September 28, 2023
Following the month-long summer recess, First 5 LA’s full Board of Commissioners reconvened in person on September 14. The focus of the meeting was First 5 LA’s ongoing Strategic Planning process, with discussions featuring presentations on First 5 LA’s proposed Goals, Objectives, Indicators, and Strategies, as well as a framework to ensure the agency’s long-term financial sustainability.
Taking a moment to reflect, L.A. County Supervisor and Board Chair Holly J. Mitchell expressed her gratitude to her fellow Board members and First 5 LA staff for their diligent work during the strategic planning process, which began earlier this year in response to a need to sharpen First 5 LA’s strategies to address the new challenges kids and families in the L.A. County face following the pandemic, while also ensuring greater impact in the wake of Prop. 31.
“As everyone is aware, we currently find ourselves in a rather unique position,” Mitchell said. “We have an opportunity to build a truly innovative plan — not just for First 5, but also an opportunity to lead by example and show the entire state what L.A. has in a plan.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people paying attention to the work we’re doing, and they’re counting on us to get it right,” she continued. “And I have full faith in this Board and staff that we will do just that. As we approach the finish line, I ask that you continue to engage — and that goes for the public as well … First 5 LA needs the community, just as the community needs First 5.”
During her remarks, Executive Director Karla Pleitéz Howell summarized Board feedback from the past few months of the strategic planning process, underscoring the Commissioners’ emphasis on a Strategic Plan that is informed by data, has measurable goals, is shaped by both community input and the new reality of the pandemic, and has an eye on long-term financial sustainability.
“I want to make it really, really clear: we are building on the foundation of years of what this organization has done,” she added. “But it does mean an opportunity to focus our Strategic Plan.”
For more remarks from Pleitéz Howell, click here to see the September Executive Director Report.
First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan: Proposed Objectives, Goals, and Indicators and Sustainability Framework
At the March Board meeting, Commissioners shared their insights for guiding the review of First 5 LA’s current Strategic Plan. The agency subsequently conducted a Landscape Analysis focusing on five key areas — post-pandemic conditions of children and families, public policy opportunities, initiative analysis, operations review, and insights from the field — and presented the findings to the Board at the June meeting.
To determine how the Landscape Analysis can best inform the new Strategic Plan, First 5 LA has been working with two Results-Based Accountability (RBA) consultants, Chrissie Castro and Rigoberto Rodriguez of Chrissie M. Castro & Associates, to develop a new Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics (GOST) framework.
At the meeting, Rodriguez gave an overview of how the draft Goals, Objectives, and Indicators were developed, noting how each one was based on Commissioner and staff input and connected to opportunities captured in First 5 LA’s Landscape Analysis. He summarized the various opportunities identified in the Landscape Analysis, including an increased focus on prevention at all levels of government; the state’s expansion of Pre-K; initiatives at the County level that address basic needs and root causes of disparities; and global events taking place in L.A. County, such as the Olympics, that create momentum for increased family-friendly spaces. Partnerships, particularly with philanthropic and community organizations focused on addressing equity and wellness for families, were also noted as a potential opportunity for First 5 LA.
For a more detailed list of identified opportunities, see slide 5 here.
Potential strategies were then shared with Commissioners, along with possible roles that First 5 LA can play to leverage these opportunities. These strategies included communicating the prenatal-to-five perspective across various sectors, linking various County departments and commissions that impact young children together, making it easier for families to navigate systems, and supporting meaningful community engagement.
Rodriguez then explained the underpinning logic of the proposed Goals and Indicators and how they relate to First 5 LA’s mission of ensuring that every child in L.A. County reaches their full developmental potential throughout the ages of prenatal to five. Following Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the three proposed Goals are connected to what children and their families need not only to survive but thrive, as broken down into three interconnected categories: basic needs, psychological needs, and self-actualization.
“We tried to map these Goals onto the opportunities that you shared with us,” Rodriguez stated. “When you look at the Poverty Alleviation Initiative, the guaranteed income pilot, Cal AIM, we see a direct connection between those opportunities. So, it’s not just First 5 LA as a standalone organization trying to change this with a budget of its size. It’s in concert with — in partnership with — these other initiatives that have more resources, more connections, and so forth.”
To help First 5 LA and its collective impact partners measure the success of efforts to help kids reach their full developmental potential, Rodriguez presented a set of draft Indicators related to each Goal. Once finalized, these Indicators will serve as the basis for what will become First 5 LA’s measurable Objectives.
To explain the process more fully, Rodriguez walked the Commissioners through the process of developing a potential Objective for Goal 2 —Children prenatal to age 5 have nurturing relationships and environment — starting with a specific statistic.
“The annual percentage of children birth through 5 in L.A. County (who) have access to early care and education through a mixed delivery system,” Rodriguez said. “Let’s say we choose that as an Indicator. We would then turn it into an Objective. It would look something like: From 2023 to 2028, the annual percentage of children who have access to early care and education in a mixed-delivery system will increase from 10% to 30%. Then we have a measurable, quantifiable direction.”
The presentation ended with a discussion on First 5 LA’s strategies and key roles, where Board members focused on questions regarding the kinds of strategies that could help First 5 LA achieve the Goals; the ways in which these strategies could advance racial equity and justice; and the possible roles First 5 LA could play as a systems-change leader at the local, state, and federal levels to achieve those Goals — particularly in a way that advances racial justice and equity.
Commissioner Summer McBride highlighted the importance of incorporating a strategy that empowered parents to talk about their needs.
“Allowing families to tell us what they know,” McBride said, “and building on the knowledge that’s already there in the community… that centers the shared wisdom in the community … That may be more of an incentive to draw people in.”
Other ideas that emerged included investing in a data infrastructure that can be shared across community organizations and partners; tapping into existing digital platforms to help families access information and navigate resources; and utilizing asset-based language and building on the strength of communities to destigmatize the use of public services.
For more information on the draft Indicators, click here.
The final presentation of the meeting, given by Finance Director Raoul Ortega and Chief Operating Officer JR Nino, focused on First 5 LA’s Sustainability Framework, with information on the agency’s definition, framework, and strategies for sustainability.
Ortega noted that the term “sustainability” in this context meant “ensuring that First 5 LA can achieve long-lasting impact, stability, and flexibility toward its mission.”
He explained how First 5 LA sustainability strategies will ultimately be dependent on the strategies and roles articulated by the Strategic Plan. However, two approaches — maximizing First 5 LA’s assets through operations and investment strategies and exploring alternative revenue strategies through policy and advocacy, business modeling, and partnering for collective impact — will be key in achieving First 5 LA’s mission for kids and families and financial sustainability.
For more information on First 5 LA’s Sustainability Framework, click here.
Next Steps in the Strategic Planning Process
Commissioner input on the draft Goals and Indicators will inform First 5 LA’s objectives and strategies, while the Sustainability Framework will be synthesized to inform further development of the Strategic Plan. Key components of the Strategic Plan will be presented during the Oct. 12, 2023, Board of Commissioners meeting.
For more information, please visit www.first5la.org/our-board/meeting-materials/ 72 hours in advance of the date.