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Catalytic Communities Initiative Evaluation

A group of children sit at a table with picture books and writing materials
Assessing strategies to transform educational communities to benefit K-12 students
  • Client
    Walton Family Foundation
  • Dates
    2021 - 2026


K-12 education reform needs more parental and community support.  

The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) recognizes that implementing systemic education reforms requires meaningful support from parents and communities. In 2021, WFF launched the Catalytic Communities initiative to help community members create transformative educational change for K-12 students.


NORC will assess efforts to drive transformative change for K-12 students. 

WFF hired NORC at the University of Chicago to study the approaches communities take to enact transformative change and the conditions that facilitate or hinder those approaches. NORC's mixed-methods approach includes focus groups, interviews, and surveys of community engagement partners, grantee and coalition members, parents, students, and other community stakeholders. We will assess how WFF, community engagement partners, and grantees work with community members and organizations. The goal is to identify which approaches create authentic engagement based on trust, communication, and transparency.


The study aims to show how Catalytic Communities affects school success. 

The research will run until 2026. NORC expects to identify:

  • What kinds of WFF investments are contributing to ecosystem changes that will lead to educational improvement and increased economic mobility
  • The extent to which the Catalytic Communities initiative is building community members' power to advance educational change
  • What coalition capacities, strategies, and processes are more effective at sharing power among community members, grassroots organizations, and grasstops organizations
  • What community conditions facilitate or impede communities' abilities to enact transformative change
  • What lessons have been learned about theories of change, change strategies, and change processes

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