We have always focused on the needs of children and families, and we have always worked with a range of partners — including communities, nonprofit organizations, educators, schools, families, community leaders and other funders. That will not change. But, as part of our new strategic direction, several important things are different now.
A society where all children thrive.
We work alongside communities experiencing racial and economic disparities to create lasting systems change for the well-being of children and families.
These statements provide broad parameters for our work but still offer the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and conditions and capitalize on new opportunities.
As captured in our mission statement, our work now is explicitly focused on undoing the inequities that affect children and families — especially Black and brown children and families. Equity is the outcome we seek in our work. It is often defined in terms of being just, fair and impartial. To us, equity means that everyone — no matter their race, ethnicity, gender identity, socioeconomic status or other factor — has what they uniquely need in order to thrive. To be sustained, equity needs to be embedded in all the systems and structures that shape our society and impact our daily lives.
We strive to be a learning organization and to evolve our work to meet changing community needs.
Anti-racism is the ongoing effort to identify and root out laws, policies, practices and behaviors that harm individuals or groups based on their racial identity. Racism creates conditions that are unjust and unfair, and these conditions are deeply embedded in the fabric of our society. We must approach our equity work through an anti-racism lens. We are focused on the policies and systems that have been put into place. Therefore, the goal of our anti-racism efforts is a more equitable distribution of power, resources and opportunity across all people and communities.
Our shift in focus from Early Learning to Early Childhood is subtle but significant. It acknowledges that high-quality early learning is one important aspect of a child’s healthy development, but only one. Going forward, we will focus on five priority areas that affect early childhood outcomes:
> Early Learning
> Mental Health and Well-being
> Health (including Prenatal/Perinatal)
> Family Economic Security
> Housing Stability
While we have made some investments to support Health and Mental Health in recent years, we will invest more in these areas. The latter two — Family Economic Security and Housing Stability — will be new areas of investment for us.
Our approach recognizes the tremendous power, expertise and lived experience that exist within each of our partner organizations and partner communities. We aim to build on these strengths by bringing our resources and support to the table.
The combined impact of COVID-19, the nation’s racial reckoning (still far from complete) and the concurrent economic downturn helped us recognize that we want — and need — to do things differently and to show up for community differently. This means we will no longer use a traditional, time-bound, “blueprint style” strategic plan that sets ambitious upfront goals over a short time horizon and then funds partners to execute on our behalf.
Moving forward, we have adopted a more nimble, adaptive approach that focuses on being clear about our vision and then working in true partnership with others to make sure we get there. We recognize the expertise inherent in the communities that live the problems we seek to address. And so we have implemented frameworks, principles, practices and evaluation/learning approaches that ensure we leverage community voice and power and create solutions together. We have begun implementing learning practices that enable us to understand, utilize and share our progress, learnings and impact. Our strategy is less a plan and more a new way of being.
We started out as a foundation seeking to create impact one child at a time. We’ve learned over time that the problems of racial and economic inequity are widespread and deeply entrenched in our society and its systems, including education, health care, housing, employment and more. Thus they require broad, systemic solutions. Our last strategic plan moved us in the direction of systems change, with some important successes. Now systems change — the kind that’s intended to be enduring and sustainable — is explicitly called out in our mission statement.
Systems change is difficult and complex and takes time. The problems we are attempting to help solve are long-standing and entrenched. We want our partners to know that we are making long-term commitments and will be here, beside them, as long as it takes.