Esteemed Community Leaders:
As the New Year approaches, I’d like to offer some reflections on our work together to support children and families in our communities. We have come a long way, having started the first wave of the Building Stronger Families grants and doing the crucial work of building relationships and collaborations. Over the last six years, we have seen Best Start babies in strollers learn to crawl, walk, and then head off to school. In a way, we have all taken first steps together; we have all grown and learned together.
We are at an important juncture in our journey, one that requires important, and sometimes difficult, choices in order to move forward. First 5 LA is also undergoing significant organizational change as well to match our structure to our Strategic Plan goals. An important part of this is designing a better way to support our collective work in Best Start communities.
This means you will begin to see changes in First 5 LA staff working in communities and other supports beginning in the New Year and throughout 2017. Although you will experience these adjustments, our commitment to working with the Best Start Community Partnerships is unchanged. We are committed to keeping you updated and providing a listening ear.
As Best Start evolves, I am motivated by the idea that our work can only grow stronger. Community change and strength from the grassroots to influence systems is the heart and core of our work in Best Start communities. In the words of late scholar and activist Grace Lee Boggs:
“We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.”
These actions start by bringing families and leaders together to envision a future and work towards implementing that vision. Weknow that meeting coordination, childcare, food and interpretation are crucial to help families and leaders come together to achieve shared goals. First 5 LA will continue to arrange for these supports, and will transition them in the coming year to community organizations.
First 5 LA is embracing our role as a strong advocate for children, bringing all of our talents together to increase resources and supports for families. First 5 LA staff, in partnership with you, will do the important work of advocating and connecting with other policy and systems leaders at the local, state and federal level to improve coordination and bring more resources to communities. It’s a tall order, but our children deserve our best work and efforts.
Our work is complex: we carry the joy of our movement forward and the satisfaction of accomplishment alongside memories of disappointments and moments of frustration. I am struck by the nature of our interconnectedness and fueled by the energy created by sharing a common vision.
My daily inspiration comes from the activism and solidarity that Best Start Partnership members show each other and their community every day. That activism and solidarity is exhibited every time you host community events, hand out flyers, connect with neighbors, and work to improve your community parks, streets, and landscape. Every time you talk to organizational representatives and local decision-makers, your hands and your voice are an unstoppable force for change.
As we close 2016, I invite you to take some time to reflect on your joys and triumphs, individually and collectively. I invite you to reflect on what you have learned and the purpose of your leadership and activism. The work we do matters today and for generations to come.
Let’s resolve to bring our best thinking, learning, and ideas in order to “be the change” for a better tomorrow for ourselves, our communities and all families who care for young children.
Director, Best Start Communities