Todos Juntos New Mexico was a collaborative made possible through a multimillion dollar grant awarded by the Fellows Foundation to empower the community, students, and educators in New Mexico to affect positive change in our public educational system, leading to increased student success, not just for Hispanics, but for all students. Of particular interest to this study was the organizational structure of Todos Juntos and how successful it was, or was not, during its first years of operation. Many collaboratives are developed with members of the same education level and status who hold similar visions of what they need to accomplish to achieve collaborative goals and objectives. Todos Juntos, on the other hand, navigated uncharted waters by bringing together partners with all levels of education, including those who have historically been silenced by either a lack of formal education or an inability to navigate the complexities of educational institutions. Consider that most organizations operate through a hierarchal vii structure, starting at the top position with someone who sets the agenda, runs the meetings and who, most oftentimes, and makes the final decisions. Todos Juntos was structured differently, operating as a flat organization with a facilitator, hired by members of a leadership team, whose primary responsibility was to ensure a collaborative process that enabled a cohesive, unified and participatory unit. Essentially, flat meant that the voices of formally uneducated parents, students and community members would have the same merit as those of other more formally educated and experienced collaborative members, such as a university president and a school superintendent. The purpose of this study was to determine what factors contributed to a change in the Todos Juntos structure from a collaborative, flat organization into a hierarchal organization when initially, the collaborative founders and participants were strongly committed to an equalitarian, participatory, non-hierarchical structure. The primary goal of this study was to tell the story of Todos Juntos through its participants’ words: as individuals, as members of groups, and from the perspective of learning collaborative as a whole. Research findings indicate that the collaborative that set out to be a flat system, but ultimately failed due to multiple barriers including, but not limited to, the collaborative’s funding structure, gender issues, inner racial conflict, and discord among members. The collaborative was also found to be Latino male-dominated. Moreover, a subgroup of parents began to operate in a hierarchical manner against earlier expectations, and, lastly, university students turned out to be the most stable participants in the initiative since they operated internally as a small flat subgroup of their own. The students did not really pay attention to the conflicts within the collaborative, but managed instead to keep their attention on the younger students whom they were mentoring and tutoring.
Many collaborative members wanted the collaborative to be based on a flat organizational structure and moved in that direction on a day-to-day basis. However, they could not sustain their efforts to make the collaborative a flat structure due to fiscal constraints and policies in addition to managerial controls of the university and public school educational systems from which they were operationalized. As such, study results indicate that the collaborative did not succeed in its larger goal of systemic change for educational institutions. However, the results do seem to give credence and support to a need for Latino-based initiatives in the United States. Further discussion of these results will show others in the future how they might identify and thereby avoid barriers to collaborative work that empowers minority groups. At the same time, these future reformers can take to heart the positive lessons from the Todos Juntos project found in the voices of the people themselves.