February 5, 2008

Abstract: Aspire Public Schools (2008)

Two years into an aggressive expansion plan, the leaders of Aspire Public Schools found themselves overtaxed and concerned about maintaining quality outcomes. This case study follows their efforts to strengthen their organization so that it could meet both the immediate and longer-term demands of growth.

By: Amy Saxton, Mike Perigo

Two years into an aggressive expansion plan, Aspire Public Schools was on track in terms of school openings, but behind on its goals to add a layer of management. The schools were performing well, but the nonprofit’s leaders were stretched paper thin and concerned about the organization’s ability to perform in the face of more growth.

Determined to build an organization that could support their expansion plans, the Aspire team took swift action. Their initiatives included:

  • Articulating criteria for “healthy growth” that they would use to assess expansion opportunities, thereby incorporating organizational sustainability into any future decisions about growth;
  • Addressing a profound anxiety about hiring “outsiders” and delegating responsibilities to an increasingly larger team;
  • Defining the boundaries of accountability for each of the organization’s leadership positions;
  • Clarifying decision-making authority at a broad level, and making explicit the roles and responsibilities associated with specific and potentially contentious decisions.


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