Once or twice in our lives, if we’re lucky, we might get a front-row seat at a movement in the making. In the nascent stages, we can’t know how the movement will evolve. Will it fall flat and dissipate? Or will the right combination of sustainable energy, leadership, and timing result in something much bigger?
Over the last two or three decades, community coalitions have gained momentum as vehicles for change. That’s the model we’re using to promote and support development of a statewide network of early childhood partnerships.
A recent networking/training session for the first nine early childhood partnerships (two more recently began organizing) gave me the opportunity to see some of the partnership practices first-hand.
What I saw gives me confidence that this movement in the making will build to a powerful wave of change in how we meet the needs of young children and their families. The day and a half of training included lectures, workshops, small group discussions, and brainstorming. Partnership members demonstrated sharp intellectual power, broadly diverse perspectives, and strong leadership skills, all attributes that bode well for long-term effectiveness.
One of my favorite parts of the training was the sharing of lessons learned. The tips ranged from the very basic and practical to sophisticated insights into human motivation and research.
We learned, for example, that when recruiting new members to the partnership, blanket invitations aren’t effective; phone calls work best; always offer food; and forget the guilt trips – they don’t work.
To gather raw data from the community, go to child care centers at pick-up time; set up a booth at community events; use the phone instead of e-mail to conduct surveys; and translate survey questions written in English into other languages widely spoken in the community.
When compiling research, be sure to compile both raw numbers and percentages; tap local school districts for data; and reach out to community nurses, they can be very valuable resources. This front-row seat is as exciting to me as any World Cup Soccer game. It’ll just take more time and patience before we see the results.