Highlights from the May 10 Commission meeting include approval to amend a Strategic Partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for up to $10.1 million over five years as the Help Me Grow-Los Angeles (HMG-LA) Organizing Entity, as well as a panel presentation and discussion with three leaders in philanthropy on systems change, “The Funder Perspective: What Does It Take to Do Systems Change?”

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In a significant step towards improving the coordination and functioning of developmental and behavioral screening, assessment and early intervention among young children across L.A. County, the Board approved up to $10.1 million over five years (2018–2023) in amending a Strategic Partnership with the L.A. County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) as the Help Me Grow-LA organizing entity.

Neither a program nor a service, Help Me Grow is a system that builds on existing resources to ensure that communities identify vulnerable children with developmental or behavioral challenges and link families to community-based programs and services. In California, research shows that 1 in 4 kids under the age of 6 are at moderate or high-risk for developmental, behavioral or social delays and less than 1 in 3 receive timely developmental screenings.

Prioritizing the need for developmental screenings as part of its 2015–2020 Strategic Plan, First 5 LA held a convening in May 2016 in partnership with L.A. Care Health Plan, L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) California Chapter 2 to introduce the Help Me Grow model to L.A. County stakeholders. Since then, dozens of other stakeholders in the county have joined the Help Me Grow-LA effort.

This request amends the original Strategic Partnership with LACDPH approved by the Board last November by clarifying the scope of the project, which will build upon the investments and resources LACDPH has already dedicated to improving developmental screening rates among young children and promoting American Academy of Pediatrics developmental screening guidelines. The initial allocation of $900,460 for fiscal year 2018–2019 will support implementation planning of the HMG-LA infrastructure (Centralized Access Point and Data Collection and Analysis); plan for a HMG-LA countywide spread and scale strategy; and identify sustainable federal and state funding to support HMG-LA activities.

In the panel presentation and discussion, Commissioners heard from and engaged with three leaders in philanthropy who are working to drive systems change to improve social conditions throughout California’s diverse communities. Panelists included Peter Long, President and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation; Shane Murphy Goldsmith, Liberty Hill Foundation President and CEO; and Meera Mani, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Director of Children, Families, and Communities Program.

After the panel was introduced by First 5 LA Vice President of Integration & Learning Daniela Pineda, the trio engaged in a robust question-and-answer session facilitated by Pineda. Highlights of the panel’s key statements and answers follow.

Generally, progress can be observed through gaining support with champions in government. -Shane Murphy Goldsmith

When it comes to David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s early learning investment, Mani said the question is: “What do we as investors hold tight and what is loose? I think you hold your North Star tight. What you hold loose is how you get there.”

Question from Pineda: How does your foundation measure where progress is/is not being made?

Murphy Goldsmith said the Liberty Hill Foundation focuses on the systems change outcome and the organization they are funding. She looks at process and outcomes, whether policies were changed, leadership development (critical for civic engagement), building a base of leaders over time, and racial justice to evaluate the policy change and implementation.

Long replied that the Blue Shield Foundation uses the Gallup Well-Being Index collected regularly, as well as “asking ourselves questions about what we’re going to achieve and what we think is going to happen. We ask, ‘What would you expect to see every three months?’ It’s an inquiry, not an accountability measure.” Long noted that it’s important to say, “That didn’t work. Let’s adjust and move things forward.”

Question from Pineda: What are examples of early systems changes you see/expect to see to inform your progress?

Replied Murphy Goldsmith: “Generally, progress can be observed through gaining support with champions in government. And you can see shifts in the ways issues are discussed.”

When it came time for Commissioners to weigh in with their questions, Vice Chair Judy Abdo noted that she likes to control things and make things happen fast, yet she has found that is not how things work. So she asked, “How do you curb the desire to have control?”

Replied Murphy Goldsmith: “You are going to have to see and enjoy the victories along the way.”

Replied Mani: “You have to engender trust, you have to cocreate and you have to hold firm.”

After Commissioner Dr. Jonathan Sherin pointed out the disconnect between “the grass roots and the grass tops,” Commissioner Karla Pleitéz Howell asked the panel, “How often do we have to do stakeholder checks on the work that we’re doing to keep us focused on our North Star and keep us grounded in what our beneficiaries need?”

Murphy Goldsmith suggested to “find ways to hear from the people who are directly impacted” by the work. “At Liberty Hill, we have a community funding board that helps us make our grant decisions. That’s our finger on the pulse.”

Commission Chair Sheila Kuehl followed up by noting that “one of the deepest problems for First 5 is that the authoritative voice is too young to be listened to.” To which she posed a question to the panel: “How do you find a way to hear the voices of kids?”

Replied Mani: “In terms of direct feedback from the child to inform our strategy, I’ve relied on the brain science.” She added: “I think those involved in this work owe it to ourselves to go to the places where adults and children are interacting.”

Murphy Goldsmith recalled the time she was coaching her 5-year-old son’s soccer team, often standing on the sidelines yelling at him. She felt she was an awesome coach. Then her friend said, “Why don’t you ask him how he feels about it?” So she did, expecting him to say how helpful she was because she was really good at soccer. And her son replied: “I really wish you wouldn’t do that.” And when she asked, “What about when I cheer?” He replied: “No, you really don’t need to do that either, thank you.”

So, she said, “If we ask, we can surprise ourselves with what kids are aware of and what they can articulate. And what they can’t articulate, I think it’s worth an investment to figure it out from their point of view.”

Pride Month 2023: All Out with Pride

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