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Throughout the country, United Ways have designed projects, tools, and programs to engage a variety of key actors. Some noteworthy examples of work United Ways are doing in areas of youth engagement, parent engagement, and community engagement are explored below:


Youth engagement

United Way of Seneca County Out-of-School Time Survey — Teen Questionnaire (2011)
This teen questionnaire, adapted from one developed by United Way of Tampa Bay, can be used to engage young people in discussing their wants and needs for Out-of-School Time supports.

Greater Twin Cities United Way Out-of-School Time Community Pilot Youth Engagement Project (2010)
This detailed report from Minnesota's Supporting Student Success (S3) Initiative describes a youth engagement project which was designed by the S3 Youth Advisory Team in partnership with adults. This project, the Minnesota YOUth Speak! Community Dialogues, captured over 170 voices in 15 different locations from young people across the state of Minnesota through one hour conversations, co-hosted and facilitated by a youth and adult. This report contains their project work plan, recruitment process, facilitator meeting agendas, dialog summary templates, a community dialog guide, and other effective youth engagement tools you can adapt for your own community's youth engagement efforts. Click here to access their process document, which includes notes from the meetings that occurred throughout the process, reflections on the steps they took, work plans, recruiting materials, a community dialogue guide, and other useful resources.


Parent engagement

Engaging Families in Out-of-School Time Programs Toolkit: Tools to Strengthen After School and Youth Programs by Increasing Family Involvement
This toolkit is filled with tools, strategies, and resources for practitioners, based largely on BOSTnet's (United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley) four-year Engaging Families Initiative. It includes strategies relevant for programs that are just starting to involve families as well as those who want to improve already-existing family engagement practices. These strategies were evaluated by the Intercultural Center for Research in Education (INCRE) at the University of Massachusetts as powerful tools for promoting self-assessment of program practices, and as feasible and practical strategies for enhancing parent involvement in afterschool programs.

United Way - Strengthening Families Toolkit
There are many ways to implement the Strengthening Families framework; this web site is designed to help local United Ways through the process. Here you will find in-depth information on how to introduce and support the use of protective factors in community work, a flexible framework for promoting projects that use the protective factors, and a toolkit full of supporting materials and activities.


Community engagement


United Way has partnered with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to accelerate our efforts to create results in education, income, and health. The Harwood Institute works with individuals, organizations, and communities to "turn outward"—listening to communities in a new way, connecting United Ways differently to grass-roots community members, building understanding and awareness of education issues, and (once strategies are developed with community involvement) involving more and more "real people" as part of a community-wide coalition for change. Harwood tools have been created and adapted for United Ways to use in education impact work.

Introduction to Community Conversations — The resources below on conducting community conversations offer practical suggestions to United Ways for recruiting participants, finding the right conversation leader, picking locations, asking questions, communicating learnings, determining how many conversations to hold, and more. Click the link above to go to the United Way's resource hub for Harwood tools, or explore the community engagement-specific ones below. Note: To use the Community Conversations tools below, users must be staff members of the United Way and must log in to access this information. If you are not a United Way staff member, reach out to your local United Way and ask them to share these materials with you.

Conducting Community Conversations — In this webinar from 2010, Rich Harwood from The Harwood Institute describes practical reasons for United Ways to focus more heavily on "turning outward", ways that the approach can be used with traditional partners (workplace employees, young leaders, major donors, etc.), and some of the pay-offs.
FAQ on Community Conversations on Education — This FAQ contains questions such as why is United Way engaging communities in conversation around education, and how can this help accelerate the local work I'm already doing?
Community Conversations Workbook — This is a complete guide to establishing, recruiting for, hosting, facilitating, and documenting community conversations.
Annotated Community Conversation Guide — This community conversation guide is broken down for a facilitator.


Partnership for Out-of-School Time (POST), Richmond, VA
United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg's web page designed to educate the public about Richmond's, Partnership for Out-of-School Time (POST). The United Way-led coalition of youth organizations is working to give every school age youth in greater Richmond the opportunity to participate in quality out-of-school programs. Summarizes the issue, research, key partners, their plans and results.

United Way for Greater Austin Middle School Matters Community Engagement Strategy
Summary of UWCA's (Austin, TX) Out-of-School Time Community Engagement strategy containing description, goals and questions for youth and family focus groups.

United Way of Seneca County (UWSC) Out-of-School Time Meeting Agendas
UWSC's agendas for meetings with parents, school superintendents, business and the community to listen and learn from them regarding their hopes for children and the community, and to set up a process to work together moving forward to enrich Out-of-School Time.

Valley of the Sun United Way (Phoenix, AZ) and Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (AzCASE) Action Agenda
In partnership with community stakeholders, this United Way and AzCASE developed an actionable agenda to strengthen the impact Maricopa County's Out-of-School Time network has for children and youth. Part of their process included focus groups with a variety of stakeholders including youth and Out-of-School Time providers. Youth and Out-of-School Time provider feedback, along with the partnership's focus group protocols and questions which can be adapted for use by other United Ways are listed below:

Have a resource you want to share? See something you've created fitting well in the Toolkit?

Email your Out-of-School Time reports, publications, best practices, case studies, blog articles, videos, media mentions, etc. to We will contact you if we are featuring your resource in the OST Toolkit.