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Child Care NEXT 2023 Progress Snapshot: Centering Equity and Lived Experience

Since the Child Care NEXT initiative cohort was announced in the summer of 2021, state coalitions have been making foundational progress on their coalitions and transformation plans. This work is about building a large, durable constituency for child care in a state, so much of the early work is on building a coalition infrastructure that aligns with the core principles and collective power milestones of the initiative.

As state teams convened for a cohort gathering and workshop this spring, it was clear that there have been significant developments in their work to solidify their coalitions with equity and lived experience at the center.

At its core, coalition work is about building trust and relationship. When coalitions include grassroots organizing groups and traditional policy and advocacy organizations, as well as leaders with lived experience like parents and educators, the work also involves navigating power dynamics among organizations and individuals from different racial, economic, language, and educational backgrounds. This all takes time and often difficult conversations before coalitions feel like a cohesive body where there is shared power and leadership. 

Child Care NEXT coalitions: 

    • Developed core values and operating agreements that informed their decisions, including which organizations should join and maintain membership in the coalition. 
    • Created governance structures that ensured those most impacted are part of the coalitions’ leadership. 
    • Ensured there is shared power across member organizations.  
    • Shared funding across organizations in strategic and equitable ways. 
    • Built trust within the coalition by discussing and navigating power and racial dynamics. 

The Child Care for Oregon coalition, led mostly by community organizers and culturally-specific organizations, dedicated time to agree on their shared values and operating agreements, which governed how they made decisions, including which organizations to invite or include in the coalition. They intentionally “reset” the early childhood advocacy table so the traditional advocacy organizations and policy “experts” don’t dominate the group. Rather, power resides within grassroots leaders and those with lived experience, especially from communities of color and other traditionally marginalized groups. To allocate funding equitably among coalition members, they developed a participatory budgeting process that began with identifying common values and principles with the steering committee members.

After determining how much each organization should receive, they created a shared funding pool for coalition expenses related to communications, organizing, travel, translation, etc. 

Geaux Far, the coalition in Louisiana, is co-chaired by the executive director of a state-level advocacy and policy organization and an ECE provider, who founded a grassroots organization that represents the voices and interests of early childhood educators. Early on, the coalition decided that those most impacted by early childhood policies must lead the work. As a result 55 percent of the steering committee members are parents, educators, or providers. To ensure that parents and providers have the support they need to take on leadership roles, the coalition leaders hold pre- and post-meeting check-ins with them to help them prepare for and process coalition meetings.

“We set up the steering committee so 55% are those most impacted. If we are going to talk about shared power than we have to have the people impacted the most as a majority on our steering committee–parents, providers, doulas, practitioners. What has been great is that the parents facilitate—parents are often in the background, waiting—we jump to them first.  In the pillars of our steering committee no one is bigger or smaller—all voices matter.” 

Geaux Far Louisiana Coalition Report 

They also invested in training and facilitation that helped traditional advocacy and policy leaders learn how to step back so that those with lived experience can step up. Geaux Far’s efforts to center the experience and voices of those most impacted eventually led them to re-evaluate their transformative vision and add one more pillar of reform in their strategy.   

All six Child Care NEXT state coalitions are undertaking the hard work necessary to build authentic coalitions that center equity and lived experience.  

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