The idea for Friday CAFÉ came from people working in the field of family engagement in Connecticut schools and communities. Though they go by many different titles – parent liaison, partnership coordinator, home-school facilitator, or family resource specialist – they have one thing in common. There is no professional organization in the state or network for peer-to-peer learning and resource sharing.
The CT State Department of Education (CSDE) held focus groups with school and district staff responsible for family and community engagement to learn about their work and the challenges they face. The consensus was clear – working in this field can be isolating and staff want a way to network and learn from others in the field.
The Creative Mornings Model
The Friday CAFÉ (Community and Family Engagement) is based on a model started by artists in Brooklyn called Creative Mornings. Borrowing a low-cost but high-impact strategy model from Creative Mornings (which is now in over 100 cities around the world) the CSDE joined with CREC and SERC/PIRC to create a learning community for family and community engagement professionals. An advisory group of practitioners assists with choosing topics, speakers and venues for each month.
Friday CAFÉ takes place one Friday morning a month, in interesting gathering spots across each participating state, such as museums, art centers and music theaters. During the discussion and gathering, there is time for networking and conversation, a brief (20-30 minute) presentation and spirited discussion. Topics have included “Trust,” “The Open-Door School” and “The Student Voice in Partnerships.”
Membership is broad, not just people who work directly with families, but also educators and administrators who supervise them and want deeper understanding of the benefits of greater family and community engagement.
- District staff
- Higher Education & State Education Agency Staff
- Staff from Community Organizations, Social Services and informal learning sites like museums and libraries