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Element 4: Decide Priorities and Goals

Once a community-defined vision has been established, work together to determine priorities and goals that align with the vision and that are rooted in an understanding of the system and the community’s experiences and aspirations. Priorities will help guide future investments, actions, and services, and goals will inform how the impact of systems-change efforts is measured.

Case Story:


The Native American Community Academy (NACA) was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2006 as a response to local interest in a school that would deeply understand and serve the needs, strengths, and goals of its local Native American community. Led by former executive director Kara Bobroff and former head of school Anpao Duta Flying Earth, the NACA founding team organized listening sessions with over 200 people from the community to ensure that the school’s approach reflected the vision and priorities that community members had for public education – from instructional design to incorporating cultural and spiritual knowledge and traditions throughout the school day. Listen to this story clip to hear more about how NACA engaged in expansive community outreach efforts to ensure school programming reflected the priorities of students, families, and other community members.

Click Here to Listen

Reflection Pause

  • How does your school or district determine which priority areas are most important to address? Do the priorities and goals seek to address root causes identified by the community? Will the priority areas move the community closer to the shared vision?
  • How does your school or district partner with community members to make decisions about priorities and goals? 

Determining Priorities Exercise      

  • Generate an Equity Challenge Statement: What is an equity challenge you or your team need to solve? Express the challenge in one sentence. 
  • Brainstorm and Categorize Root Causes: Based on your own understanding of the equity challenge, brainstorm as many causes as you can that might be contributing to the challenge and categorize the causes (if you’ve already generated a fishbone diagram, use the categories of causes from the diagram).
  • Create a Chart: Determine which causes are related using these grounding questions: Is there a relationship between [cause 1] and [cause 2]? If yes, which cause is at the root? Repeat until you have established a relationship between all topics. 
  • Reflect: What root causes have you learned are at the heart of your challenge? What can you or your team do now to act in partnership with your communities? What have you or your team tried already to address the most significant root causes? What were some successes? Challenges?


Resources to Explore

Beyond SEL. WestEd. https://beyondsel.wested.org/audiocast/integrating-identity-affirmation-with-teaching-and-learning/ 

Interrelationship Digraph Protocol. This protocol has been from the protocol created by the High Tech High GSE Center for Research on Equity and Innovation. 

Valdez, A., Cerna, R., & Hashmi, S. (2023). Participatory systems change for equity: An inquiry guide for child-, youth-, and family-serving agencies. California Center for School Climate & Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety. WestEd.

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