by Director of Promise City Programs and Partnerships Liz Cortez

The Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) team is honored to present at the 2022 StriveTogether Convening in Chicago. The title of our session is “Listen and Follow While the Community Leads.” In this session, Parent and Youth Engagement Specialist Ana Avilez and Associate Director of Data and Learning Michelle Reiss-Top will share lessons learned from the engagement of parents and youth in a human-centered design process to co-create a community report card that focuses on systems barriers and fosters our community’s ownership of data to influence systemic change.

StriveTogether, of which MPN has been a member since 2018, is a national network that supports cradle-to-career initiatives (providing prenatal to career services) across the country by providing technical assistance to backbone teams working to achieve systems transformation in their communities. StriveTogether has challenged our initiative to collect and analyze data that addresses systemic inequities. Traditionally, the main focus of our data collection across our partnership has been on behavior change of the individual (child, youth and parent) and academic scores. In addition to these traditional metrics, we are interested in developing actionable systems indicators that will help us advocate for shifting policies, practices, resources and power structures that produce more equitable prenatal-to-career outcomes in our community. This is the focus of our MPN community report card.

“Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.”
– Community Partner

Toward the end of 2021, MPN began engaging parents and youth using the human-centered design approach. A design team comprising parents, youth and staff began a dialogue with community members and collected information via one-on-one interviews and in focus groups. To work together in a virtual format due to pandemic challenges, we provided design team members with capacity-building around using both Zoom and the Miro collaborative platform, plus we surveyed members for any technology equipment needs.

Our meetings always started with the proposition that we would co-create something that would reflect the needs and desires of the community – and that we were open to what the group would come up with in terms of what it should look like. Parents and youth became researchers and developed the questions we would ask our community through one-on-one interviews and focus groups. After those interactions, interviewers from the design team had the opportunity to share the stories they were collecting: We started to see emerging themes. 

“I appreciated having a dialogue with my community rather than collecting feedback through a survey.”
– Design Team Member 

From surviving to thriving
We learned much about what our community members are experiencing when navigating systems, especially during the pandemic. Families are concerned about academic outcomes, but shared that many needs are not being addressed, creating barriers to students and families thriving. After analyzing all the information we gathered, we developed key insights that reflect our families’ needs and barriers.

Families shared that the system works against them and even takes advantage of them. The ability to obtain legal status is at the center of whether a family can thrive. Without such legal status, coupled with English-language skills to navigate systems (e.g., schools, city agencies, employment), parents are compelled to work more than one job and cannot spend quality time with their kids, with the latter harmed by this vicious cycle.

“Who is asking these questions? I’ve never been asked about my story.”
– Community Member

Families shared that they are experiencing survey and intake fatigue. Every institution that they navigate is asking them the same questions. They also shared that they rarely get feedback: They are curious about how things are changing in the community, but the data is not coming back to the community members to make sense of it. Consequently, we thought it was important that whatever we created to demonstrate community needs and desires should be immediately available to the community.

Prototype development: An MPN App to collect community data
After months of working collaboratively, we devised an App prototype that would allow us to collect community data on barriers and desires. Our App is in the pilot stage and includes questions about community members’ experiences as they navigate systems ranging from city agencies and community-based organizations to schools and others. Additionally, the App will be a place where community members can access videos and listen to stories that community members are sharing about their experiences, needs and desires. The App will provide community members with access to the data right after completing the surveys. They can see what other community members are saying and use the data in any leadership space they are in to advocate for their needs and those of the community.

Next steps
We have just begun the data collection through the App. We envision coding the data to develop systems-level indicators that will be tracked over time and used to paint a picture of what the community is experiencing and to begin a planning process with our community partners and parents, and youth around strategies and advocacy. We envision that families will have the data that they need to advocate for their needs and help to change the systems that are not working for them. 

Stay tuned for the next exciting phase of our work.


Community Report Card Design Team Members:
Rosario R., Parent
Abril M., College Student 
Jacqueline R., Parent
Maria G., Parent
Margarita G., Parent
Osiris L., Parent
Jacqueline H., Parent
Erick J., High School Student
Michelle Reiss-Top, Associate Director of Data and Learning
Ana Avilez, Parent and Youth Engagement Specialist
Alejandro Bautista Zugaide, Family Success Coach
Susana Gil-Duran, Early Learning Family Success Coach
Liz Cortez, Director of Promise City Programs and Partnerships

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Community engagement was one of the aspects of the Promise Neighborhood grant written back in 2012. One of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s answers to that piece of family success was the creation of a parent leadership group, known as the Mission Parent Council. This group is spearheaded by Laura Olivas.

Parent engagement
Olivas has been working with parents to strengthen their advocacy efforts for themselves and their children — and the Mission community at large. This has led to parents deciding which topics matter to them and identifying the support they need to champion those causes. A recent subject of importance was determined to be Prop N, the Immigrant Parent Right to Vote measure on the San Francisco ballot this Nov. 8.

