BUILDing Strong Foundations

Improving Outcomes for All Children

9/6/2013 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: BUILD Initiative
BUILD Initiative Gerrit Westervelt

Gerrit Westervelt, Executive Director
BUILD Initiative

In the decade since the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative designed the BUILD Initiative, early childhood systems-building has moved forward at a dizzying pace. The advent of the federal Early Learning Challenge, new state investments in pre-K, the widespread implementation of more sophisticated QRIS and Professional Development systems -- all have advanced the cause of aligned, comprehensive early childhood systems in states. 

Focusing on the Long Game

Out of necessity, state leaders have been busy building the airplane while flying it, using evidence-based models where possible, and seeking to marshal evidence when it is lacking. As leaders reinvent and re-imagine what is possible for young children and families in their states and territories, it can be challenging to carve out the time and space needed to think through all of the profound implications of the steps being taken each day. 

That’s where the BUILD Initiative has best supported state leaders in their work. We provide the time and space for early childhood leaders to candidly examine what is and is not working in their own state and in other states as well – to focus on the long game. From this work, we are able to spot trends and see program and policy advances worth sharing and refining in other places.

And perhaps most valuable for state leaders, BUILD is able to identify areas where progress has been elusive. We can then support a community of leaders devoted to identifying the roadblocks to progress and developing a roadmap for moving forward.

Improving Outcomes for All Children

One such area – in need of pressing and sustained attention by early childhood leaders – is learning how to make systems components more responsive to the needs of children of diverse racial, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. While disparities are well-documented, there is often a lack of understanding, time, skills or political will about what, exactly, to do to create more equitable early childhood systems. 

As system builders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to examine the role that structural and historical racial, cultural and linguistic bias plays in differential outcomes for young children. We have to take a hard look at the systems we are busy building and ask ourselves how well each step we’re taking serves all children or each and every child, not just those fortunate enough to have easy access to high quality services. 

With that understanding, we can steer the systems building movement toward the creation of policies and practices that are equitable and designed to help all children thrive. 

This is the moment, while systems-building is still very much in flux. If we do not act now, we may look back on our current time as a period in which we knew we needed to change the direction of early childhood systems work, but didn’t have the capacity or the will, as a field, to do it.


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