In Illinois we have over forty community collaborations working on a variety of community systems initiatives – including All Our Kids Networks, Innovation Zones, Local Interagency Councils, Maternal Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Collaborations, and those that participated in the ABLe Change Framework training pilot project.  The initiatives vary in response to communities’ needs which is why it’s important to have a common language to talk about the local collaboration efforts.  Having a common language, including basic definition of community systems development and core concepts can help communities share their strategies, approaches, and their success with each other.  Common language helps with messaging and with connecting the local work with broader statewide and even national community systems efforts.

In general, community systems development is understood as a process of bringing key community stakeholders together to identify community issues and work together to change outcomes for young children and their families.   As community leaders explore how to structure or create their collaborative, leaders can learn more by incorporating concepts from the “Collective Impact” approach.  This approach can serve as a compass or roadmap to navigate the group’s efforts.  A community systems development process that integrates Collective Impact* would include on some level the following elements:

  • A mutually agreed upon agenda
  • Data collection
  • Coordinated strategies
  • Consistent communication
  • Designated convener

Community partners embarking on a Community Systems Development journey should make sure to build intentional relationships throughout their community and address their community issues by engaging diverse perspectives (cross-systems providers and families),  increase accessibility of supports and resources, and improve quality of services.

In addition to the above definition and core concepts, the Build Initiative recently produced an animated video titled “What is Systems Building?” This resource helps viewers understand exciting yet complex community systems work.

Finally, we encourage you to visit the Partner Plan Act website to access additional resources on strategic communication.

Do you have an example from your collaboration that you use that communicates your local efforts?  Please share them with us and we can even post on our social media.

For more information and to provide your ideas, suggestions, etc., contact:

Edna Navarro-Vidaurre, Assistant Director Community Systems Development e.n.vidaurre@actforchildren.org  or 773-564-8874

*To learn more about Collective Impact’s elements please visit Tamarack Institute’s website

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