• English
  • About
    • CEI Structure

      The CEI welcomes in districts and LEAs through a cohort model. Each Cohort makes a two year commitment learn and grow within the initiative, and many stay longer to share their expertise and facilitate the learning of newer cohorts.

  • Blog
    • Online Learning

      The CEI is proud to offer a selection of CEI-created and curated resources and learning modules on a variety of topics designed to help educators strengthen their community engagement practices.

  • Joining CEI
  • Contact
  • Find Your Closest CEI Team
  • Search

Understanding the Importance of Community

Defining Communities

Communities are indispensable for the growth and support of schools and districts, and they have a profound impact on the educational ecosystem. Communities lay the foundation upon which successful educational initiatives are constructed and sustained. They offer a wide variety of resources, knowledge, and support that schools can tap into to support their basic needs, enrich their learning experiences, and achieve optimal personal and academic outcomes for all educational partners.

Communities function as catalysts for change and improvement. They bring together individuals providing diverse skills and expertise, facilitating innovative solutions to personal and educational challenges. Moreover, communities serve as the foundation of advocacy efforts, ensuring that students’ needs and aspirations are voiced and addressed at both local and state levels.

The traditional definition of Community-Based Organizations, or CBOs, often centers on 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. However, there’s a pressing need for a more inclusive definition that better reflects the diverse landscape of community engagement.

Non-Traditional, Non-501(c)3 Community Partners
Scroll left or right for examples
Native American Tribal Communities
These communities have a rich history of community-centered initiatives that may not fit that of a 501(c)3 organization. Yet, their contributions to community well-being are immeasurable. By broadening the CBO definition, we can acknowledge and support their work.
Grassroots Community Groups
Neighborhood Associations
Informal Collectives
Individuals Who Rally for Community Causes
Previous slide
Next slide

Inclusivity in the CBO definition is about recognizing the incredible array of community-driven initiatives that operate both inside and outside the traditional framework. It’s about honoring those who tirelessly uplift their communities, regardless of their organizational form. It is including them to the decision-making table as equal partners.

Expanding the CBO definition isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a pivotal step toward equitable partnerships and harnessing the full potential of community-driven change. It’s a call to embrace the richness of community engagement in all its forms.

The Need for a Clear and Inclusive Definition

As we navigate the complex web of community engagement in education, it becomes evident that we require a clear and inclusive definition of ‘community.’ By acknowledging the various constituents shaping our communities, we create avenues for collaboration, dialogue, and collective action. An inclusive approach fosters robust partnerships that make educational environments better attuned to our students’ needs.

Historical Context:

To understand the importance of community partnerships and education in California, we must explore through its rich historical context. Two key examples shed light on this narrative.

The East LA Walkouts of 1968 – In East Los Angeles, Mexican American students and community members staged a series of walkouts in 1968 to protest the inequities in their schools. This pivotal moment in history highlighted the power of communities coming together to demand better educational opportunities and equity. It showed that education is not just about what happens in classrooms but is deeply intertwined with community identity and advocacy.

Contemporary CBO Influence – Today, organizations like Oakland Reach in California exemplify the influential role of Community-Based Organizations. They actively engage with families and communities to drive educational improvements. Their work emphasizes that CBOs are not solely large entities but also grassroots initiatives, parents, and individuals who are deeply committed to enhancing education.

Understanding each community’s distinct history is crucial. California is a tapestry of diverse communities, each with its unique background and challenges. What worked in East LA might not be suitable for Oakland, and vice versa. Tailoring partnerships to honor these distinct histories ensures that community engagement is meaningful and effective.

Role of CBOs

Community-Based Organizations have played a significant role in shaping California’s education landscape historically. They have been instrumental in advocating for policies that promote equity, access, and quality education. Importantly, CBOs are not limited to larger, well-known organizations; they exist in various forms, including local collectives, grassroots movements, and even passionate individuals.

In the context of the Community Engagement Initiative (CEI), CBOs serve as crucial bridges between schools, districts, and communities. They engage in dialogue, advocate for change, and ensure that community voices are heard and respected. CBOs bring a depth of local knowledge and experience that is invaluable in shaping educational policies and practices.

Understanding the importance of community in education goes beyond the recognition and involvement of parents and families; it involves embracing the rich diversity of all educational partners contributing to the active engagement of our schools and districts. Creating a clear and inclusive definition of community within our circles, we can join the collective power of all partners to craft thriving educational environments that empower students and enrich our communities.

Taking into consideration the historical context of community partnerships and education in California is marked by a legacy of activism, resilience, and progress. Examples like the East LA Walkouts and the contemporary influence of organizations like Oakland Reach remind us of the enduring power of community engagement.

Understanding and partnering with communities is not just a matter of policy; it’s a commitment to recognizing the unique histories and needs of each community. It’s about fostering relationships that empower communities to shape their educational futures.

As we navigate the complex landscape of education in California, let’s remember that true progress happens when we work collaboratively, respecting the past accomplishments and learnings while innovating for the future.

Illustration in a 9:16 aspect ratio of a puzzle where pieces symbolize community-based organizations and school districts. As the pieces come together, they form a vibrant scene of children, parents, educators, and community members collaborating in various activities.

Supporting Resources

Skip to content