connect / 2014

A Pro-Kid LA: Building The Children’s Movement in Los Angeles

A Pro-Kid LA: Building The Children’s Movement in Los Angeles

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Children Now

We are connecting the incredible constituency power that exists for kids in LA to influence state & local policymaking in their favor.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We are connecting the incredible constituency power that exists for kids in LA to influence state & local policymaking in their favor.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Too many of LA’s 2.3 million children lack access to the necessary supports—such as high-quality early learning programs, rigorous K-12 academics, and access to critical health care services – that they need to be able to reach their full potential. For example, a third of LA’s kids lack access to preschool opportunities, less than 50 percent of 3rd graders score proficiently on English language arts standardized tests, and nearly 1 in 6 dropout of high school.

If all of the LA based education, business, parent, civil rights, community, and faith- and ethnic-based groups that care about children were connected, not only would LA’s children’s outcomes dramatically improve, but LA would be the national model for children’s advocacy.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Changing government policies is the fastest and most efficient way to scale effective programs and ensure the resources needed to provide all children with the necessary supports. What stands in the way of these necessary policy actions is the lack of connection. While there are countless organizations, businesses, and individuals in LA that care deeply about improving outcomes for youth, most of them tend to operate in siloes, by issue and/or sector. If a significant number of these entities were connected, the power of a unified voice would have an exponential effect and secure powerful policy change for kids.

The Children’s Movement resulted from years of strategic planning, prompted by the question, “Almost everyone cares about kids, so why do kids fare so poorly in the policy making process?” The answer is that the broad-based diverse public support for children’s well-being has been too diffuse to have the impact it should on policymaking priorities. Consequently, better organized interest groups with much less public will behind them have been able to divert policymakers’ attention away from fixing the issues undermining children’s successful development.

As the state’s only umbrella research, policy development, and advocacy children’s organization focused on the full range of issues affecting children’s health, education and safety, Children Now is uniquely positioned to connect the many diverse organizations and people that are Pro-Kid to one another and enable their collective action.

The Children’s Movement is a game-changing approach. Traditional and non-traditional allies will, for the first time, be coordinated in their actions and unified in their message so children are the top priority. Currently, the Movement represents a grassroots network of nearly 1,000 (and counting) business, education, parent, civil rights, faith-, community-, ethnic-based and other organizations, as well as thousands of individuals that can be effectively mobilized to represent children’s interests across a variety of important policy issues. Upon joining the Movement, members are provided timely research information, policy updates, easy-to-use tools, and advocacy opportunities they need to learn about key kids’ issues and participate in collective action campaigns to influence change on the local and state level.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

LA is the vital center of the Movement. Children Now opened an office in downtown LA last year and brought on full-time staff to start scaling our model throughout LA. We are also building this innovative model in other communities throughout the State, but given LA’s size and diversity, it is imperative that the Movement is scaled here. LA is the ideal place to be the most connected for children’s advocacy, because if the Movement is scaled here, there is no excuse for not scaling it throughout California, and, then, given California’s size and diversity, throughout the country.

And employing the Movement to make LA the best place to connect around kids is not rhetoric and not just a sound plan. We have successfully implemented it – now we need to scale it. We already have more than 200 L.A.-based Movement members, and they already played a major role in historic school equity reform and investments in early education. By scaling the Movement in L.A., with support from LA 2050 – bringing the number of LA movement members to over a thousand and connecting all of them- we will have the strong base of diverse, concentrated support that will surpass the power of any other interest group and produce the significant policy changes needed to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Whom will your project benefit?

The Children’s Movement targets the wide array of health, education, and child welfare policy issues that affect children. As such, this project will benefit all children in Los Angeles, and especially the high percentages of children who are low-income (over 50%), English learners, and of color, as these children often face a disproportionate number of barriers to attaining the necessary quality education and health supports. Without these supports, these children are at risk for not being prepared for work, college and life.

Policy change allows for scaling so every child has access to the necessary supports. As noted, the Children’s Movement has already helped secure policy change that is improving the lives of LA’s children. The Local Control Funding Formula, an early success story of the Movement, provides additional resources for the nearly 400,000 English language learners, over one million students living in poverty, and over 9,000 foster youth in LA. The Movement also played a critical role in ensuring this year’s state budget agreement provides over $65 million to LA children for quality early learning opportunities.

At scale, The Movement will help ensure that all children have access to quality early and K-12 education, but will also help ensure major policy change in other critical areas, such as home visiting, developmental screenings, oral health and summer and after school.