It’s a startling fact: one-third of San Francisco parents are denied a say in their child’s education simply because they are non-citizens. Prop N would allow such parents to vote on educational matters, specifically in elections for the Board of Education.

To tell their stories, eight Mission parents headed to a San Francisco Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, where a vote of support was to be taken on the measure. Via heartfelt and powerful explanations of why the Board should vote in favor of Prop N, these parents one by one stepped forward and spoke their truth. This was the first time many had done so in public.

The good news is that there was a unanimous vote of the School Board in favor of Prop N.

The other exciting news is that these parents saw the power of having their voices heard — a message they will share in the community.

Explains Olivas, “An important piece of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s work is the creation of a college-going culture at home, so I was thrilled to see these parents valiantly taking to the podium and asking for support, as a way to play a larger role in their children’s education. This was a step in the right direction, and I can see that this is going to create something bigger. A movement has started.”

The resolution read by the School Board
Below is the text read Tuesday night. The authors were Board commissioners Matt Haney, Shamann Walton and Sandra Lee Fewer.

SUBJECT: Resolution In Support of Proposition N, Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections

WHEREAS: About 283,000 immigrants live in San Francisco — accounting for 35 percent of the population; and

WHEREAS: 54 percent of children in San Francisco have at least one immigrant parent, and 34 percent of households are headed by an immigrant; and

WHEREAS:  27.3 percent (16,070) of all SFUSD students are designated as English Language Learners, one indication of the size of the immigrant population in San Francisco public schools; and

WHEREAS: From 1776 until 1926 in 40 states and federal territories, residents who weren’t citizens could vote in local, state and sometimes federal elections; and

WHEREAS: There is a precedent of municipalities across the country that have passed legislation enfranchising non-citizens, which includes six Maryland municipalities, Chicago, Illinois, Cambridge and Amherst, Mass. (although state enabling legislation is required for implementation); and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen voting is common practice in other nations, with 23 countries allowing some form of non-citizen voting, including Belize, Canada, Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom; and

WHEREAS: Immigrants who want to become citizens face enormous bureaucratic challenges, waiting an average of 10 years to go through the process to become citizens; and

WHEREAS: This waiting time for many non-citizen parents lasts the duration of their children’s tenure in public schools; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen parents’ children, many of whom themselves are citizens, benefit with more participation in the democratic process; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizens suffer social and economic inequities, in part, because policymakers can ignore their interests; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen residents contribute to the economic vitality of San Francisco, by paying taxes, purchasing goods and services, and working in every sector of the economy; and

WHEREAS: Whereas non-citizen residents contribute to the social and cultural vitality of San Francisco by sending their children to schools, developing and participating in the life of their communities through religious and community groups; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizens are not eligible to register to vote, although existing San Francisco residents who are 18 years of age or older, United States citizens and not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction are eligible to register to vote in San Francisco elections, including elections for the Board of Education of the SFUSD; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (10-1) support Supervisor Mar’s proposal to amend the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco to authorize San Francisco residents who are not United States citizens but who are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers of a child residing in San Francisco to vote in elections for the Board of Education; and

WHEREAS: The voting rights measure, Proposition N, is on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot as an amendment to the City and County of San Francisco’s charter, and, if passed, the provision authorizing non-citizen voting in Board of Education elections would “sunset’ on Dec. 31, 2022, or the Dec. 31 immediately following the third School Board election conducted under the rules adopted in the Charter amendment, whichever is later; and

WHEREAS: Community-based organizations supporting this measure include Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), Mission Parent Council, Faith in Action, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), CARECEN, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Coleman Advocates, Laborers Local 261, La Raza Centro Legal; therefore be it

RESOLVED: The San Francisco Board of Education supports the November 2016 charter amendment to authorize San Francisco residents who are legal voting age and who are the parents, legal guardians, or caregivers for children in the SFUSD to vote in elections for the Board of Education, regardless of whether the resident is a U.S. citizen; and be it further

RESOLVED: The Board of Education is interested in the outcome of any constitutional debates related to citizenship and voting and wishes to be informed of the progress of such actions; and be it further

RESOLVED: The Board of Education is committed to maintaining and enhancing a high level of participation in School Board elections by all eligible voters and opposes any implementation of Prop N that would separate the School Board election from regular ballots and regular elections and therefore calls on the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Elections to implement Prop N, should it pass in November, without removing School Board elections from regular general elections or from regular ballots, and be it further

RESOLVED: If Prop N is passed by the voters and found to be constitutional, the Board of Education urges the Board of Supervisors to consider measures that would allow non-citizen residents of San Francisco to vote in all local elections.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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(415) 569-2699
2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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