Expanding the capacity of an entire region by elevating family voice

Just thinking about addressing some of our biggest social challenges can be daunting for many. Doing it is another thing altogether. At Monadnock United Way (MUW), this is precisely what they do — every single day. The organization is investing in highly targeted programs that directly support the well‐being of local families in the following areas:

  • Early childhood success through supports including quality childcare, early learning, and development of social‐emotional skills;
  • Family resources including access to services, parent education and wrap‐around supports; and
  • Emergency housing and access to food, which is foundational to success in daily life.

Impact Monadnock (IM) is MUW’s signature early childhood initiative that has been convening and mobilizing the community since 2016 to prepare children from birth to age five in the Monadnock Region for future academic, career, and life success.

A recent IM project, funded through the Preschool Development Grant (PDG), focused on building the region’s capacity for meaningful family engagement in early childhood. Because the Monadnock region encompasses over 35 towns, IM staff took a multifaceted approach.

One approach focused on providing regional trainings for local organizations that work with young children and their families. The workshops explored ways to strengthen family engagement practices and create action plans to implement the strategies learned. They also brought the Parent Information Center in to conduct additional trainings that were tailored to meet the specific needs of individual organizations who participated in the community-wide workshops.

In the video below, Jill Morgan, Senior Director of Impact, speaks to the strong relationships MUW has built with local agencies and how that informed their strategy.

The second approach was to provide multiple spaces for Monadnock families to candidly share the joys and challenges they have experienced while raising young children in the community.  Family listening sessions were hosted throughout the region and facilitated by the Parent Information Center. Dottie Bauer, a retired Early Childhood Professor and IM’s PDG Consultant, talks about the family listening sessions in the next video.

Community impact and authentic family engagement efforts are not suited for those who like linear work plans and predictable outcomes. All stakeholders learn from and with each other along the way. Strategies and initiatives are often open-ended and fluid. Trust is an integral part of the process.

“Mindset is critical when designing these opportunities. You have to approach this work being flexible and open. You have to trust the process and the people in it. In this case, the families in our region would dictate our next steps based on the information they shared with us,” said Jill Morgan, Senior Director of Impact, Monadnock United Way

The team expanded on Jill Morgan’s statement in the video below.

After capturing the insights and information families shared in the listening sessions, MUW issued a brief summarizing their findings. This document, which can be viewed here, was distributed to all agencies in the region that serve young children and their families to expand the collective knowledge of the community. The summary was also shared with the families that participated in the listening sessions to let them know the value and impact their voices had.

Finally, IM staff used what they had learned about families and caregivers of young children to inform the update to the IM Master Plan so that their efforts will remain relevant and responsive to the people they continue to serve going forward.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this story where we explore how individual organizations moved forward with their family engagement work in the Monadnock region!

Want to learn more about making family engagement meaningful and family-professional partnerships?

Check out our Family Engagement Roadmap!

Explore additional stories of successful family engagement efforts around the state.