While improving outcomes for kids is the primary goal of scaling the Movement, this project will also benefit the countless LA organizations, businesses, and individuals that care deeply about kids but are often frustrated by the slow rate – if any – change to improve their quality of life. These stakeholders often lack the capacity and resources to effectively participate in the policymaking process. And even when they do, they are disconnected from others, so their voice is often marginalized. The Movement will benefit all of these Pro-Kid supporters by providing them with easy, opt-in opportunities, tools, and resources to meaningfully engage in civic processes, and by bringing them together to amplify their voice.

And – as the future of children impacts the future of the community as a whole –we see all of L.A. benefiting from this project.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Collaboration and connecting partners is the core of the Movement. What differentiates the Movement other models is that we are not just building coalitions among the advocacy groups that are already active on individual children’s issues, but we are (1) breaking down the siloes among those existing coalitions to generate broad support for each issue, and (2) expanding children’s advocacy to be inclusive of populations and groups that are rarely invited to be part of this conversation – such as individual businesses, community groups and faith-based congregations.

Our 200+ cohort of current LA Movement members demonstrate this diversity, and also show how powerful the Movement can be at scale. Current members range from major organizations such as 211 LA, YMCA Metro LA, KIPP LA, the LA Chamber of Commerce, LAUP and Paros Los Ninos to organizations such as Vision to Learn, Junior League of Los Angeles, Los Angeles United Methodist Urban Foundation, LA Best Babies Network, Girls Club of Los Angeles, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Los Angeles African American Women Political Action Committee, Acacia Blue Asset Management, National Council of Jewish Women of Los Angeles, Un Mundo de Amigos Preschool, Women’s Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Foster Care Counts, Los Angeles Public Library, Gift of Life Resource Center, InnerCity Struggle, Trinity Baptist Children’s Center, Venice Family Clinic, Westwood Neighborhood Council, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment, Compton Youth Activities League, League, BOOST Collaborative, Westside Kinship Support Services, Oak Grove Center, Hacienda La Puente USD, United Friends of the Children, CASA of LA, LA School Report, Asian Youth Center, and many others (please see www.childrennow.org/join for complete list of 900+ current members).

Each of these members brings added benefit to the project. This project is all about connecting the diverse support that already exists for kids in LA. Every new member that joins helps further the goal of making LA the most connected place for kids in the country.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
  • Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Government responsiveness to resident’s needs:

While the Movement will impact other metrics (see below) the greatest impact will be on this one. Residents continually prioritize children – their health, their education, their safety. If there is one priority issue that unites LA, it’s the wellbeing of children. Yet government is only marginally responsive to this demand, not because the government officials also don’t care about kids, but because other interests that also demand government’s attention are far more connected and organized. The Movement will connect the myriad groups and individuals that perform the valuable day-to-day work with children, and those who simply want to see conditions improved for children. By connecting the power of these thousands of diverse LA groups – ranging from direct service, business, parent, civil rights, and faith- and community-based organizations, among others – to collectively pressure policymakers on behalf of kids, state government and governmental entities throughout LA will prioritize children at a level commensurate with their residents’ needs.

Participation in neighborhood councils; percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally; total number of social media friends:

With the easy-to-understand resources and guidance provided through the Movement, members will take a range of actions, from requests for signatures on letters sent to state legislators to talking points for meetings with local school board members about where to target budget dollars to spreading the word to former foster youth about available health coverage. But overall, the increased engagement inspired by the Movement will spur members to participate civically in a variety of ways, such as volunteering at their child’s school, attending a local school board meeting, or voting for a ballot measure that will benefit children. This engagement will be furthered through the large, diverse network within the Movement that connects members to other members who share common interests and concerns, leading to greater collaboration in civic processes overall. In addition to increased volunteerism and participation in neighborhood councils, Movement members will be connected to each other through social media.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Overall, we will measure the long-term success of the project by the ability of the Movement to influence outcomes for LA’s kids: graduation rates, test scores, school attendance, school safety, obesity and the other key indicators across education and child welfare, health and safety domains that comprise our California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being. These indicators are based on a 100% scale – i.e. all kids being proficient in reading by 3rd grade, 3- and 4-year olds who attend preschool, children who have health insurance for the entire year, children who visited a dentist in the last year, children in the child welfare system who have stability in their placement, among others, so we will measure success by getting to as close to 100% as possible for each of these indicators.

