General Resources on Systems Building
This section provides a set of general resources on systems building. Many systems building initiatives begin with or involve strategic planning. Please see the Strategic Plans chapter of the Early Childhood Systems Building Resource Guide for more information on this topic.
Publication Information and Weblink
|Backbone starter guide: A summary of major resources about the backbone from FSG and the Collective Impact Forum||The Backbone Starter Guide summarizes the collective impact approach and highlights the major ideas and learnings.||Collective Impact Forum and FSG. (n.d.).|
|Equity in early childhood systems: A community action brief||Describes ten opportunities for action to advance equity at the community level.||Center for the Study of Social Policy and National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers. (2019).|
|The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization (2nd ed.)|
Influential piece on learning organizations that remains relevant.
|Senge, P.M. (2006).|
|The nuts and bolts of building early childhood systems through state/local initiatives||This paper highlights the benefits of developing a statewide, community-level infrastructure as a core component of a statewide early childhood system, providing lessons learned from systems-building work in this area.||Ponder, K., & Ames, G. (2021). BUILD Initiative. |
|Understanding the value of backbone organizations in collective impact||Backbone organizations can play a critical role in systems-building work. An in-depth review of what it takes to be a backbone organization and how to evaluate and support its work.|
Turner, S., Merchant, K., Kania, J., & Martin, E. (2021). FSG.
Tools for Assessing Impact and Evaluation of Early Childhood Systems and Systems Building
This section provides a set of resources to assist states in assessing and evaluating their systems-building efforts.
Publication Information and Weblink
|Back to basics: Essential components of an American early care and education system||A historically important discussion providing context that remains relevant.||Kagan, S. L. (2001). Teacher’s College, Columbia University.|
Early childhood system performance assessment toolkit
This toolkit provides:
1. A framework that identifies the key contributions of a well-functioning early childhood system
2. A set of performance measures to assess those key contributions, either directly or by proxy
3. New tools, when needed and possible, that enable system stakeholders to measure system performance in areas that have historically not had tools for measurement. 4. Guidance for early childhood system stakeholders on how they can implement the performance measures
5. An ongoing research agenda to continue to improve existing system performance measures or tools or to develop tools, where lacking.
The toolkit also offers a sample action planning template to help communities turn their results into actions that will support quality improvement.
Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2019).
|Early learning community action guide||This guide provides guidance for city, county, and other local leaders looking for ways to put their commitment to early childhood into action and achieve better outcomes for young children and their families with a focus on:|
1. Community leadership, commitment, and public will to make early childhood a priority
2. Quality services that work for all young children and their families
3. Neighborhoods where families can thrive
4. Policies that support and are responsive to families.
|Center for the Study of Social Policy and National League of Cities. (2019).|
A framework for evaluating systems initiatives
Sets forward a still-viable and well-accepted framework for understanding components in systems building
|Coffman, J. (2007). BUILD Initiative.|
|Infants and toddlers in the policy picture: A self-assessment toolkit for states||This toolkit is intended to help state policy leaders and advocates assess the current status of services for infants, toddlers, and their families, and to set priorities for improvement.||Zero to Three. (2020).|
|Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW) playbook: Transformative community capacity to advance equity||This playbook is a resource guide designed to provide tools for local leaders, community coalitions and networks, educators, practitioners, and policymakers working to promote the wellbeing of children and families, advance equity, and align systems of care and education in early childhood.|
Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing. (2021).
|A practical guide to evaluating systems change in a human services system context||This guide is for evaluators who would like a practical “way in” to thinking about systems and systems change.||Latham, N. (2014). Center for Evaluation Innovation.|
|Prenatal-to-three outcomes framework data guidebook||This guidebook provides data-oriented information on the areas of Healthy Beginnings, Supported Families, and Quality Care and Learning that are essential to the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers’ prenatal-to-three focus.||Child Trends and National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers. (2018).|
https://www.thencit.org/sites/default/files/2018-12/Prenatal-to-Three Data Guidebook_0.pdf
|The Water of Systems Change||The Water of Systems Change aims to clarify what it means to shift conditions to achieve systems change, offering a strong visual—the “inverted triangle” framework—as an actionable model for funders and others interested in creating systems change, particularly those who are working to advance equity.||Kania, J., Kramer, M., & Senge, P. (2018). FSG.|
National, State, and Community-Level Examples of Early Childhood Systems
Best Starts for Kids is a county-wide systems initiative that began with a tax levy but was developed into a systems initiative and collective impact approach within King County, Washington, to meet children and families with the right services at the right time. Best Starts for Kids focuses on eight investment areas that prioritize promoting positive outcomes for kids, preventing negative outcomes, intervening early when kids and families need support, and building on community strengths.
The Early Childhood Colorado Framework is a shared vision that Colorado is a place where all children are valued, healthy, and thriving. It includes fundamentals for early childhood progress, strategies for action to achieve early childhood systems change, early childhood domains, and outcomes that are based on access, quality, and equity.
The Early Learning Alliance of Fort Worth, Texas, is a collaborative of more than 50 organizations and government offices that seeks to create a system where children and families thrive. Its Framework for Success is based on equity and then belief that all children, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or income, should have a strong foundation for a future of success in school and in life.
Help Me Grow is a system model that utilizes and builds on existing resources in order to develop and enhance a comprehensive approach to early childhood systems building in any given community. It strengthens the early childhood system in a community by maintaining a current directory of available services and connecting service providers to each other to create an interconnected system.
LAUNCH Together was designed to improve social-emotional and developmental outcomes for Colorado’s young children and their families. A unique partnership between Early Milestones, eight Colorado-based foundations, five counties, and the Butler Institute for Families supported community prevention and health promotion practices and built coordinated systems.
The North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan is the state’s strategic plan which lays out a vision for an integrated early childhood system, sets benchmarks for impact by the year 2025, and establishes shared stakeholder accountability to achieve statewide goals for young children from birth through age 8.
Strive Together is a network of local communities working and evolving together to advance equity to achieve success for every child. It uses a collective impact model that is informed by data to guide communities through actionable milestones as they work to transform systems for more equitable results.
The ZoNE Spokane is a community initiative, building hope and opportunity through collective action in the neighborhoods of Northeast Spokane. Together with residents, schools, and partner organizations, it identifies deep disparities in health, education, and economic outcomes; removes barriers; and builds upon the strengths in the community so all children, youth, and families have opportunities to thrive.