Storymapping Process Aids Merger, Informs Future Vision for Oakland Unified School District

storymapping Sep 26, 2013

The Grove has worked with Family, Schools and Community Partnerships (FSCP), part of the Oakland Unified School District, to envision the department’s journey over the next five years and think about possible concrete steps to strengthen its work.

FSCP, the Oakland public school system’s largest department, addresses all non-academic support for students and families, partnering with external community agencies as needed. The department’s goal is to create full-service schools with a seamless service environment for students and families. This includes everything from nurses in school, mental health, health checks, and family involvement and support, to attendance issues, conflict situations, and students who are having problems in school.


Navigating a Departmental Transition

Previously the staff of FSCP, which formed as a merger of two departments, had worked from numerous offices scattered across the district. In the summer of 2012 they were brought together under one roof. Staff members needed clarity about their linkages and saw potential to improve services in the new configuration. They also sought to improve their articulation of the department’s service offerings to the rest of the district and the community.

Toward this end, The Grove co-facilitated a one-day retreat in September 2012 with all 80 staff members. (1)



First participants explored stakeholder assets and needs, strengths and challenges in the department. Then they built on this foundation to develop a vision of the department’s brightest future, along with an image of its key service areas that are deeply embedded in the community.


Bringing It All Together

Following the retreat, a design group formed to work on creating the FSCP Storymap (2). Breakthroughs in clarity came from the retreat and the series of focused meetings held afterwards.



The first version of the map, littered with sticky notes, was messy in a fun and creative way. It evolved into a beautifully crafted Storymap that told the story and articulated the department’s values, mission and vision.

The FSCP map, now up on the wall in their offices, shows how all the parts of the department fit together. This visual tool conveys the department’s most important ideas and information in a consistent, clear way, aiding communications with families and community.

(To view this image in a larger format, or to see other examples of Grove storymap projects, go to Case Studies.)



The Power of Storymap Processes

The Storymapping process made it possible for 80 staff and district leaders to get on the same page about their current situation and where they wanted to go in the future.

Grove Associate Kayla Kirsch, who works with the Oakland Unified team, reflects: “The Storymap is quite an effective device, because you are creating a picture together of what you want people to see. Somehow the process evolves from a large pool of divergent ideas and perspectives into this beautiful form. It has the quality of magic, working with many inputs and voices through multiple drafts, eventually morphing into an amazing whole view.”


Building Capacity, Strengthening Relationships

In its multifaceted work with the Oakland Schools, The Grove has sought to increase FSCP’s capacity to engage in continuous improvement, to become a learning organization, and to model the vision and principles laid out in Community Schools, Thriving Students, the district’s strategic plan.

Kristina Tank-Crestetto, director of SEL and Leadership, FSCP, summarizes the collaboration with The Grove: “It was important to establish a partnership with an external provider who really listened to us about the purposes we needed support for, the venues we wanted to focus in on, and the specific things their team could offer us to carry the work forward. We were listened to with sensitivity to what support we needed as we moved the work system-wide.”

This is Part One of a two-part series on The Grove’s work with the Family, Schools and Community Partnership department of Oakland Unified School District. For Part Two, click here.




1. The Grove’s work for FSCP was organized through the offices of CPS HR Consulting in Sacramento, CA, specialists in capacity-building in the public sector.

2. Funding for FSCP’s planning processes and Storymap was provided by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

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