Cooperative Impact: Dismantling Silos for Young Children

The problem of silos in communities lies not solely in the fact that limited collaboration and competition exist, but more in that they inhibit the creation of solutions that would benefit everyone involved while making best use of resources.

Nonetheless, it is not surprising that nonprofit competition in a community can lead to silos. When organizations must compete for funding, talent, and attention, they are less likely to find ways to work together, even if they have common goals. What is a bit more surprising is that collaboration can also lead to silos.

Photo of a young student in a classroomWhen organizations from a specific sector work together on solving a problem, it’s common and more accessible for them to only look at resources from that particular sector to solve the problem. What they might not see is that resources from other sectors, or systems, could be a key part of the solution to what they’re trying to solve.

Realizing the Hope Starts Here (HSH) vision of Detroit as a city that puts its young children first will require continued collaborative/cooperative work within and across systems that impact early childhood education and care. It will require genuine cooperation among those who were engaged during the planning process, as well as new stakeholders. It will also require clear direction, leadership, and governance approaches to support all partners in making decisions effectively and translating them into meaningful actions.

One of HSH’s principles of implementation is based on lessons learned by philanthropy and community partners, as well as the desire to leverage the leadership and continued work of system partners and parents.

Hope Starts Here will be implemented through a distributed leadership model. This model aims to:

  • Balance power dynamics and promote equal voice and participation among Stewardship Board members
  • Invest various HSH stakeholders with the authority, responsibility, and roles conducive to driving HSH’s strategy and operations
  • Realize HSH stakeholders’ commitment to principles of sound governance, including transparency, clarity, and accountability

This said, the role of Hope Starts Here is connector of early childhood efforts in Detroit to mobilize a citywide commitment to support our youngest children and families, through a common vision, coordinated implementation, collective advocacy, and a shared infrastructure.

What is distributed leadership? And why is it important?

Distributed Leadership is:

  • A structured yet flexible approach for sharing leadership among many partners, all in service of the Hope Starts Here strategic framework
  • A clear distinction between roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes that impact HSH implementation
  • A priority placed on elevating and empowering many voices among the Stewardship Board, Imperative Leads, Implementation staff, and partners
  • A high degree of trust and open communication among partners, with a shared commitment to the health of the “whole collaborative” and not just individual/organizational priorities
  • A willingness to listen, learn, and find common ground when disagreements arise between partners
  • An appreciation that no one single program, intervention, or organization can address HSH’s priorities on its own

The development of Hope Starts Here began in 2016 with the community-wide engagement of 18,000 residents. We are now in deep implementation with the establishment of an implementation office, on-boarding of imperative leads (community-based organizations) and the creation of tools and processes for our cooperative work.

Community-based leads by imperative that are working in concert with community partners and parents toward long-term population goals listed below are:

  • Imperative 1 – Henry Ford Health Systems, City of Detroit Health Department
  • Imperative 2 – Detroit Champions for Hope
  • Imperative 3 – Black Family Development and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation
  • Imperative 4 -IFF
  • Imperative 5 – United Way of Southeastern Michigan
  • Imperative 6 – Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative liaised through a program manager housed at the Council of Michigan Foundations

As we continue deep implementation, we are fortifying feedback loops and engaging the community in banking stories of impact toward specific population goals:

  • Decrease in infant mortality rate
  • Increase in kids with “excellent or very good” health
  • Increase in kids living in households with the income to meet basic needs (above the ALICE Threshold)
  • Increase in families living in complete and supportive neighborhoods
  • Increase in kids who are kindergarten-ready
  • Increase in students who are proficient in ELA and Math at third grade

“Stories not only teach us how to act – they inspire us to act. Stories communicate our values through the language of the heart, our emotions. And it is what we feel – our hopes, our cares, our obligations – not simply what we know, that can inspire us with the courage to act.” – Telling Your Public Story, Self, Us, Now, Marshall Ganz, 2007

We wholeheartedly believe that these goals can only be achieved and sustained through aligned and collective efforts that are responsive to the needs of young children and families in this community. During this phase of implementation, we will continue to co-create activities and metrics, reflect on and document practice that shifts the conditions holding inequities in place while moving us one step closer to the goal. It is exciting to know that, together, we are rewriting the narrative of Detroit!

These stories will be our legacy.

Detroit let our enduring story be not about individual relevance or attribution, but rather about our collective contributions to increase opportunities for Detroit’s youngest children and their families.

Posted on February 10th, 2021 | View All Posts