In 2012 conversations were happening around the country about the importance of the early childhood years. The same conversation was happening in our community. When the community talks, ACT listens! ACT began to envision the possibility of a comprehensive, coordinated early childhood system that could connect children and families to quality services and support in the most efficient and effective ways possible. The Board recognized this was a bold vision and one we could not begin to address alone. The moment to take on this vision arrived when several stakeholders approached us about this work while the City of Alexandria was undertaking the Children & Youth Master Plan.
Often the game changer in getting things done is having the right people around the table and giving them the time and space to build trust and share ideas. In 2013, with the support of the City, ACPS, and local nonprofits, we did just that. We convened a cross-section of stakeholders to create the Early Care & Education Work Group (ECEW) to help shape the vision and direction for this initiative and the future of our youngest Alexandrians.
The team created the Common Agenda, a strategic framework for building a system focused on ensuring that every child in Alexandria has a strong start in life and in school, and published two annual reports providing updates on the progress of the systems building work. The team has also secured multiple grants and been invited to speak on the national stage about best practices in cross-sector collaboration.
It is incredible to look back and see how much the Early Care & Education Work Group has been able to accomplish together and exciting to think about the possibilities for what’s next. As with all big projects, ACT takes the lead in implementing sound governance and a plan for sustainability. We are thrilled to say that both are well underway and as a mark of our that success, ACT’s Chief Program Officer, Brandi Yee, will be passing the torch to Cynthia Skinner, the ECE Project Director, to lead the group starting in July. While ACT will no longer be serving as the official convener of the Early Care & Education Work Group, ACT will remain an ECE champion serving as a member of the group and the fiscal agent for the Early Care & Education Fund.
At ACT, we believe building systems takes cross-sector collaboration, trust and relationship building, funding, and time to tackle complex social problems. We are honored to work with the phenomenal ECEW team and have so much respect for all they do to put children and families at the center of the work. We look forward to taking these lessons learned and applying them to ACT’s future community investment work.
To learn more about Early Care & Education in Alexandria, visit: https://www.actforalexandria.org/early-care-education.
By Brandi Yee, Chief Program Officer