We took about 140,000 words to say what could have been said in eight: join us in making every child a priority.
When we finished our 560-page book 100% Community: Ensuring trauma-free and thriving children, students and families, we realized it all came down to a few words and two little stories.
Story One: The story of the river and the bridge
There was once a woman strolling along the river’s edge. She heard a cry for help and realized a person was struggling to stay afloat in the rough waters. She pulled the person out. Then came another cry and a second person was drowning. The woman pulled this person out to the safety of the shore. A third cry came and the woman look up the river to see a long line of people struggling to get to shore. Suddenly mist cleared and the woman saw where the people were coming from. A footbridge crossing the river upstream was damaged and people attempting to cross the bridge were falling in.
This presented a dilemma for the woman. Did she stay where she was, pulling people one by one to the shore, or did she run up to the bridge and block the entrance so no people crossed it?
And so it is with our 10 surviving and thriving sectors and the needs we must address to ensure safe childhoods. We have an unending stream of people, children and adults, requiring help with the basics of survival. Others might have more resources but still struggle to engage with the services that promote self-sufficiency like job training and community schools. The 100% Community model is one where elected officials, organization leaders and fearless advocates for families go upstream to fix the bridge.
Story Two: Of Barges and Jet Skis
We were once told that when you work for government, or most places in the public sector, you are a crew member on a slow moving barge. The barge is designed to be solid and steady. No sudden moves so stability is maintained for all. There are times when a few of the barge crew are allowed (sometimes encouraged) to get on a jet ski to explore what’s up ahead. Sometimes a crew member might “forget” to ask for permission and take a jet ski to explore the river. (You know the motto: better to ask for forgiveness than permission.) That said, those on jet ski adventures can accomplish much. Public sector change agents can, with the support of upper management, innovate, test assumptions and evaluate progress.
While we worked for government and non-profit organizations, we were able to jet ski forward and implement innovation projects across the state and nation, all focused on getting to results—the safety and health of children—with data, technology and collaboration. Those projects led to the book you now hold, part of a course and a countywide initiative that might, with enough innovators and courageous risk-takers, spark a statewide and national movement to ensure safe childhoods.
We are asking those of you in the public sector to take on innovations and projects, leaving the security of the barge for the unknown waters ahead—at least for a time. As with all explorations, there are risks and rewards. If you are in the private sector, your work days may be one big self-driving jet ski/hovercraft adventure, competing with other jet skiers to make a profit. We ask you to consider slowing down just a bit, circling back to the barges (state capitals, city halls, county and school district offices and universities) you pass so frequently and offering your insights, technology and expertise to the barge captains and crews.
An epidemic of childhood trauma, as stated throughout the book, is a time when we can’t continue on with a business as usual mindset. Systems need to be developed, software set in place and tech invested in. It’s far from hyperbole to state that our kids’ lives are depending on our actions today and tomorrow. Collaboration on a scale as yet unheard of between change agents working in 10 siloed sectors (our surviving and thriving services), and between those in government and business is required.
We don’t doubt for a second that we can arrive to a future when every childhood is safe, every parent supported and every community economically thriving. The fact that you read this book is a testament to the tipping point that we are living next to—across all fifty states. We are definitely in the “when” not “if” phase of creating countywide systems where 100% of our children are empowered to be safe and successful.
Your jet ski awaits.