Case and Materials

Change at the Speed of Trust: Advancing Educational Opportunity through Cross-Sector Collaboration in Louisville

  • Authors Gaylen Moore, Jorrit de Jong, Paul Reville, Lynne Sacks, Anna Burgess

Last Updated


North America, South Region, United States


To address the city’s significant achievement gap and improve students’ college and career readiness, Louisville, Kentucky Mayor Greg Fischer assembled a cabinet of stakeholders from nonprofits, government entities, educational institutions, and local businesses. They represented venerable organizations in the city but also faced real challenges to making progress. They had differing perspectives on what to prioritize and, in some cases, histories of tension and mistrust. Together they needed to feel their way through collective governance and decision making.

Learn how leaders reorganized the cabinet to delegate responsibilities, engender trust, and gain buy-in for systemic change.

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At the turn of the 21st century, Louisville, Kentucky, found itself in the middle to the back of the pack among peer cities along a number of key measures of prosperity and quality of life. Since then, two consecutive mayors have advanced collaborative efforts across sectors to increase students’ college and career readiness and address the city’s significant achievement gap. This case tells the story of how that effort evolved under the leadership of Mayor Greg Fischer into an effort to effect system change in education, from “cradle to career” through wraparound services and scholarship guarantees for graduating high school students.

The case explores cross-sector collaboration and governance in a city-wide context from the mayor’s point of view, centering the question of whether the process is moving too fast or too slow. It also supports learning about the design and management of cross-sector collaborations, including common challenges and success factors. An accompanying teaching note includes theory and conceptual frameworks to lead classroom discussion on the case.

Thanks to a generous donation from Michael Bloomberg, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Learning Objectives

Examine conditions and choices that foster and hinder cross-sector collaboration, and enable participants to recognize and differentiate common challenges.

Develop participants’ ability to imagine and understand the potential effects of alternative approaches to the problem.

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