Cultivating a Culture of the 4C's

Rebecca Fabiano & Jennifer Brady exchange ideas during a workshop break.

Rebecca Fabiano & Jennifer Brady exchange ideas during a workshop break.

When the National Afterschool Association asked us to describe how we build a culture of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication, we weren’t sure they meant to call us.

I really don’t know if our team cultivates the “4C’s” as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning ( defines them...but I do know that everyone at DWL is passionate about positive youth development and we keep that end in mind with all we do.

“Focus on where you're going and you'll know what steps to take. Focus on the steps you're taking and you won't know where you're going.” ~Simon Sinek

OK, so we know *where* we’re heading, but we also choose *how* to get there. And we choose to work with each other and with our clients the same way we want adults to work with young people.

Although we didn’t set out to do so, it turns out we do use the 4C’s—they are inherent in our work. Here’s what the 4C’s look like in our work with one another, clients and stakeholders:

  • Collaboration.  We assume that each person on our team is an expert. We don’t waste time trying to prove ourselves or showcase our resumes; we just jump into the work and seek each other’s input.  We are not seeking recognition; we simply want our clients to do their work better. We become part of their team and stay in the background to accomplish the task.

  • Creativity. We are not satisfied with the status quo and are always generating new ideas for improving program practices. Our staff are matched with projects they care about based on their individual passions.

  • Critical Thinking. We pay attention and constantly listen to each other, our clients and the field. We identify needs and look broadly—to research, the community, other fields, previous clients—to co-create solutions.

  • Communication. We enjoy sharing what we have learned, making connections and facilitating dynamic peer networks and blended learning opportunities where participants can serve as resources to one another.

For us, this culture is energizing. We genuinely like and respect each other. We feel empowered and motivated to work toward positive change for youth. We want young people to feel the same way in your programs. We want you to feel the same way in your organizations. How do you create a culture of the 4C’s?

Much of this post was originally printed in the National Afterschool Association’s publication, Afterschool Today.