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Knowledge From the Field

Supporting Minnesota's Youngest Citizens: Lessons Learned 2003-2006

Published: November 2006

Publisher(s): McKnight Foundation

Funder(s): McKnight Foundation

View Report (20 pages; 1.3MB; PDF)

Area of Focus: Strengthen Early Learning

Abstract: Only half of Minnesota’s children enter kindergarten fully prepared, which has consequences for the state. It is widely recognized that children with high-quality early care and education have a better chance of succeeding in school and life. The report presents lessons learned from the efforts of six Minnesota foundations and their grassroots coalition partners to establish early education outreach, business relationship building, parenting education, quality child care, and advocacy initiatives. 

Key Findings and/or Recommendations

= Community organizing that is inclusive and participatory is a key component to building early quality child care within any given area.

= The most effective grassroots coalitions are built from a diverse cross section of the community. Engage business people, elected officials, the faith community, educators, parents, caregivers, social service providers, media, and others to work together on behalf of young children to gain a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and contacts.

= Coalitions need a local coordinator whose specific job it is to move the work forward. Communities that have made the best progress in keeping early childhood issues on the public agenda and sustaining local energy have all employed designated coordinators.

= Think big but start small. A smaller, short-term project can jump-start coalitions. With one or two smaller accomplishments, coalitions are more confident and better prepared to tackle bigger systemic change. Small projects can also provide bursts of coalition visibility that help raise public awareness.

= A variety of networks are necessary in building coalition strength and reach, but regional and statewide networks of coalition coordinators are especially effective. They provide a forum for sharing information and best practices and also serve as a critical tool in organizing common public policy strategies.

= Creating a social movement to change policy and systems takes a lot of time, energy, and resources. Coalitions also need ongoing technical assistance, training opportunities, and support to maintain inspired leadership and community participation.

Geographic Focus : Minnesota

Subjects/Keywords : Early childhood education; quality childcare; outreach; grassroots; community organizing

+ Successful strategy
= Observation
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