Creating an Early Childhood Education & Development Network

The Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia.

As part of the CFNRV’s First Steps initiative, we’ve teamed up with Virginia Tech researchers to better understand the needs of the many childcare centers, afterschool programs, and social services agencies supporting young children and families in the NRV. Our goal is to identify the most effective ways to invest our time and grant dollars to support the critical first years of a child’s life. Dr. Robin Lemaire, Assistant Professor at the Center for Public Administration and Policy, has led this effort together with Dr. Donna Sedgwick of the Department of Sociology, graduate students, and CFNRV staff members.

The Network Study

The ECED Network Study was a survey effort of over 50 nonprofit agencies, libraries, and public schools to determine whether and how agencies serving young children (ages birth to 10) and their families are working together and their common challenges. Survey respondents were asked questions about their relationships with other agencies and shared insights on regional needs and challenges related to early childhood. Responses were used to create a visual representation of the ECED network and to spur conversation around strategies for increasing collaboration and coordination among agencies.

Network Planning Sessions

Following the results of the network survey, the CFNRV and partners hosted three regional workshops in Summer 2016. Participants used the survey results to develop a set of common priorities and discuss the challenges and opportunities related to working collaboratively.

Session One: May 16, 2016

Goal: To begin strengthening relationships among NRV organizations that contribute to making a happy, healthy child.

Summary: Participants discussed the benefits of a collective approach to addressing early childhood issues. Participants also prioritized significant hurdles that they currently face and would like to address through a collective approach. Click to read the notes.

Session Two: June 8, 2016

Goal: To find areas of network synergy and potential action items that could benefit from a collective approach.

Summary: The groups generated ideas to overcome the top three hurdles identified in Session one: 1) Increase knowledge about access to available resources/services 2) Increase coordination among organizations and their programs and services and 3)Develop a workforce pipeline. Click to read the notes.

Session Three: July 25, 2016

Goal: Create work groups to help develop, guide and implement potential action items that address the top three hurdle areas identified in previous sessions.

Summary: The ‘information hub’ group discussed different opportunities for service providers to learn from one another and different mechanisms for disseminating information to a variety of audiences. The ‘workforce’ group identified ideas for introducing professions in early childhood to students and strategies for helping childcare centers raise staff pay. The ‘coordination’ group discussed opportunities for expanding awareness and support for early childhood issues. Click to read the notes.