Elevating Community Capacity

19724826_sIn the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic, the media is asking what led to the containment of an outbreak that ultimately killed over 4,000 Liberians. As headlines captivated the world over the past summer, Liberian officials struggled to respond to the growing crisis, and the U.S. government is now being viewed as ultimately ineffectual for spending the lions’ share of $1.4 billion on a network of clinics that now lie empty.

While the debate over exactly how the epidemic was contained continues, a particularly promising side of the story is the role that local Liberian communities played in containing the spread of the disease. Continue reading “Elevating Community Capacity”

Montana’s “Nested Collective Impact” Leverages Rural Community Connections

I was recently invited to be a contributor to a new blog organized by the Collective Impact Forum. Here is my first essay.

Montana recently hosted Jeff Edmondson of StriveTogether in a daylong workshop to explore collective impact in rural communities. Six Montana towns, with populations ranging from 7,000 to 100,000, gathered teams from early childhood, K-12, college access and employers to explore the StriveTogether framework.

Folks in the room were local leaders in Graduation Matters Montana (GMM), a statewide initiative of the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI), which seeks to increase the state’s high school graduation rate through artful local partnerships between schools, community organizations and Main Street businesses. Since it began in 2010, forty-three communities have launched a GMM initiative, representing 75% of the state’s high school students. Dropout rates are down and the state graduation rate is on the rise. GMM is, as Liz Weaver of the Tamarack Institute describes, an example of “nested collective impact”. 

Continue reading “Montana’s “Nested Collective Impact” Leverages Rural Community Connections”

Inviting in Wisdom

cosmosIn her new book Thrive, Arianna Huffington challenges us to define success beyond wealth and power. Instead, she encourages us to cultivate what she calls the “third metric,” comprised of well-being, wisdom and wonder.

Early in the book, Huffington states, “I’m convinced of two fundamental truths about human beings. The first is that we have within us a centered place of wisdom, harmony and strength… The second truth is that we’re all going to veer away from that place again and again and again.” Our life’s work, she writes, is in part to get better at returning to that centered place, and to stay there for longer periods of time.


Her words remind me of the best of collaboration.  Continue reading “Inviting in Wisdom”

Montana’s Benevolent Community

As humans, we are storytellers. How my Scottish great grandfather came to America only to pine for his homeland love until he earned enough money to send for her is a family story of devotion, adventure and hard work. How George Washington confessed to cutting down the cherry tree is a public story of honesty and character in light of human imperfection.

Some stories have such a pull on our imagination that variations are told over and over again. These familiar storylines help us to understand life and we (consciously or not) often interpret new events through the lens of our dominant storylines. The Horatio Alger story of “pulling one up by one’s boot straps” is an example of a dominant storyline: when we see someone rise from poverty to power through hard work, grit and gumption, we celebrate that the little guy sometimes comes out on top.

There are, economist Robert Reich observed, four dominant storylines in America:   Continue reading “Montana’s Benevolent Community”

Five Essential Lessons of Graduation Matters Montana

by Deb Halliday – April 24, 2014

Keynote presentation, Title I Conference – Billings, Montana

Thank you for inviting me – we have some of the best folks at OPI working with you right here in this room. I am honored to be here. I also want to share with you my deep pleasure in having my daughter Mae here – she is a 7th grader at Helena Middle School, and it is National Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, so I have taken her on the road with me.

Later on today State Superintendent Denise Juneau and I will be opening our statewide Student Advisory Board meeting at the Yellowstone Art Museum. The theme is student voice in civic life. We will learn from high school students across the state what public policy issues are of greatest concern to them, and how well they feel our schools and our communities are equipping them to make a difference in their lives. I look forward to learning from them.


I was born in upstate New York – a landscape of cornfields and Finger Lakes – into a family that for generations were either teachers, or preachers.   Continue reading “Five Essential Lessons of Graduation Matters Montana”

“They want me for my cupcakes”

That’s what noted educational psychologist Dr. Marcia Gentry thought when she offered to help at her daughter’s school. Bake sales are a common enough way to engage family, but parents are more than cupcake-making machines.


When I joined the Office of Public Instruction, my Dad called to tell me I was the great great grand niece of Ida Clapp, a teacher in the Carolinas in the mid-1800s. As a young teacher in a young nation, Ida spent her days in the classroom and her evenings in town: hosting sewing circles, organizing potlucks and attending county dances.  Continue reading ““They want me for my cupcakes””

Welcome to debhalliday.com! Connecting for Impact

Deb close up

I believe people are willing to and are even hungry to come together to have rich conversations, and to share different perspectives. We all want – at the core of our being – to make a difference. I believe that in the very make-up of what it is to be human, to have humanity, is our desire to make a difference, to know that the work we put in and the time we invest – the sleepless nights, the tears of victory and the tears of defeat – that all of that somehow matters. That we matter. We want, at the core, to be known, and to been seen.