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Intermediary Organizations Increasingly Important in OST

Intermediary organizations are valuable in increasing the quality, capacity, and structure of out-of-school programs, says a new report from the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, a network of intermediary OST organizations.

"Making the Connections: A Report on the First National Survey of OST Intermediary Organizations" is based on survey data of intermediary organizations that looked at the landscape of such organizations, how they've provided the most significant impacts to the out-of-school field, and their best success strategies that can be replicated, specifically with improving systems for after-school.

While there are variety of intermediary organizations in the OST field, they do share some common characteristics, the report says, particularly around their goals of improving access to out-of-school experiences and advocating favorable policies and funding practices to support such programs. On average, these organizations were successful in increasing the number of children who could take advantage of expanded learning opportunities and helping programs receive increased funding and develop standards and assessment tools.

Still, these programs need more funding and more guidance to have more of an impact, according to those surveyed. To get started, organizations needed an influx of private dollars before they could rely more heavily on public support. In addition, many said they needed help building the data systems necessary to improve the quality of out-of-school programs. Additionally, it often takes time.

"Community-grown systems building doesn't happen overnight. ... While intermediaries are by their nature fast-moving in response to issues and opportunities in their local communities, we learned it takes intermediaries a few years to show impact related to funding, quality, and policy," the report says. "Organizations need time to build trust, gain community buy-in, and facilitate planning processes to make key decisions. As organizations pass their third, then their fifth birthdays, they increasingly play important roles in increasing access and quality, establishing data systems and influencing policy."

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