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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.

This case study from the Harvard Bloomberg City Leadership Initiative 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 gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

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