In addition, we will measure success by several key “input” measures, including those below:

(1) the growth and diversity of L.A. organizations, businesses, and individuals who join the Movement – who can, in turn, help recruit other members and add strength and further elevate Movement campaigns. The goal is to increase Movement membership in LA from our existing 200 organizations to over 1,000. (2) the participation rates of L.A. Movement members in our collective action campaigns; measured by the number of groups that provide their logo for a joint campaign or send letters to policymakers through the Movement’s action alert system (for example, over 25 LA-based organizations lent their name to an ad purchased by Children Now supporting the Local Control Funding Formula – in future campaigns we want to increase that number dramatically) (3) the dissemination (electronically and in-person through local convenings, conferences and meetings) of educational resources and tools developed for Movement members; (4) the number of groups attending a LA wide convening, bringing together all the diverse organizations that are part of the Movement; and (5) Feedback obtained on of the use and usefulness of the resources, information, and communications we provide our L.A.-members.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

This past year, we have employed The Children’s Movement to leverage the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s new school finance model, for the benefit of our earliest learners in LA. The Movement provided timely materials and direct technical assistance to Movement members to inform and strengthen their local efforts. A key resource that we developed and distributed through the Movement was the “Leveraging the LCFF: Making the case for Early Learning and Development (ELD) in your school district” primer and toolkit. This resource provides stakeholders from across the education spectrum with a concrete base of knowledge on (1) the LCFF, (2) research supported benefits of ELD, (3) district budget timelines and insights, and (4) strategies to infuse ELD into the new Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) that are required under LCFF. At the same time, we regularly connected with local advocates in Los Angeles to provide strategic advice on when to launch local advocacy efforts, how to develop and deploy effective messaging to local school leaders, and support on developing the budget/program request.

A key lesson learned from this work is the need to dramatically expand the number of groups we are connected with through the Movement in order to build the local pressure needed to impact change. Providing a regularly increasing number of groups with the tools and strategic advice on when and how to engage, while also connecting them with others with the same goal to improve outcomes for kids, would dramatically impact the local advocacy landscape. Too often groups aren’t aware of opportunities to advocate for kids, are unsure what the most effective messaging/request would be, and/or work in silos instead of connecting to build broad based coalitions. Through The Children’s Movement we can turn these lost opportunities into a power base for kids and dramatically improve their outcomes.

Children Now also helped lead the early childhood field around a common state budget ask this year. Through Movement campaigns, we secured 165 diverse organizations for a joint sign on letter to policymakers in just two days, resulting in critical investments for early learning. Despite a short time frame, we learned that the power of the Movement enables us respond quickly to timely requests and to bring in a range of organizations to come together but that the more members that are represented, the more impact we will have.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Implementing our project in the next 12 months is an achievable goal because we start with a base of LA members and a track record of success on a number of Movement campaign efforts.

We have recruited over 200 LA based members with limited staff capacity (our current LA-based staff applies less than 0.25 FTE time on Movement recruitment). With a dedicated staff member, we will be able to significantly increase the number and engagement of Movement members.

Children Now has also already been able to achieve several, recent significant wins for kids by leveraging the overarching advocacy framework and organized constituency power of the Movement. In addition to the two early learning examples discussed in question above, two other examples include:

  • Last year, the Movement was essential in getting the statewide support necessary for the state’s new education finance law, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), historic legislation that provides additional resources for the 1.3 million English language learners, 3.5 million students living in poverty, and over 11,000 foster youth in California schools.

“Children Now’s leadership on LCFF was absolutely critical to getting it done, particularly how the organization built the diverse and powerful support base needed around it being the right thing to do for California’s kids.” – Mike Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and key education advisor to Governor Brown

  • This year, the Movement is helping to reach roughly 20,000 foster youth – with approximately a third of our outreach focused on LA – that recently aged out of the child welfare system to inform them of their eligibility for health care coverage under a provision of the Affordable Care Act by providing resources and information to over 300 public agencies and service providers in at least 53 counties.

Children Now will leverage its L.A.-based staff, trusted relationships with key government officials, partnerships with key stakeholders, and leadership on local projects that improve quality of life for children in L.A (such as our oral health and home visiting projects) – to continue to build the Movement in LA and engage members in campaigns that will produce positive results for LA kids.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

While many organizations work on kid’s issues, they are often focused either on specific issues or specific communities within greater Los Angeles (or both). One of the primary challenges of this project will be to effectively “de-silo” the field to work collaboratively for the benefit of children as a whole. In addition, one of the barriers these organizations face to taking collective action is their limited capacity and resources to effectively engaging in local and state-level policymaking.

To overcome these challenges and successfully implement this project, Children Now will continue to (1) create strategic communications employing the umbrella, “Pro-Kid” messaging and framework to demonstrate the importance of supporting issues affecting kids, regardless of the specific aim, angle, or issue of each individual organization, group, or business, (2) develop and disseminate easy-to-use tools, resources and opt-in campaigns to make it simple for these organizations to engage children’s advocacy opportunities, and (3) effectively engage these groups “on-the-ground” to provide the additional support and information needed to break down the barriers between these organizations and enable them to work collectively to influence change.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach