Community Leaders Come Together to Build Networks of Opportunity for Child Well-being

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The National League of Cities’ Early Childhood Success team joined Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village Community Engagement Network in Denver, Colorado for three days to kick off their Networks of Opportunity for Child Well-being (NOW) Learning Community. The learning community will support and build the capacity of local communities and coalitions to work together and improve well-being of our youngest children, from newborns to 5-year-olds.

The participating communities include: Austin Neighborhood Network, Chicago; Berkeley Early Education and Care Collective, Berkeley County, South Carolina; Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment, Navajo Nation, New Mexico; Essex County Council for Young Children, Newark, New Jersey; Family Engagement Network, Pima County, Arizona; Generations Forward Children’s Collaborative, Whatcom County, Washington; Moving Ahead, Adelante!, Jefferson County, Colorado; The New York Immigration Coalition, New York City; Voices and Choices for Children Coalition, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Young Child Wellness Council, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Through NLC’s guidance, participants took a deep dive into partnerships and governance structures and what it takes to have a transformational early childhood partnership which takes action and improves outcomes for young children. Key aspects of transformational partnerships include:

  • Broad coalitions: Early care and education partnerships include broad coalitions of all sectors within the community, including providers, schools, school districts, health and business sectors. Community and family representatives are involved and included in decision making.
  • Dedicated staff: Partnerships have staff dedicated to supporting the partnership and advancing its work.
  • Long-term commitment: Stakeholders and partners are committed to issues of early childhood and committed to working together, long term and collaboratively.
  • Trust: There is trust between partners, stakeholders and the community that includes an understanding that their work together is for the benefit of the community and not one specific organization.
  • Shared vision and goals: Partners develop city-wide shared vision, goals and strategies and adjust and align their actions to achieve their shared early childhood goals.
  • Intentional governance structure: Partnerships have a governance structure which supports collaboration and shared responsibility, including defined roles, responsibilities and bylaws.
  • Accountability: Partners and stakeholders hold themselves accountable for the work of their partnership and early childhood outcomes.

In transformational early childhood partnerships, city government is a key partner, because cities are where children and families live, work, play and pray. Cities provide the structures and context for our neighborhoods and have an impact on the opportunities that are available and the challenges young children and their families face. As research shows us, zip code – where we live – is one of the main determining factors in how long and how well we live. Place matters and cities matter for child well-being. Cities are also places of innovation and solution finding. If you want to improve early childhood well-being – city leaders are key partners.

Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW) Learning Community is a program of Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village. To learn more about the NOW Learning Community, visit the website at: https://www.networksofopportunity.org/

The Early Childhood Success program works with cities, to improve city leaders’ capacity to reach across their communities, align programs, design policies, and ultimately build systems that are responsive and supportive of young children and their families. Their projects are grounded in two frameworks: Equitable Early Care and Education: An Alignment Framework and the Early Learning Community Action Guide. Click here to learn more about NLC’s Early Childhood Success program.

Nancy Lim bigAbout the author: Nancy Zuech Lim is a Program Manager in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families.