It began a year ago with the birth of First 5 LA’s North Star: a goal that by 2028, all children in Los Angeles County will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life.
On November 14, First 5 LA’s work was rapidly accelerated towards that North Star, boosted by the Board of Commissioners’ unanimous approval of an ambitious and innovative Strategic Plan focused on making systems in L.A. County more family-centered and child-focused.
Strengthening families and children through policy and practice change and public-will building, the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan “doubles down” on the agency’s strategic direction developed in the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan that pivoted First 5 LA’s role from funding direct services to serving as an agent of systems change.
“There has never been a more exciting time at First 5 LA than now,” Executive Director Kim Belshé said. “The Board is doubling down on the strategic direction of this organization and saying, ‘Yes, we see First 5 LA as the leading early childhood development champion and as a go-to resource for diverse partners to help inform and drive change at the systems level for all kids. Not just some kids — for all kids.’”
The plan, which will be implemented beginning July 1, 2020, stretches beyond the agency’s traditional five years to 2028 in alignment with the agency’s North Star. 2028 is the year Los Angeles will host the summer Olympics.
“We have a clearer articulation of what it takes to do systems change based on our experience with our 2015-2020 Strategic Plan,” said First 5 LA Vice President of Programs Christina Altmayer. “Systems change is a longform game. 2028 will represent a milestone year as we host the Olympics. There will be a lot of public will to improve our communities by that time. We want to capture that public will to make visible and measurable improvements in the lives of young children and families by 2028.”
As highlighted in the interactive graphic below, the new plan acts as a pathway to the agency’s North Star.
Elements of the 2020-28 plan include:
- Refined investment guidelines that 1) address the critical challenge of declining First 5 revenue by embedding sustainability strategies within all our work and 2) bring a more intentional equity focus on the children and families facing disparities in outcomes and opportunities.
- Four strategic priorities that articulate how we will focus our efforts and contributions to achieve our system change outcomes: 1) Strengthen Public and Community Systems, 2) Advance and Build on Community Experience 3) Expand Influence and Impact with Data and 4) Optimize Our Organizational Effectiveness.
- To measure progress towards our North Star, First 5 LA is developing a tool called the Impact Framework, which will monitor four types of data in the county to gauge how well systems are working for children and families, assess the effectiveness of our systems change strategies, guide course-correction and understand our context and inform our strategies. There will be a review and refinement of the plan every three years following implementation.
“In order to get where we’re going, we have to know where we are,” said First 5 LA Vice President of Integration and Learning Daniela Pineda. “First 5 LA is using data, experience and insights to constantly assess how we are making things better for kids. The Impact Framework is a tool that helps us gauge how we are doing and where we have to make changes, so we can help all kids thrive.”
Following Board approval of the 2020-2028 Strategic Plan, staff will begin developing an implementation plan for the first three years. An implementation planning update will be provided at the February 27, 2020 Program and Planning Committee meeting and a draft implementation plan will be presented at the March 12, 2020 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Critical to reaching its North Star is First 5 LA’s continued and developing collaboration with philanthropic funders, government, community leaders, non-profit agencies, parents, businesses and other stakeholders. These partnerships – along with public education, advocacy and data – are essential to First 5 LA’s efforts to make health, early learning and child welfare systems more family-centered and child-focused.
“It is really exciting to see our many partners, from our Board and beyond saying ‘This is a moment in time for our kids and for First 5 LA,’” Belshé said. “That we are at a point where we can really step up and into the kind of collaborative work that is so critical to changing the systems that we know are going to make a difference in advancing opportunity and equity for all children. We can’t do this work alone.”
The creation of the 2020-28 Strategic Plan was a collaborative effort in and of itself. For instance:
- First 5 LA staff provided input internally on the plan and conducted 10 engagement sessions with more than 130 external stakeholders.
- First 5 LA also held 10 input sessions with Best Start communities and 8 informational interviews were conducted by staff from the Communities department.
- Consultant Learning for Action conducted phone interviews with 19 community partner stakeholders, including 17 county partners and representatives from First 5 California and the First 5 Association.
- First 5 LA partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct two surveys – one for grantees, which included contractors, and one for stakeholders. Findings from the grantee and stakeholder surveys serve as baseline data to determine how First 5 LA is doing and how the organization compares to 300 other philanthropic organizations within CEP’s dataset.
“This level of involvement and input in the development of the 2020-28 Strategic Plan were important because it illustrated the value of First 5 LA to its stakeholders and partners, as well as how much First 5 LA values the input and feedback of our community partners and stakeholders,” said First 5 LA Strategic Plan Project Manager Kaya Tith.
First 5 LA Commission Chair and L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl took a moment at the Board meeting to praise Belshé for her leadership and First 5 LA staff for their dedication and knowledge in developing the Strategic Plan. Most pointedly, she praised the process behind — and potential of — the plan itself.
“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the (new Strategic Plan),” Kuehl said. “But it’s not just administrative or a bunch of words. It’s really about how you get from a to z in the most inclusive and effective way.
“This is about our kids and it's a very important and wonderful undertaking.”