Moving from Big Idea to Transformational Change in Action

Taking Social Impact Strategy to the Next Level

The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation (DSGF) has a long track record of supporting our nation’s youth, in particular by increasing accessibility and promoting the value of sports for young people’s mental, physical, social, and academic development. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation have committed more than $150 million to support youth athletes and schools through awareness, funding, and equipment donations.. It’s about more than sports, though. The organization is deeply passionate about creating transformative opportunities for youth.

In the summer of 2020, The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation was looking to take their social impact strategy to the next level with a long-term, targeted commitment. Inspired by the successful collaboration between Akron Public Schools and the LeBron James Family Foundation to open and operate the I Promise School, the DSGF began to develop a vision for creating a similarly deep and transformative school and community partnership. With their national headquarters in southwestern Pennsylvania, they wanted to explore the possibility of developing an impactful and lasting partnership in the greater Pittsburgh region.


With this big idea in mind, the questions of what, how and where began to present themselves. What community would be most receptive to deep and lasting partnership? How could the DSGF best contribute while also honoring the assets in such a community? How much investment would be needed to help a community reach its goals? How should success be measured?

The DSGF engaged Outside Angle to complete a rigorous feasibility analysis.

The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation knew they wanted to create a deep, transformative partnership with a local community. They brought the vision and the commitment, and then turned to our team at Outside Angle for the expertise and legwork necessary to make this big idea possible. DSGF approached the work with a significant first question: can we create an authentic partnership in this region—one where both the foundation and the community come together to make lasting change?


The first step to answer that question was a rigorous feasibility analysis that included an assessment of the region’s educational and social systems landscape and translation of general ideas about what social impact might mean into specific pillars and components of an ideal community partnership and school model.


Our team interviewed dozens of experts and leaders, studied the districts in the focus region, and helped the DSGF team narrow the number of potential options. We also helped the DSGF refine its vision, understand the cost of different scenarios, and map out the path to realizing their vision. The feasibility study outlined the trade-offs of various options, and provided the DSGF team the information they needed to explore a multitude of options and make wise decisions. Within three months, together we had narrowed down the options to a few potential partners. We began to broker conversations to explore mutual fit and shared vision, knowing that the envisioned work had to be a true partnership with all parties equally onboard and inspired by the vision. Soon, a clear best fit emerged from these discussions: McKeesport Area School District (MASD).

An immediate need presented itself, and the response became an important quick win.

With a long-term partnership and deep impact in mind, the next step was to build relationships in McKeesport and listen to the immediate needs of the community. Right away, one thing that came to the surface was the lack of full-day summer options for district kids. The DSGF team didn’t hesitate. Even though summer break was less than two months away, they were compelled to take immediate action. In just five weeks, McKeesport educators, leaders and staff; the DICK’S Sporting Goods employees and foundation staff; and the Outside Angle team came together to plan a six-week afternoon summer camp experience for 350 K-8 students that would complement MASD’s existing morning camp.


At the same time, we were working with both the DSGF and district teams to identify and address other quick wins to catalyze momentum and build trust. Focusing on the district’s highest-need elementary school, Twin Rivers, together with district and DSGF leadership, we listened to staff and families and identified four opportunities to create immediate value: staffing enhancements, facility improvements, training and professional development support, and family engagement. We recommended and coordinated immediate actions in all of these areas.

Importantly, there was and continues to be a big-picture vision for change within Twin Rivers Elementary that will come to fruition over years. But there were also acute challenges that staff faced immediately. Often, students came to school with basic needs unmet. There was no positive space for kids to sit and work through tough emotions in a healthy, restorative way. Substitute service was unreliable and teachers often had to cover other classes, taking away time for planning and learning new curriculum. Leaving these problems unaddressed while wrestling with “bigger” issues could have left people feeling unheard and allowed skepticism to marinate and grow.


