2013 BUILD Initiative National Meeting
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

2013 BUILD Initiative National Meeting

 NM 2013

Our 2013 National Meeting brought state early education systems builders together with their peers, national partners, funders, researchers and evaluators to look at ways to ensure that communities and families have an authentic voice in their state’s systems building efforts. 

We are sharing some of the highlights, presentations, materials, and more from the three-day meeting here and on Twitter and Facebook. 

You’ll find tips for integrating strategic communications into your systems building work. Get advice on honing the skills you need to take your systems building skills to the next level. Find out what BUILD Initiative states are doing to help children thrive, as inspiration for your own systems building work. And learn about interesting new research on the role that authenticity plays in achieving positive child outcomes. 

Opening and BUILD Arizona Welcome

Agenda, Opening and Arizona Welcome



Check out the agenda for information on meeting session content, the dynamic featured presenters, and the rich array of speakers and topics covered in the three-day meeting. View the agenda.


Executive Director Gerrit Westervelt opened the 2013 BUILD Initiative National Meeting with a remarkable story, and systems building analogy. On Monday morning, October 29, 2013, as he hurried to the Denver airport for our meeting – and as the person responsible for the official kickoff – he drove by an elderly woman who was literally “at the end of her road.” A tree had fallen by her car and obstructed her path. On a tight deadline, Gerrit had to think twice about stopping to help. But he realized that he could not just drive by when someone was in need. 

So, he stopped in his suit and tie and began to attempt to remove the tree. He was not getting far and the clock was ticking when another man stopped to lend a hand. During this process, the nattily dressed Gerrit, toppled over, hit his head, and needed to be bandaged. He and the gentleman finally were able to move the tree just enough for the woman to move. 

As she left, the woman Gerrit had helped rolled down the window just enough to say, “Thanks for trying.” 

So, the moral for systems builders? Sometime you face situations where the end goal is blocked and the people you are doing it with or for are not able to provide much help. They may even be somewhat doubtful about the initial results, and not effusive in their appreciation for your hard work. By in the end, you may be bloodied and bandaged. But you have removed the obstacles and sown the seeds of progress.

A Warm AZ Welcome

Karen Ortiz, vice president and program director of early childhood education, at the Helios Fund, warmly welcomed us to her state. She shared her own journey as an early childhood systems builder and champion, and thanked the attendees for the important work they are doing. Karen told her BUILD state colleagues that their achievements help her illustrate the value of a systems approach as she continues to build support for this work in her own state. 

Karen also gave a brief overview of the work taking place in Arizona. BUILD AZ is working to develop a culture that supports early childhood as a critical component of the state’s education continuum and to establish adequate and sustained investments in high quality services for young children. As a first step, BUILD AZ has set challenging, yet attainable, goals:

  • All children enter school with the individual skills to meet success with Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, graduate from high school, and attain post-secondary education to prepare them for the 21st century workforce.
  • Arizona continues to develop a coordinated system of programs, policies, and services for children birth to age eight that responds to the needs of families – so that our children have the best opportunity to be successful in the earliest grades and beyond.

With an organizational structure that includes a multi-sector Steering Committee and multiple workgroups, BUILD AZ has developed a series of high-level priorities to reach these goals. Learn more about these goals and priorities in the Build Arizona Blueprint

Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking: Honing the Skills to Help Conquer Chaos and Fuel Innovation

Speakers: Tracy Benson and Sheri Marlin, Waters Foundation Systems Thinking in Schools Project

The presenters in this highly interactive session began by asking attendees, What skills and habits are in the arsenal of the most successful systems thinkers? Participants had the opportunity to step back and reflect on the complex systems work they do every day. They were challenged to think about their individual capacity as systems thinkers and hone the skills that are the keys to clear communication, thoughtful problem-solving and meaningful life-long learning.


View the presentation.

Meaningfully Engaging Families

Family Engagement: The and Then Some Principle

Speaker: Byron Garrett, Chair, National Family Engagement Alliance

This session focused on the evolution of the family, communications, technology and learning. The speaker shared thoughts about what this all means for meaningfully engaging families in early childhood systems work. 

View the presentation now.