growth movement. Schools need to be proactive in forming partnerships with their “competitors” (other schools, nonprofits, religious groups and civic organizations), “suppliers” (faculty, staff, vendors, Scout organizations, sports teams and community influencers), and “customers” (parents, alumni and prospective families). Partnerships ensure change is not just isolated to their own campus but is community wide.

Sir Ken Robinson said, “Great schools enrich the entire neighborhood, the entire ecosystem.” As more invested shareholders are involved in partnering with a school, their local ecosystem for potential families and future teachers is developed, their reputation is enhanced and the return on investment for the school’s involvement is a long-term gain. As community partners engage with students and faculty, they learn of the diverse socioeconomic backgrounds of the school’s makeup, experience their welcoming attitude and see for themselves their inclusive focus. There are endless opportunities for this: scholarships from community partners could be created to expand the reach of the school; community partners could be involved in establishing the school’s profile in enrollment and admissions goals; mentoring for their Head of School and CFO from successful local business and education leaders; teacher cohorts formed with other schools for best practices and new ideas; and organically spreading the healthy reputation and momentum of the school.

As a school makes some of these changes, they should develop opportunities for current students, parents and community shareholders to create their own “considered index.” Allow all invested parties to play a role in what they desire the proactive reputation of the school will be in their community.  This ensures their buy-in as well as the future growth of the school.

Nike’s “big idea” was to reduce environmental damage and encourage healthier living. This has driven new business growth for Nike—through building deeper connections with consumers, their industry, and with communities. Nike is a great example for private schools in developing their own “big idea” to create their needed changes for long-term growth and maximum community impact.

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