Right from the Start

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

“In a sense, it’s not a system until it’s working for the people on the front-line, and above all the parents who need services for their children.”

-David Nee, Executive Director, WCGMF


|Photo by jfinnirwin|http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfinnirwin/5248114004/in/photostream|

Last November I blogged about the launch of a bold and exciting initiative in Connecticut, spear-headed by the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund based in Hamden.  My colleague Melinda Weekes and I were engaged to assist the Memorial Fund as it answered a community-based call to step into a convening role to bring relevant stakeholders together from around the state to re-imagine and build an early childhood system “that is accessible and effective in all settings and in all communities for Connecticut’s children and families regardless of race, abilities and income.” This initiative has since been dubbed Right from the Start, a name that has turned out to be quite prescient in light of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s recent comments.  Right from the Start builds upon 10 years of work by the Memorial Fund in supporting community-based efforts to promote development and learning for all children.  Melinda and I are proud to have been able to make a contribution over the past four years by providing Facilitative Leadership training and collaborative capacity building to more than 200 individuals from the 57 Discovery Collaboratives around the state.

The launch of Right from the Start in November 2010 included the constitution of a Process Team, made up of 15 individuals representing diverse interests and parts of the state, to construct a “pathway to action” for this system building/change effort.  This work entailed the creation of a Big Picture framing document that focuses on contextual and current status analysis as well as the aspirational value to be created by Right from the Start in light of the numerous early childhood efforts around the state and the perceived gaps and needs.  The robust discussions Melinda and I facilitated around this yielded the following agreements:

  • This effort is about honoring and including the voice and successes of communities and families in any system building effort, including the Governor’s plan to create a coordinated system of early care, education, and child development at the state agency level.
  • Right from the Start is focused on whole child development, and therefore strives to bring together stakeholders from both the education and health arenas, who are often not at the same table.
  • The initiative emphasizes the need to better serve all of Connecticut’s families, and therefore lifts up for deeper analysis the racialized disparities in outcomes for children in the state.

In the first part of this calendar year, we guided the Process Team through a rigorous stakeholder analysis to create a 40 person System Design Team, again representing diverse perspectives, to take the work forward and beyond the Process Design Phase and into the subsequent designed phases:

  • System Analysis (April-August 2011) – The System Design Team conducts research and analysis to explore the current state of early childhood in Connecticut and better understand different systemic dynamics and key leverage points for change.
  • Vision & Values (September-October 2011) – Additional stakeholders from communities around the state outline a guiding vision and values for a new system aligned with the purpose of serving all children and families.
  • System Design (October-December 2011) – The System Design Team drafts a template/blueprint for a new system, focusing on leverage points identified in the System Analysis phase.
  • Implementation/Prototyping and Monitoring (January 2012 on –>) Agreed upon strategies and ideas are implemented and prototyped with built-in timetables for evaluation and adjustment.

As indicated above, we are just coming to the end of the System Analysis phase, which has revealed some very interesting insights about the current state of the system as well as the power of systemic inquiry.  I will say more about this in tomorrow’s post.

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