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Five Things You Wish Your Community’s Early Childhood Programs Knew []

By NLC Staff on May 10, 2019

Cities, towns, and villages are places of innovation and solution finding.  If you want to improve early childhood wellbeing—local leaders are key partners.

The Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW) Learning Community is a program of Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village. The learning community’s goal is to support local early childhood coalitions and build their capacity to work together with the broader community to improve the wellbeing of our youngest children, ages 0- to 5-years-old.

In March, NLC’s Early Childhood Success team joined Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village Community Engagement Network in Charleston, South Carolina as part of the NOW Learning Community.

With guidance from NLC, participants took a deep dive into how to engage and align with their local municipal leaders. Here are five things local leaders should encourage community organizations to do in order to better engage and align with municipalities.

  • Understand community governance structures. When community organizations understand where power and influence lie within their municipality’s governance structures and when they understand where the revenue and resources sit, then community partners are better positioned to work collaboratively with local leaders to build a strong system and web of support for young children and families.
  • Know the municipality’s plans and priorities. A municipality’s master plan, school wellness, and health department plan, a mayor’s State of the City address, and such resources provide insight into the work leadership will support.  Community organizations should look for connections between goals and the priorities of local leaders.
  • Consider all the possibilities. Community organizations should identify how local leadership is currently engaged, then consider what is possible. Questions they can ask include: what is the high-level goal; what do they want to happen; what does working together look like; why is it important?
  • Define the ‘win-win.’ Successful engagement and partnerships are built on trust and mutual benefit. What is the community organization willing to give and what does it want to get from working with its city leaders? Community organizations should know how they can support the municipality’s goals and how the municipality can support the community organization’s goals.
  • Take action. To learn more about efforts to support young children and families, community organizations should reach out and meet local leadership after making a plan. This is an opportunity for the organization to share and discuss how early childhood connects with what matters most to them and for both the city and the community organization to build on each other’s strengths and expertise.


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