Each new year encourages us to consider what’s possible. It’s like opening a book of blank pages, each page waiting for a story to unfold. What narrative will take shape in the coming weeks, months and year?
Leftover angst from 2020 may cloud any optimism typical at the start of a new year. As Stacey Abrams told us at a recent Cradle to Career Network Convening, “I’m not optimistic or pessimistic. I am determined.” Determination is what we need to claw our way out of the health and economic crisis that’s disrupting lives and livelihoods for millions. Now, more than ever, we need to work toward an equitable recovery, because no one should be left behind.
As the new administration implements the Build Back Better plan and education systems reimagine learning, we need to sharpen our tools to transform systems to better serve every child, every family. The Cradle to Career Network is a formidable force for change. We are almost 70 communities strong, working across 29 states and impacting the lives of over 12 million young people, more than 6 million children of color. We have the know-how to build new, better systems.
We will be better positioned to transform systems by including systems-level indicators in our theory of action. This road map to change will be updated in 2021 to help communities more accurately assess the equity impact they’re making across systems. Data will continue to inform our work even as we collaborate more intentionally across sectors. We know where children live directly impacts their success in school, and we worked last year with Enterprise Community Partners to foster more partnership between education and housing. This is a critical step to improving cradle-to-career outcomes that lead to economic mobility. We co-developed the Advancing Mobility from Poverty toolkit to encourage more communities to collaborate across education and housing.
We are also digging into data provided by the Network as part of our annual Civic Infrastructure Assessment. While 2020 was not a typical year in gathering data on education indicators, we are mining the available data and rich qualitative insights to inform how we can better support network members as they transform systems holding young people back.
One of our board members predicted 2021 will be the “Year of the Network.” I am determined to see that prediction turn into reality, filling the blank pages with stories of what’s possible. I know that civic infrastructure — the connective tissue that allows systems to work together in harmony — enables communities to adapt and flourish even in crisis. These connections serving as bridges in our communities. They hold us together, and they move us forward.