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Strong Starts for Children Background

Young woman interviewing another womanIn spring 2010, Everyday Democracy launched Strong Starts for Children, a New Mexico-based initiative that aimed to help communities work together for the success of all children. With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the initiative worked closely with five communities in New Mexico to help them find ways for all kinds of people to talk, work, and take action together on issues related to the success of all children from birth to eight.

As part of the initiative, Everyday Democracy:

  • helped communities build on what they were already doing,
    involving all kinds of people in talking about and taking action on creating success for all children.
  • provided resources and tools to sustain the kind of public participation that leads to equitable problem solving, policy change, and improved conditions in children’s lives, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

Led by five local coalitions in the greater Albuquerque area, people took part in small-group conversations with neighbors in fall 2010 and helped to create a vision for their communities. In large-group “action forums” following the dialogues participants developed action plans. These action projects ranged from creating a community center for children and families to a proposed family engagement policy for the Albuquerque Public Schools. Learn more about the
coalitions’ projects.

Building on their local community action efforts, coalitions joined legislators and other people across the state interested in early childhood in a policy forum on Jan. 24, 2011, in Santa Fe. The forum helped the coalitions put their work into the context of state-level change, and to create stronger connections among local groups, and between the local groups and state-level groups (both advocates and policy makers).

As some of the coalitions continue efforts today to engage their communities in dialogues and/or carrying out their action plans, the Strong Starts for Children initiative can point to a number of outcomes, including:

  • Strengthened connections across the early childhood development community. There is now more shared leadership in Albuquerque on the issue as a result.
  • Organizations expanding their toolbox to include dialogue and problem solving and building the principles of the process into how they work.
  • People in the coalitions’ communities saying that they felt more empowered and responsible for improving early childhood conditions in their community.
  • Leadership increased at all levels of the initiative, from the grantee organizations, to the coalitions, and to dialogue participants and facilitators.

Throughout the initiative, coalitions documented their stories of new leadership, new collaborations, youth leadership and targeted actions. Generation Justice, an Albuquerque-based organization that trains young people to film the stories of communities, served as the initiative’s videographers.

The video storytelling was empowering to the coalitions as well as to Generation Justice’s youth videographers.  All of the youth involved reported that the filming of the coalitions’ work was very meaningful for them and heightened their awareness of issues impacting young children. One young person is actually pursuing a career in early childhood now because of the project.

As the community projects expand and strengthen dialogue-to-change work across New Mexico, Everyday Democracy continues to support the Strong Starts for Children coalitions and other partners committed to the success of their youngest children.

Generous funding for this initiative comes from the Our Voices, Our Children initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, the dialogue to change program can help community members take action and make their voice heard.