Working together to expand the district-wide summer camp and help with these concrete issues directly, efficiently, and immediately took excuses off the table and began to build a sense that change was possible. Through collaborative action and shared experience, these quick wins have created trust and rapport between all the involved teams to serve as a solid foundation for the emerging long-term partnership.

Actions speak louder than words. Members of the DICK’S staff and the DSGF team were on site every day during the summer camp serving meals, participating in camp activities, problem solving, packing boxes, and helping kids who needed it. The community saw the commitment in action. That translated into early trust with the community; one school board member said, “Our community needed a reason for hope. This program and partnership have given us something to rally around.” This level of buy-in and support could not have been gained through words or meetings or planning documents. It came through getting to action, and showing results.

There is a clear process for achieving progress at each stage, and for problem solving as we go.

Beyond the quick wins, the next step of the vision was to redesign Twin Rivers Elementary School’s model to better serve students, their families, and their community. With so much work to do and the sheer complexity of change leadership required, it was essential that together we built a process for achieving progress on the big-picture vision. To guide the work, we developed a detailed roadmap that outlines clear goals with expected outcomes aligned to each stage (i.e., quarter, month). The roadmap makes clear how and why various efforts need to be sequenced, and who is responsible for leading each piece of work. This clarity of process gives everyone a chance to see and understand the direction in which we’re heading. At the highest level, the roadmap lays out the work through four major phases: listening, envisioning, designing, and implementing:


  • The first step of the process, carried out in the late summer/early fall of 2021, was to listen and learn from those within the community. All told, together with the Foundation we spoke with more than 500 MASD staff, families, students, and community members to learn more about the incredible assets the community has, as well as needs and opportunities for improvement.

We are following a five-step process to create a new school model trough deep collaboration and community-centered design. The original DSGF and MASD partnership roadmap laid out multiple stages across two years with clear outcome for each stage.

  • From there, in the winter of 2021, conversations shifted to envisioning the broader transformation and school design focused on Twin Rivers elementary school. Everyone has skin in the game, and so we facilitated several opportunities for as many different stakeholders as possible to participate in shaping the mission, goals, and design pillars of the re-designed school so that it can truly become a model of modern school design developing healthy minds, bodies, and relationships and putting all students on a path to long term success.
  • The design work was in full swing in the late winter and early spring of 2022. Three committees of staff, family, and community members dedicated their time to shape the collective vision for the school into a concrete and specific design plan that is a roadmap for implementation. Broader community and family engagement continued to be an important part of this phase as the committees shared their progress as they went.
  • By the late spring and early summer of 2022, with MASD and DSGF Board approvals in place, the work shifted to implementation for the 2022-23 school year. Of course, this was not a one-time, single push, but rather it will continue to be an interactive process of reflecting and refining as we go.

As a result of this process, United at Twin Rivers Elementary School opened in August 2022 with newly renovated spaces to serve students, families, and the community; additional staff to support students; and several new programming features targeted towards the school’s goals for developing students’ healthy minds, healthy bodies, and healthy relationships.


While the roadmap is a helpful structure to keep the many players on the same page as we work through this process, it is also a living document that can and should be updated along the way. This is important so that we can be responsive, inclusive, and intentional. In fact, it has already evolved since it was first developed.

Together we are developing deep relationships as a foundation for long-term success.

At Outside Angle, we believe that positive relationships develop through shared successes and aligned actions. This kind of relationship development is most effective when it builds on positive and authentic shared action rather than simply talking about intention.


Now that MASD and the DSGF team members have tackled several big and challenging efforts together—and experienced the feeling of standing shoulder to shoulder doing hard work—they are better positioned to take their relationships to the next level.


From a partnership perspective, the DSGF site director and MASD district liaison are making every effort to communicate effectively and to follow up personally when there are questions or concerns. They purposefully walk toward, not away from, hard conversations early and often, to not let things fester. Further, those involved in the partnership have made a concerted effort to build relationships across all stakeholder groups within the community, from staff to families to grass-top leaders within the community. We have heard from those who have participated in the visioning and design work that communications have been clear and open and that the way the process is laid out allows for meaningful stakeholder input.


