Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > ‘It’s a Systems Thing; It’s Not a Single Thing’: Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative Summer Conference Continues with a Focus on K-12 Alignment 

‘It’s a Systems Thing; It’s Not a Single Thing’: Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative Summer Conference Continues with a Focus on K-12 Alignment 

August 17, 2022

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative (D3C3) continued its summer conference series on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at Macomb Community College with an event focused on K-12 alignment, one of the three work streams on which D3C3 focuses. 

The event was co-facilitated by CivicLab’s Dr. Lilia Tanakeyowma and Dr. Kate Mahar and the Chamber’s Dr. Ezella McPherson. CivicLab’s Dakota Pawlicki led the event, guiding D3C3 college partners through assessing the current K-12 and college partnership landscape and creating a visual articulation and action plan for moving forward. 

Pawlicki explored the current landscape and the elements needed to achieve the desired partnership and workstream outcomes.  

“It’s a systems thing; it’s not a single thing,” Pawlicki said. “No one single policy or program is going to change the outcomes we want to see. And we sometimes really risk falling into that trap when we get into grant programs…because there’s a lot of minutiae. There’s a lot of moving parts.”  

According to Pawlicki, it is important to make sure educational institutions have sustainable structures and processes in place that allow them to look at what’s happening overall in pursuit of an outcome. It pushes them to look beyond individual policies and programs that only make up part of a system, such as individual grants, and see what else is working or needs improvement to help the system continue functioning.   

As part of the discussion, the college partners participated in smaller breakouts surrounding their programs and relationships at their respective institutions. The partners who attended include Oakland Community College, Oakland Schools, Macomb Community College, Monroe County Community College, Henry Ford College, Dearborn Public Schools, Schoolcraft College, Wayne County Community College District, Washtenaw Community College, and Ypsilanti Community School District. 

Prompts that guided the breakout conversations included: 

  • What is your vision for collaborative work and the strategies included in your D3C3 application? 
  • What do you need to make the adjustments and clarifications to your application requested by funders? 
  • What near-term actions do you need to make in preparation for implementing your strategies and strengthening your collaboration? 
  • Who are external partners to support your efforts? 
  • What is the role of K-12 and college in implementing your strategies? 

Pawlicki later noted how rare it is for funders to request this type of work to “improve your relationships [and] focus on your systems,” despite seeing positive results from doing so.  

“This is an opportunity to fix and focus on the systems you have. That system is the set of relationships that allow your organizations to work better together,” Pawlicki said. “What we have found time and time again – those places that have figured out how to work really well together are way more successful. The common thing is not what they did, not the policies and programs. It’s that they came together.” 

Learn more about D3C3 at