Policy and Advocacy Starting Place: Coalition Building

Contributed by:  Nancy Jost, Director of Early Childhood,  West Central Initiative

For more than 15 years, the West Central Initiative (WCI) has worked to improve early childhood education in 9 counties (Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, Wilkin) and a native nation (White Earth Nation) in west central Minnesota.

As a community foundation, WCI has had a long and productive history empowering local leaders—from education systems, early childhood, faith, business, law enforcement, community service, health, and others—to work in coalition to identify the early childhood challenges in their area and to develop localized solutions. These coalitions identified some important local challenges and developed some fantastic local solutions, including literacy projects, child care provider training, family supports, father engagement, and more. WCI understood that some of the problems that the regions were facing had solutions in state administrative or legislative policy. In launching the Minnesota PN-3 Initiative, WCI supported the creation of a structure by which the concerns, suggestions, and innovations and leadership of the local early childhood coalitions had a way to inform statewide systems-level change.

WCI supports and leverages these two coalition structures–the local early childhood coalitions and the statewide PN-3 Coalition—to engage key players, raise awareness of needs, seed innovation, and create the opportunity for informed policy and administrative change. Based on input from local coalitions, the PN-3 Coalition has advocated to increase home visiting funding, raise awareness of the importance of family, friend and neighbor child care, and create a dialog on supports for communities of color, American Indian communities, and communities in greater Minnesota.