Nurturing Collaborative Leadership Capacity to Advance a More Equitable Early Learning System

For the past 3+ years, I’ve been honored to facilitate and nurture a dedicated group of early learning collaboration leaders from across the state of Illinois.  What started as an open space for exploration and support led to leadership growth, strengthened early learning collaborations, and ongoing influencing of state policies that will impact the lives of children and families across the state.  

In late 2017, the Grand Victoria Foundation (GVF) was interested in exploring new ways to work towards a more equitable early learning system across the state of Illinois. They recognized that this effort would require collaboration amongst a number of leaders. They saw an opportunity to invest in a group of emerging leaders throughout Illinois. This group shared the goal of a more equitable early learning system and identified that having time and space to develop their own leadership capacity would better equip them to help shift the structures that perpetuate inequity in the early learning system in the future. 

The Foundation, a long-time supporter of the development and sustainment of healthy communities, recognized the value of diverse groups working together to address systemic problems while simultaneously investing in the development of strong leaders to achieve community goals. GVF Program Officer, Neeta Boddapati, saw an opportunity to convene these leaders by providing time and space for them to explore questions and issues that were of common interest to them, that would advance their thinking and impact their leadership. The group was formed to support a collection of leaders who could work towards a more equitable early learning system; acknowledging first that they needed space to focus on their own leadership. 

In late 2017 the group came together for their first quarterly meeting. I was asked by GVF to support the group with coaching and managing collaboration tools and resources. I was also charged with managing the group’s on-going engagement and momentum. It was important that I stay neutral on the topics and follow the group’s interest, engagement, and direction. 

For each session different members volunteered to be Question Ambassadors who worked with me to co-design the activities. This included identifying background materials to stimulate and frame the topic, data to collect or questions to ask members before meeting and inviting knowledgeable guests to join the topic exploration. During each session the group explored the topic, often drawing on their own experience as well as research and data collected beforehand. In between sessions, members of the group, took action in their communities and at state meetings and worked to jump-start the exploration of the next meeting topic and further frame their learning and leadership development.    

This just released report, Leading from a New Point of View, further outlines their journey, impact and the recommendations & best practices they have for supporting effective, systemic and equitable Early Learning Collaborations. 

Your commitment, patience and good humor served you well as you led us in leading ourselves! It’s been great to laugh, and have fun while I’ve learned so much

You’ve helped us all to better impact children and families.

ELLC Participants

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