Happy New Year! I hope that the first few days of 2019 are treating you well. Perhaps you set a New Year’s resolution, and if you did, I wish you the best in keeping it!
I am not the type to set New Year’s resolutions, but as a former English major, I often finding myself thinking about nerdy things like word origin. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the origin of the word “resolution,” which, of course, is “resolve.” Resolve is a word that I love because it is all about purpose and determination. So, although I’m not setting a specific resolution this year, I can say that I’m coming into 2019 with great resolve. StriveTogether has big goals to achieve over the next five years and I feel a sense of purpose, determination and urgency as we embark upon our ambitious plan to achieve them.
This is a big year for the Cradle to Career Network. 2019 marks the first year of the strategic plan we built together with our network members. In designing and launching that plan, we set a new bold goal to support 24 cradle-to-career partnerships to achieve systems transformation by 2023. Our goal is to permanently transform how the systems that surround our kids serve them more effectively. From education to housing to public transit to health care, we strive to create sustainable impact by transforming entire systems to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities for every child.
Over the past year we have worked hard to build the foundation to achieve our bold goal, including:
- Revising and launching an updated blueprint, our new Theory of ActionTM, that elevates the importance of shifting policies and power structures and doubles down on the importance of community voice driving and leading this type of sustainable systems change work
- Making strategic investments in more than 30 partnerships through the Cradle to Career Community Challenge with plans to support even more through additional investments, results programs, resources and learning
- Building the capacity and capability of the StriveTogether team and expanding the StriveTogether Board of Directors to better support the Network.
The foundation is in place to take this network of amazing communities to the next level. And I’m excited about what comes next, especially after some of the election night results we saw this past November. I am motivated and encouraged by these wins, from a new governor in California who believes in a cradle-to-career approach to a $600 million-plus education levy passed in Seattle to support preschool expansion and free community college, among other initiatives.
But I will admit that I always get a little anxious at the start of something new — and that includes the start of a new year. There are very few things I know for certain about how this year (or the next five years) will play out, but after a decade of muddling through this complicated world of systems transformation work, here are three things I know for sure:  it will be exhausting,  it will be frustrating and  it will be worth it.
This is long-term work. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: There are no quick fixes and no silver bullets. Dismantling long-held systems of power, oppression and privilege will not happen overnight. And at times it will feel as if one step forward is followed by two steps back. Take, for example, the U.S. Department of Education’s recent decision to rescind the guidance on disproportionate school discipline. What an incredible blow to civil rights, and yet, there will be more examples like this.
But we cannot allow ourselves to be frustrated. That’s work avoidance. Instead, we must push forward. We must have resolve. It is worth it. Each and every one of the more than 10 million children impacted by the Cradle to Career Network and the more than 14 million children in the United States living in poverty are worth it.
The StriveTogether strategic plan outlines a path for how to get 24 communities to systems transformation by 2023 using seven capacities. After a year of building the foundation for the plan, I feel strongly that those seven capacities are solid and stand as the pillars for what lies ahead.
I will share examples of how these capacities are playing out in communities in future blogs. To hold these seven capacities in a community and in a national network of communities requires one more critical element — an extra capacity, if you will. And that is resolve. It is a belief and determination that this is the right work, at the right time, with the right partners. Nothing will stop us — no failed resolutions. We have the resolve. We are united by a shared vision of every child, cradle to career. We are StriveTogether.