The Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy Class 5 convened November 15 in Norfolk for their second workshop, which focused on creating policy impact at the local level, including becoming an expert on their community, the role of local government and how to affect change in micro-systems. We brought in some heavy hitters for these sessions. FFN’s Data and Policy Research Advisor Dr. Katie Bass spent the morning bringing numbers to life as she walked the class through the nuances of data mining and extracting a community story from their findings. It was an opportunity emphasize the importance of credibility in our advocacy work.
Christy Abraham, legal counsel for the Nebraska League of Municipalities, also joined the meeting to discuss how municipalities are structured and what defines them, and shared some of the more unusual legal regulations of each. The day wrapped up with a presentation and discussion by Sara Howard, an FFN policy advisor who shared her work on supporting paid family leave for Lincoln city employees.
Short v. long-term impact
For the 25 PLA members, it also was another chance to work through the differences between short-term outcomes and long-term impact. Both are necessary components of community care and response, but one addresses the problem while the other tackles the root of the problem. One of the goals of the Policy Leadership Academy is to educate advocates on the differences between the two and the various ways communities can work toward long-term impact, which often happens as a result of change in public policy.
Each PLA class member is required to complete a capstone project as part of their coursework, offering them the opportunity to think critically about the challenges and strengths of their community. Very often, the initial reaction is to create a new program or a new non-profit initiative. While these can be valuable and often desperately needed stop gaps, they do not build stable, sustainable communities that comes from sound public policy. Policy impact also communicates the value of a community and its leadership, which is where the work really begins in advocacy work. It’s much more than senator meetings and committee hearings. It’s doing the heavy lifting of elevating the value of maternal health and early childhood issues in communities that may not see the crisis or the possible solutions.
Next up: Policy change at the state level
The next PLA gathering will be a virtual workshop in January with many more guest speakers to dive deeper into policy change at the state level. We will study the inner workings of the Unicameral and gain a better understanding of fiscal structures, the history of early childhood policy and senator engagement. At each step along the way, participants are applying these lessons to their unique individual communities while also joining a statewide conversation on these important issues. I’m looking forward to what is coming from this collective imagination for Nebraska’s children and families.