What do a Needs Assessment, a Zoom meeting, and developmental videos have in common? And, no, this is not the set up for a joke. The answer, collaboration. In a recent Preschool Development Grant Nebraska Leadership Team meeting, Buffett Early Childhood Institute consultant Hallie Duke designed breakout sessions for participants to spend a few minutes discussing the ways in which their aims aligned.
While Zoom meetings have become ubiquitous and it is easy to dismiss such moments as pro forma, the idea was an effective strategy at the beginning to build connections among the people who represent various entities within the state’s Strategic Plan for early childhood care and education.
Goals two and three of the Strategic Plan emphasize building collaboration both locally and across the state system. Stakeholders are thus tasked with finding ways to make meaningful connections between organizations, communities, providers, and families. So how does this happen? One answer is through the small first step of sharing ideas in a group to see the ways they might intersect with another’s vision.
A case in point: during the breakout sessions, Noelle Wegner, Assistant Vice President of Preschool Development Grant/Communities for Kids, made a connection with Dr. Kerry Miller of UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute, a program aimed at transforming the lives of individuals with special needs, disabilities, or other complex health care needs “through outreach, engagement, premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.”
Wegner shared the Ready Rosie video program with Miller who saw in it potential for use with a program she champions called Learn the Signs, Act Early (LTSAE).
As Miller describes it, LTSAE seeks to create awareness of important developmental milestones for children and to engage with families in helping meet those milestones or develop strategies for those children who don’t. She sees potential in Ready Rosie to use the videos to create awareness for families of the important age-related developmental milestones for children and to offer practices that encourage children toward meeting them.
Dr. Miller said she realized during her discussion with Wegner that Ready Rosie’s “Modeled Moments” might bridge the “Milestone Moments” pamphlet they give to parents and offer further guidance toward meeting important developmental benchmarks.
She shared that an intern who is a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (LEND) trainee has been assigned to comb through Ready Rosie videos to find those most appropriate to LTSAE’s aims, to categorize them according to specific milestones, and to identify gaps where more material may be needed. This acts as part of a community project “to address the societal factors that affect the health outcomes of children and families.”
This small moment has budded into a much larger potential collaboration between two state organizations and the national company who produces the videos. And, as Miller points out, she would not be involved at all had it not been for a collaborative moment in which the state’s Needs Assessment revealed a need for working with experts on children’s developmental needs. She was thus contacted and asked to sit in on meetings such as the one where the collaboration began.
As with any budding collaboration, the early stages of the process have largely been about understanding goals and the obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing them. Wegner introduced Miller to Ready Rosie representatives, but shared that it is a challenging process connecting a national entity like Ready Rosie that must meet its bottom line with a state non-profit that serves roughly 15,000 children and adults annually and who has specific visions about the types of videos that meet the specific developmental needs of their clients.
Ready Rosie will have to assess their budget to see what they can invest in video content geared toward the specific needs of LTSAE, and Munroe Meyer will have to do the same to see how much content they can afford to implement, but, as Wegener puts it, “this opportune connection has begun.”
Not every collaboration will end successfully, but we learn by doing. What Wegener and Miller have achieved is laying the groundwork for a potential success for Nebraska’s early childhood system. Their collaboration not only creates greater alignment between systems, but also provides outreach to some of the state’s most vulnerable children. And whether, they reach their goals or not, they have opened up channels of communication that will help build a more integrated system for the state.