To achieve its mission, SVP Portland adjusted its strategy from promoting the overall development of local children and their families in Portland to focusing on a single challenge of improve the “kindergarten readiness” in the community.
Towards this well-defined goal, SVP Portland built a platform align resources and a mechanism of “collective impact”, which brought together its 100 plus partners, NGOs, commercial companies, government authorities to try to jointly eradicate the inequality of children’s early development by its root.
The Necessity of Strategic Transformation Comes from the Understanding of Social Impact
Over the 12 years after its establishment and still today, SVP Portland builds the operating capacity of individual nonprofits serving vulnerable children and their families. To date, it has invested deeply in 20 nonprofits.
However, when the partners looked back at SVP Portland’s vision, they reflected that the goal of giving every child within the community the opportunity to develop can not be realized through decentralized, single institutional support. When some children benefit from certain projects in certain aspect, others are not cover. If the unique advantage of SVP model is to align resources and address barriers, then is the existing giving model able to maximize this advantage? If the partners believe that the only path to sustainable solutions is broadly deploying the community’s resources to proliferate the most effective practices, then is the existing giving model on the right path?
Based on the reflection, in 2011, SVP Portland made a major strategic change, to translate the mission of “giving equal development opportunities to every child” into solving “kindergarten readiness” deficits.
This focus combines scientific social issue analysis and the actual situation of Portland metropolitan area. First, for the early stage of child development, the earlier intervention is given, the higher the rate-of-return. Second, Portland is a typical immigrant city in the United States. More than half of the population aged 0-6 are from immigrant families, which has lower overall income level and standard of living, therefore the early investment on children is more likely to prevent intergenerational poverty.
Despite the well-documented benefit, actual investment is far from sufficient. Public investment on education and child development during the first three years in Oregon was still relatively low, and three to six-year-old children from immigrant families are not fully covered. In 2011, for the first time, federal government included kindergarten into public education all over the Unites States. The next year, the state piloted the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment (OKA) and fully launched to all Oregon elementary schools in 2013.
After combining the reflection on its positioning and social impact, deep analysis on social issues, community status quo and outside opportunities, SVP Portland set its current stage goal: all children entering kindergarten in the Multnomah have the foundation for learning and life success, as measured by the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment.
Navigate Path according to Strategic Transformation: A New Start for SVP Model
After setting a clear-cut goal, SVP Portland found out even for such a pinpointed goal, only few partners were able to understand the overall needs, let alone planning systematic layout. A single institution usually chooses to focus on an even smaller need, but because of the institution’s small scale and unclear positioning in the whole eco-system, it might have unnecessary, avoidable fights for resources with other institutions, and solving these problems of path is the strong suit of SVP model.
Therefore, SVP Portland identified the resources in the community, connects the stakeholders that focus on kindergarten and preschool education, including children, parents, schools, caregivers, NGOs, hospitals, government authorities, companies and potential partners to collaborate upon this common goal.
Based on over 10 years of experience on children's development and the qualities of SVP model as a resource platform, SVP Portland lunched the Ready for Kindergarten Collaborative (R4K), a action path using the “collective impact”model, and redefined itself as a “co-convening” leader: attracting any individual or organization concerned with this issue to the platform, orchestrating common actions, set the goals and measurement of achievement and constantly reflect on the actions towards achieving the goal.
Based on this, SVP Portland continues the venture philanthropy model, turning from funding a single partner to funding key institutions and inter-partner collaboration to incorporate "group leadership" into the capacity building process and gather expert and researcher on certain issues more specifically.
Under the new strategy, SVP Portland has become the catalyst for developing key factors and community infrastructure for kindergarten readiness, supporter of key players and an open platform for the flow of key resources for the past 5 years. At the same time, it also improved its accountability and leadership in this field. In a word, SVP Portland is getting closer to achieving the clear current stage goal it set in 2011.
This strategic transformation was no easy task. For a nonprofit organization with many stakeholders, a strategic shift usually means adjusting the original perspective of a social issue and the path to address it. The hardest part is to "cut off" some of the funding to certain undertakings. For the SVP model, it also risks losing the original partners.
In fact, SVP Portland did encounter this problem during its strategic shift. A large number of former partners concerned about the broader issue of children's education were not able to immediately understand the focus on such a “small” issue. For a short period of time, more than half of SVP Portland’s partners decided to leave. It was indeed a huge blow to the organization.
But within two to three years after the strategic readjustment, the number of partners in SVP Portland had returned to its original size. Many partners who are concerned with this issue, and increasingly identify with SVP Portland, out of the recognition to its concept and trust of its capability, began to mobilize more personal resources and even enterprise and social resources to help SVP Portland achieves the goal, making it a platform that is able to leverage 1 dollar to achieve the impact of 100 dollars.
 幼儿园入学准备度：Kindergarten Readiness，针对0-6岁儿童。
 俄勒冈州幼儿园儿童评估测试：Oregon Kindergarten Assessment (OKA)。
 “提升儿童幼儿园准备度联合计划”：the Ready for Kindergarten Collaborative，简称R4K