We were incredibly honored that more than thirty of North Carolina’s distinguished business, philanthropic, and civic leaders agreed to share their expertise with us through our Blue Ribbon Committee. In January 2014, more that 25 leaders met to provide input into the Foundation’s core principles and strategies and suggest other leaders we should engage that can help us achieve our goal of closing the achievement gap and raising outcomes for all children at the end of third grade. Several Committee members who could not attend provided feedback in one-on-one conversations.
The input we received was outstanding and extensive and will guide our overall strategy development and set us on a path to success. We are deeply indebted to all of the outstanding leaders who agreed to serve and are listed at the end of this page.
10 Key Lessons Learned:
- There is already broad support for early childhood in NC – we just need to find new activation points. It is important to build on what has been accomplished, and at the same time offer a fresh vision and new opportunities for diverse stakeholders to engage in meaningful ways.
- Leverage existing support for early childhood by relentlessly making a universal and economic case. Despite general support, we should not assume that everyone knows about or is connected to our issue. Awareness can generate greater demand and lead to action only if we frame the problem and possible solutions so that everyone sees their personal stake in them.
- Start with clarity of purpose and values and then follow them persistently. We should take the time to publicly articulate our foundational values and outcomes to avoid getting derailed by peripheral issues. We need to stay focused on the outcomes we want to achieve for young children and our state.
- Build a robust social strategy that yields ongoing communication and relationships with diverse constituents most likely to influence the outcomes we seek to achieve. We need to identify the specific groups we want to reach and engage, and connect our issue to their values, needs and priorities. Frequently mentioned groups included business leaders, law enforcement, teachers and parents.
- Actively and consistently practice nonpartisanship and seek common ground. Politics are a distraction. To be successful, we must be appreciative of opposing views, avoid partisanship and do the hard work of forging solutions that most people can get behind.
- Stay grounded in research, focus on solutions and produce results. We need to use data and research to make our case without hyperbole, visibly and strategically promote research-based policy solutions and measure and report on our impact.
- Support and connect state and local action. Our strategy should include efforts to support local capacity and efforts to improve outcomes for young children. Local communities can often make change that impact outcomes more directly and quickly than state efforts. Significant changes in policy, systems and practice are most likely to occur when initiated and supported both at the local and state levels.
- Build a diverse, active and passionate governance structure with credibility and outreach capacity. We need a strong and diverse board. At the same time, we should think more broadly about how we engage others in guiding our work, and how we build leadership on our issue. The board alone will not be able to capture all of the perspectives, creativity, energy and strategic thinking we will need to achieve our goals.
- Seize potentially catalytic moments for short and long-term wins. Find areas for common ground and shared urgency and pursue collaboration around those specific issues. Create engagement and action processes that lead to tangible quick wins and connect to long-term desired outcomes.
- Collaboration is often talked about but rarely done: Do it, don’t just talk about it. We should prioritize sharing information and resources, be willing to make changes to our activities to align with partners’ efforts and seek to enhance other’s capacity to achieve a common purpose.
NC Early Childhood Foundation Blue Ribbon Nominating Committee
Anita Brown-Graham, Institute for Emerging Issues
Ann Goodnight, SAS
Astrid Chirinos, Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte
Barbara Bascom, PNC Financial Services Group
Bill Harrison, Former Chair, State Board of Education
Bill McNeal, Consultant
Bill Shore, Retired from GlaxoSmithKline
Brian Etheridge, Leadership NC
Charles Coble, Third Mile Group and Teacher Preparation Analytics
Constance Gray, The Duke Endowment
Damon Circosta, A.J. Fletcher Foundation
Doug Warf, Carolina Hurricanes
Florence Siman, El Pueblo
Gene Lofton, Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp.
John Dornan, Retired
Johnny Tillett, McGuireWoods Consulting
Kathy Higgins, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation
Leslie J. Winner, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Linda Weiner, NC Community Colleges
Michael Goodmon, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.
Natalie Blake, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Nation Hahn, New Kind
Pam Blondin, Deco
Patti Gillenwater, Elinvar
Paula Fryland, PNC Bank Eastern Carolinas
Rhett Mabry, The Duke Endowment
Sally Sloop, Retired
Terri Shelton, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Tom Vitaglione, Action for Children
Violeta Moser, Latin American Women’s Association