Similarly, in support to DSGF and their team, Outside Angle has embedded ourselves within the work to build these meaningful relationships, too. One of our staff members works alongside DSGF and MASD staff on site weekly to be attuned to how we can continue to best support the partnership as it progresses through the roadmap and toward its vision. Moreover, Outside Angle has worked directly with the DSGF site director and MASD district liaison to help them step into their roles through coaching and support around change leadership.

Relationships are essential to any change effort, and their development rests on understanding what people really care about and then acting in ways that show attentiveness to peoples’ concerns and needs. It’s been our experience that relationships take care of themselves when you actively listen, respond to the communicated needs, show up with consistency, and create real wins together. We also know that this partnership is not about Outside Angle, and as our team slowly releases ownership over-time, we are confident in the power of the genuine relationships developing between DSGF and MASD staff and community members.

This long-term public-private partnership is just getting started.

While two years may seem like a very long time in the context of some partnerships, the partnership between DSGF  and MASD is intended to be a  generational commitment and so it is just getting started.

UNITED at Twin Rivers opened in August 2022 as a result of the partnership and school redesign efforts of the DICS’S Sporting Goods Foundation and McKeesport Area School Disctrict.

In these “early days,” so much has already happened: the DSGF and school district, with Outside Angle’s support, led a successful summer camp; added staff capacity to Twin Rivers; made school building renovations to create a community resource center with a free store and laundry space for families; hosted five community and staff listening sessions, six visioning sessions, and a nine-week series of design committee meetings; and ultimately, opened the 2022-23 school year with a new school model.


There is still so much work to be done to achieve the desired impact, but early indicators of success so far include positive family and community feedback from the 2021 summer camp; the excitement and active participation of staff, families, and community members in the visioning and design process; the positive feedback DSGF staff have received from its many professional learning and staff support efforts; and incredible gains in staff engagement and satisfaction. In fact, between spring 2022 and fall 2022, a survey showed a 45 percentage point increase in the share of staff reporting a positive working environment in the school.


We are incredibly excited to see what DSGF and MASD achieve together at United at Twin Rivers Elementary School. For now, we are enjoying watching students experience some big changes in this 2022-23 school year that help them develop the healthy minds, bodies, and relationships they need to thrive in today’s world, and are continually working to refine and improve design and implementation at the school.


” We have felt supported in every way possible, and our partnership with Outside Angle has been nothing short of amazing. Not only have they guided us trough the process with their incredible roadmap, their team has also been there with us at every step of the way from summer camp to school design to community engagement. “

– Aimee Watters, Executive Director, The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation

This long-term public-private partnership is just getting started.

The first step to any successful change effort is perceiving that something big is possible. One has to believe that positive change is possible, before anything becomes possible. Kudos to the DSGF for first having the vision and determination to create better outcomes for kids in McKeesport, and secondly for showing up again and again, in a multitude of ways, for these kids and their families. Public education systems are slow to change, but that’s why it matters to have corporate leaders such as the DSGF team believe in possibilities and step up to put them into action.

About the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation

The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a mission to inspire and enable sports participation. It was created by DICK’S Sporting Goods as a private corporate foundation to support DICK’S charitable and philanthropic activities. Driven by its belief that sports make people better, The DICK’S Foundation champions youth sports and provides grants and support to under-resourced teams and athletes through its Sports Matter program and other community-based initiatives.


Additional information about The DICK’S Foundation can be found on and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How We Help Leaders Make Big Ideas a Reality

Can you relate to DSGF’s story? If you too have a bold idea for making the world a better place, we would love to hear more about your vision and help you identify potential pathways to making it a reality. We too believe in possibilities. As part of our “Big Ideas” change leadership and implementation support practice, we work shoulder to shoulder with leadership teams to help them take big ideas from start to finish in challenging environments. Contact Sarah Silverman at Learn more at