This study is testing and expanding upon previous research findings about coordinating entities and provides an opportunity to ask new questions about their role and functions during a time of crisis. Coordinating entities are an essential part of a systems approach to building and sustaining the Out of School Time (OST) sector. Coordinating entities perform a variety of functions including system-level visioning and planning, establishing and supporting the implementation of program quality standards, developing and maintaining a citywide data system, communicating with the public about OST opportunities, advocating for funding for the OST sector and, at times, serving as funders themselves. They also convene the OST sector and engage other key stakeholders such as school districts, in system-level partnerships. OST coordinating entities are governed by one of three types of organizations: public agencies, non-profit organizations or networks. Important to the success of coordinating entities is committed leadership that includes a wide range of OST stakeholders including the mayor and other local policymakers, school district leaders, OST leaders, and public and private funders.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to examine how Out of School Time (OST) coordinating entities, and the OST sector in cities without them, responded in a time of crisis. The pandemic was a “stress-test” of the sector, OST systems and coordinating entities and it provides an unprecedented opportunity to understand what happened when coordinating entities were most needed and the extent to which they were able to gain traction in achieving their goals, demonstrate nimbleness in response to changing conditions and/or identify new roles. The stress-test of the pandemic will shed light on the relative value of coordinating functions and different governance models in a crisis. This study also offers an opportunity to again examine the essential nature of coordinating entities during a crisis by comparing the experiences of OST stakeholders in cities with coordinating entities to OST stakeholders in cities that may have elements of an OST system (e.g., common data system) but not a coordinating entity.