Engaging Stakeholders in Your Early Childhood Collaboration

Bringing together diverse stakeholders who represent the community is at the heart of collaboration. Every person in the community has a stake in its children’s well-being and has a right to be at the table where decisions concerning children are being made.

The stakeholders in the community systems development effort need to be diverse in make-up and also demonstrate inclusiveness and have equitable power. Diverse stakeholders must be engaged throughout every phase of the collaboration’s work.

Some questions to consider when bringing together diverse stakeholders in the community are listed below.

Who is in the room? Who is trying to get in the room but can’t? Who is at risk of being erased from the room?

Consider including:
  • Various racial, ethnic, linguistic, geographic, economic, and family types
  • Parents, families, and community members including leadership from local businesses, service agencies, religious groups, elected officials, and influential community members
  • Child care providers, health care professionals, k-12 school system members, early intervention
  • Vertical layers within organizations (consider a school system with board members, superintendents, and teachers)

Have everyone’s ideas been heard? Are everyone’s ideas given equal weight even if someone is in not in the majority?

While diversity of the people in the room is important, it is simply a starting point. The collaboration must be inclusive and give all voices in the room equal authority, so that individuals such as parents and community members can be empowered and have their lived experiences inform the direction and work of the collaboration.

How do we engage diverse perspectives? Are we eliminating barriers to participation and engagement?

Building one-to-one relationships with diverse stakeholders may be the most important tactic. Getting outside of your building and meeting with parents and providers is one important way to ensure you’re considering a wide range of perspectives. Help people see why their participation is important by showing how their work impacts—and is impacted by—the collaboration.

Collecting data through surveys, focus groups, or other interview techniques can also help inform the  early childhood collaboration.

Make sure to work on reducing participation barriers by providing flexible scheduling, child care, transportation, etc., so that all voices can be heard. You can also periodically survey community members to determine whether meeting times and locations are convenient.