Sustaining Gains

The make-up of the planning and implementation team is unique to each state and its context. However, there are some key questions that may be helpful in identifying participants. Who are the key partners with knowledge of the work that is under consideration, at both the macro and micro levels? These are likely to be individuals from the public sector as well as early childhood stakeholders throughout your state. Who are the key individuals and organizations of influence, both external and internal? These individuals and organizations are also important to include. Also consider including those who understand the complexity and details of the work, as well as those who can successfully convey information externally. 

Have you given thought to the racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the team? Have you given thought to the engagement of those who are providing and using the services targeted by the work? If the planning or implementation team seems unwieldy in size, consider breaking the group into smaller teams to allow for full engagement of the members. 

The list below is intended to stimulate your thinking about participants from various organizations and stakeholders. It is not intended to serve as a checklist or to indicate the appropriate size of the planning team in your state.

Potential Stakeholders

  • Business and industry
  • Child advocates
  • Child welfare community
  • Corrections and law enforcement
  • Culturally specific organizations
  • Early childhood professional and provider organizations
  • Early learning advocacy organizations
  • Families or parent organizations
  • Foundations
  • Health and behavioral health programs
  • Higher education
  • Those who are underserved and further from opportunity
  • Local early learning programs across all sectors (center-based care, family child care, home-based care, Early Head Start and Head Start, preschool, Early Intervention, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Parts B and C)
  • Local government
  • Local school districts and public charter schools
  • Media
  • Policy analysis organizations and think tanks
  • Professional development systems
  • Relevant state agencies or divisions
  • Research institutions
  • United Way organizations

Engage both usual and unusual voices—people and groups outside your immediate circle who have expertise and perspectives important to sustainability. To recruit unusual voices, keep it simple and make it respectful. For example, meet people for coffee or breakfast, learn how they like to be engaged and use those preferences, and share how they can influence the process and outcomes.Planning and implementation team members, regardless of their affiliation, should be engaged and committed to sustainability, including the planning and implementation process itself, and be able to honor the time commitment involved. Make the most of the resources your partners have to offer and communicate regularly openly about developments, challenges, and successes during the creation and implementation of the sustainability plan.

Other considerations for harnessing the people involved in sustainability planning and implementation are as follows:

  • Staffing decisions for leading the planning and implementation process

    Those who are leading the effort should decide whether to bring on an outside consultant to facilitate the planning and implementation process. A benefit to having a neutral facilitator during planning is that it allows for those who will be responsible for implementing the plan to fully participate in the process. Even with a facilitator, creating a process that will result in a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan requires a great deal of time. 

    Regardless of who is responsible for staffing, all the people involved need to have adequate time to devote to this activity, including supporting facilitation of the planning team and addressing essential communication issues. Likewise, implementation and monitoring of the plan requires meaningful time. The success of planning, implementation, and monitoring will depend, in part, on prioritizing this work and assuring that those involved have sufficient protected time to support the creation and implementation of the plan.

  • Ready partners and ready organizations

    Taking steps to determine the readiness and health of the participating organizations is important. Individuals who participate in planning and implementation typically represent organizations, and organizational readiness to support and engage in the planning process is necessary. The commitment and engagement of individuals—and the organizations that employ them—to the overall goals and strategies of the sustainability plan and its implementation contribute to a successful strategy. Federal technical assistance is available to help stakeholders assess and support readiness. 

  • The role of families

    The idea of involving families in planning is not new. Early childhood programs have been doing it for years through parent policy councils (for example, Head Start and state prekindergarten programs). Additionally, some states have formalized processes for engaging families through their early learning advisory councils. Engaging families in the planning for sustainability ensures policies and delivery design are sensitive to community needs, which can offer stability through political and financial cycles.

  • The role of providers

    Providers play a critical role in planning since they understand the nuts and bolts of how to increase efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. You can leverage provider experience and expertise to enhance innovation by gathering their ideas and feedback in transparent ways. This can also create synergies between providers and sustainability efforts that will serve the early childhood system over time..

  • The role of “champions” in propelling sustainability planning and implementation

    Champions can be an effective part of a strategy for both planning and making the case for sustainability. Champions may include business leaders; local and state elected officials; and leaders from communities of faith, foundations, law enforcement, the military, and unions, to name just a few.
    Champions often play a critical role in the planning and implementation process. They may uniquely contribute to the sustainability planning and implementation process through political understanding and influence, monetary and leadership resources, access to multiple networks, and recognition within the broader community.

    As with all stakeholders involved in sustainability planning and implementation, champions require cultivation, support, and engagement. Champions representing nontraditional early childhood stakeholders may need opportunities to learn about the issues, including the goals and impact of the work, as well as opportunities to create effective messaging from their perspective. 

  • The role of advocacy and professional associations in supporting sustainability planning and implementation

    Advocacy and professional associations may be included on a planning team for sustainability. Depending on your state’s context, they may be best situated to convene and lead the sustainability planning or implementation effort. People affiliated with these organizations can often contribute an important voice to planning and executing the sustainability plan. Keeping these groups informed and engaged can be instrumental in getting their support and buy-in for the sustainability plan. They can work with their networks to ensure that they have accurate information about the plan, confirm that it reflects their experiences and commitments, and conduct valuable outreach and marketing of the plan to their constituents.

  • The role of philanthropy and businesses partners in sustainability planning and implementation

    Foundations and businesses can play a critical role in sustainability planning and implementation. For example, they may convene or finance the planning process, participate in the planning and implementation process, or provide matching or other funds to support sustainability.

In addition to providing financing partnerships and public policy education and advocacy, foundations and businesses may also help sustain planning and implementation through marketing and communication, by cultivating other businesses and foundations to get involved, or by hosting focus groups or other meetings to inform and drive the early childhood agenda.

State Examples of Foundation and Business Involvement in Sustainability

Foundations and businesses have a rich history of involvement.

  • North Carolina – Foundation and business financing is built into North Carolina’s local Smart Start partnerships, which are themselves public-private partnerships, and are required by state law to provide ongoing, sustaining resources; including a 10 percent match requirement, (half in-kind and half-cash).

  • Pennsylvania – Foundations and businesses have participated in the sustainability planning and implementation process in Pennsylvania as public policy advocates during a gubernatorial leadership transition. The work was done through the State’s Early Learning Investment Commission appointed by the Governor.