Our Approach

Community Systems Development for Early Childhood Success

Early childhood services in Illinois—including services providing early learning, health, mental well-being, and family support—are complicated. Each community is made of complicated issues that no single organization or solution can fix alone.

Thinking beyond individual programs ensures every child in Illinois, aged zero to five, is well-prepared for school. When different agencies, organizations, and families collaborate, solutions become more meaningful. This benefits the entire community, enhancing ability to influence systems and create social change together.

Community Systems Development Characteristics

Community systems development brings together multiple sectors and fosters a broader and more holistic perspective of needs. It embodies an “our families” mindset instead of a “my client” mindset, recognizing that the well-being of the community depends on the well-being of every family within it.

This goes beyond surface-level fixes and deeply addresses root causes. It thrives on collaboration between organizations and stakeholders and resources that fuel system transformation.

A community systems development framework requires shared cross-sector goals and a well-coordinated, aligned strategy to enable collective action that leads to deep systemic changes.

Community Systems Development Structure

The Community Systems Statewide Supports team organizes collaboration building into three categories of Partner, Plan, and Act. However, there is not one right way to partner, plan, and act. Community systems development work is ever-changing, and a collaboration may progress nonlinearly. A collaboration’s work is always fluid. It may jump between different areas and topics and that is okay.

Say you build a vision, develop strategies, and test your ideas to find that you missed engaging a key stakeholder. You may have to backtrack. All of this is part of a collaborations’ growth and development as the collaboration – and its community – are facing complex issues