As a part of our NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Winter Meeting, the NC Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) invited three non-profit leaders to share their journeys to prioritize racial equity and family voice in their work, and to give their perspectives on what authentic partnership with parents and caregivers of young children looks like.
Our panel included the following leaders with Lisa Finaldi, Community Engagement Leader at NCECF, facilitating the conversation.
- Charrise Hart, Chief Executive Officer, Ready for School, Ready for Life, Guilford County
- Danielle Johnson, Executive Director, Durham’s Partnership for Children, Durham County
- Muffy Grant, Executive Director, NC Early Childhood Foundation
See some highlights from their conversation about turning points and lessons learned below.
- Parent Listening Tours: Danielle Johnson discussed how their organization changed how it did its work, listening to and learning from parents at the beginning of their planning processes rather than after programs were developed. Their parent listening tours involved entering into parent-led spaces as “humble seekers” and asking families “what does literacy mean to you? Can we come into your space? Would you like us in your space?” The tours were held in different languages and prioritized honoring and respecting parents and their cultures.
- Parent Leader Network and Framework: Charrise Hart discussed taking a step back to emphasize the intersection of racial equity and family voice, and shifting their focus from short-term responses to long-term solutions. Building on the previous work of their Parent Leader Network, they selected a Framework—the Parent Manifesto from the Center for the Study of Social Policy—to set the tone for their work and provide accountability. In response to their commitments, parent leaders now serve on their Board’s systems building committee. The leaders recently presented their ideas to the Board of Directors about what’s working well and what’s not in the organization. They also made recommendations for the Board’s involvement with families. These ideas and recommendations were received openly and are being implemented. Charrise added, “it’s about shifting power dynamics. It’s not about what we want. It’s about what parents need to succeed.”
- Pain is Growth: Muffy Grant shared about NCECF’s work with racial equity consultants from CounterPart Consulting on our Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative and our continued audit of internal processes using a racial equity lens. She discussed how this work made people feel uncomfortable, and how that was necessary and a sign we were on the right track. Moving forward, NCECF has established a new Organizational Equity Officer role, started a racial equity committee on our Board, strengthened our commitment to reach a diverse pool of consultants for RFPs, challenged white dominant norms in our work, and revised our vision and mission statements to better reflect our commitment to racial equity.
- Preparing for the Next Movement: Both Charrise and Danielle emphasized the importance of staying relevant. Charrise shared that while the community outreach done seven years ago was important, it needed to be updated to reflect the current needs of their community and their recent commitments to racial equity and family leadership. Daniele reminded us to consider how things have changed for families and organizations from the beginning of the pandemic to today, and how needs may be different. Also, how it’s important to “pass the baton” to our next parent leaders.
Learn more from these amazing women in this 36-minute recording of the panel discussion.