Organize, activate, sustain.
This is the framework for driving meaningful change at the local level through effective advocacy—especially our efforts to grow more vibrant communities for young children and their families. Last week, nearly 40 members of the 2021-22 Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy (PLA) met in Sidney to talk about practical techniques for coordinating strategic resources and relationships, mobilizing public involvement in local decision-making and creating sustained progress for the youngest residents of our communities.
PLA Coordinator Jodi-Renee Giron and First Five Nebraska Strategic Partnerships Advisor Mike Feeken led the day-long workshop featuring discussions and group activities focused on identifying assets and power relationships in communities, understanding and navigating local governance structures and leveraging different sources of potential funding for early childhood projects.
Economic development, community strategies
Highlights of the meeting included a lively conversation with Bennie Shobe, At-Large member of the Lincoln City Council, who shared his insights about effective ways to engage and build relationships with elected officials at the municipal level. Andy Long, executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corporation, offered an overview of his community’s innovative approach to using municipal economic development funds and other resources to strengthen McCook’s early childhood workforce and infrastructure.
Former PLA class members Garden County Early Childhood Community Coordinator Catie Seibel and Communities for Kids’ Rachel Sissel also told the story of efforts in Oshkosh to develop an advocacy strategy and action plan for keeping stakeholders engaged in solving local early childhood challenges, especially in the face of COVID-19.
“We’re all working to create thriving, healthy and vibrant communities—especially for our youngest kids and their families,” said Giron. “But every community faces some pretty significant challenges that stand between us and that goal. We can’t make forward progress without knowing how to tap into the expertise, relationships and resources that are available to us, and by actively involving our fellow community members who live with those challenges daily.”
The Nebraska Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy will reconvene in Broken Bow in January 2022 to examine strategies for influencing legislative and administrative policy at the state level.