January 2020 Partner Plan Act Newsletter

January 6, 2020

“Children make up one-quarter of this nation’s population and all of its future.”

— Annie E. Casey Foundation

Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)

We hope that you had some time with loved ones to reset and recharge during the winter holidays. As we begin a new year, the CS3 team is looking forward to embracing new opportunities and working with more community collaborations in Illinois. We introduced several new community supports in 2019—below is a quick recap of what is available to you in the new year:

  • WeConnect is a new online community that connects you with other early childhood systems-thinkers across the state and share questions, strategies, and resources. A WeConnect account also gives you access to our new On-Demand Learning courses.
  • On-Demand Learning allows you to take learning into your own hands. The first course, Early Childhood Collaboration Data, delves into how to focus your purpose, collect data, make meaning from the data, communicate findings to drive action, and build a data culture.
  • On-Demand Consultation allows collaborations to receive up to six hours of consultation on a range of topics from CS3 staff, the Ounce, Chris Foster, Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, and Trish Rooney. We hope you sign up for this free support!
  • Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute is a year-long training and coaching cohort of early childhood community collaborations working toward strengthening their systems-change efforts. The next application period will begin in Spring 2020.

Curious to see what we were up to in 2019? Check out a breakdown of our work here.

Collaboration Highlight

Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute Celebrates the Culmination of its Inaugural Cohort

On December 11, 2019, the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute (PPACI) celebrated the culmination of its inaugural cohort with a culminating event recognizing the accomplishments of the participating collaborations (listed below).

The 2019 inaugural Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute cohort collaborations:

  • Altgeld Riverdale Early Learning Coalition
  • Champaign County Home Visitor Consortium
  • Early Childhood Alliance (Skokie-Morton Grove)
  • Early Childhood Coalition of Lake County
  • DeKalb County Kindergarten Readiness Initiative
  • Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership
  • Macon County Early Childhood Collaboration
  • Palatine Early Learning Alliance
  • Plano Area Alliance Supporting Student Success
  • Southern Illinois Coalition for Children & Families

cs3_ppanewsletter_jan2020-CH.jpgMaria Whelan, President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children (IAFC), kicked off the Culminating Event with her energizing presence and words of gratitude to the 10 collaborations. Dr. Cynthia Tate, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, followed with her keynote address, inspiring pride and a sense of urgency when she spoke of the important role community collaborations play in Illinois’ early childhood systems.

One of the highlights of the program was when collaborations proudly presented their achievements during a Travelers and Tellers activity. Collaborations stood in front of trifold boards, each as unique as their collaboration. They presented their accomplishments—ranging from collaborating with experts to create an innovative non-staffed coordinated intake initiative, to increasing the number of new members and sectors represented on a collaboration’s board. They talked about how they gained clarity on their internal structures, with many creating, updating, and/or recommitting to their mission, vision, and goals. Through their PPACI experience, many collaborations successfully developed a governance structure and developed a clearer decision-making process.

The tangible outcomes and accomplishments were impressive, but they were not the only takeaways from collaborations’ experience with the PPACI. During a personal growth reflection exercise, collaboration members shared that they now feel more confident and better equipped to carry out their collaboration’s work because of their experience with PPACI. Members testified to having a clearer understanding of the importance and value of a community systems approach and their role in the work. A participant expressed, “I used to think that if we just got funding we could ‘take off’, but now I know that the ‘funding’ issues are complex … and money without effective systems is like a band-aid on a deep wound.”

The day ended with a moving awards ceremony presented by the Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3) coaches, and with inspirational words from Carisa Hurley, from the Illinois State Board of Education, encouraging all to continue the challenging but critical work of community systems development.  

Congratulations again to the inaugural cohort of the Collaboration Institute. The CS3 team at Illinois Action for Children is grateful to have walked with you in your journey this past year and is eager to witness your future successes! For more on the collaboration’s approach and results, read their year in review, The Power of Community Collaborations: A Journey to Improve Early Childhood Systems for Children and Families.

The next Request for Supports will launch in April 2020. For detailed information about the Collaboration Institute, visit the Partner Plan Act Website, or contact Grace Araya Director of Community Systems Statewide Supports.

If you would like to have your collaboration’s work highlighted, please email Partnerplanact@actforchildren.org.


Illinois Risk and Reach Fiscal Scan Report


The Illinois Risk and Reach Report is a set of data tools that includes a comprehensive early childhood focused report and interactive website. The report compiles data about child well-being indicators in relation to state investments in three domains: Family Stability, Health, and Early Care and Education. The Fiscal Scan Report, released in October 2019, compliments the Risk and Reach Report published in April 2019.

The Fiscal Scan Report provides further details on expenditures and appropriations to augment the analysis of the Illinois Risk and Reach Report. Fiscal investments are assessed at the state level, and fiscal charts visualize the allocation of these public investments.

Download here.

Upcoming Trainings and Events

Beyond the Basics: Facilitation Mindsets and Practices for CSD | Bloomington

On February 21, 2020, join Chris Foster from Foster What Matters, Inc. and the CS3 team for Beyond the Basics: Facilitation Mindsets and Practices for Community Systems Development. The complex nature of leading community systems development efforts requires an expanded repertoire of leadership, facilitation, and system thinking capacities. In this workshop, you will strengthen your abilities to convene meetings that deepen engagement, foster shared agreement, and generate aligned collective action. A combination of traditional facilitation and art of hosting practices will be offered for designing and facilitating effective meetings. Participants will also receive a copy of the book, “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making.

For more information and to register, click here.

Engaging Families in Early Childhood Collaborations

The Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3) team at Illinois Action for Children is committed to supporting early childhood collaborations in developing and strengthening their family engagement efforts. As part of this commitment, we are excited to offer the training, No Decisions About us Without Us: How Service Providers Can Empower Families through Authentic Engagement, in East St. Louis on April 24, 2020. Register today!

Partner Plan Act Annual Conference

Save the date! The 2020 Partner Plan Act Annual Conference will take place in Bloomington, IL on June 11 and 12, 2020. This annual conference is FREE and a great opportunity for all those working on community systems within the early childhood sector. This year, our conference title is Equity from the Start: Shifting from Intentions to Outcomes. We want to continue the conversation around racial equity and ensure that it is explicitly embedded in all of the work we do.

To help us with that discussion, author Ijeoma Oluo joins us as the conference keynote, best known for her book, So You Want to Talk About Race.