Collective Impact In Franklin Grand Isle
By Margaret Maley
I spoke with Amy Johnson, Parent Child Center Director of Northwestern Counseling and Support Services in Franklin/Grand Isle Counties, about her previous role as the Building Bright Futures Regional Coordinator and the evolution of how a combined Parent Child Center (PCC) and Building Bright Futures (BBF) hybrid position evolved.
I am personally grateful for the evolution of this process as I currently hold the hybrid PCC and BBF position today that I feel plays a significant role in systems collaboration in our region. Though the early childhood system is complex, we know that sharing resources and having a common agenda is critical to achieving long lasting change. Read my interview below with Amy on how a collective impact initiative worked to align early childhood efforts.
Margaret: Can you speak to what drew you to Building Bright Futures and the work of early childhood in general?
Amy: I’ve been working with children and families since the onset of my career. One of my first jobs was supporting onsite childcare at a local gym in Detroit. I was honestly in awe of all the staff that worked with the children. It was amazing to me the extent of the impact an early educator could have on a child.
My love of children really blossomed in that role and paved the way to case management positions with adolescents and families where I was constantly seeking to learn more about prevention, early intervention, and how to strengthen the family system.
I think when I started working at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont and was facilitating trainings for child care providers across the state; I became really invested in learning the ins and outs of the early childhood system. A lot of the work I was doing with children early on in my career was based on intervening later on in a child’s life. Although important and critical work, I found that through working in the early care and learning system there was a real value placed on prevention and the significant impact that work can have on the trajectory of a child’s life.
Once I had a baby, it became a mix of personal and professional where I could see how incredibly important the early childhood system is for not only the health and wellness of a child, but for a whole family structure.
Around the time I had Luna and became a mom, I saw the ad for a BBF Regional Coordinator and immediately recognized that it was a change organization with the intent of creating a system that fully supported children and families. This just made sense to me as a parent and in the path my career had taken me. It seemed obvious that it would be a good fit, and it was.
Margaret: You were part of a team that created a hybrid position between BBF and PCC that I hold today. What made this new initiative possible and how did that unfold?
Amy: I think a big part of it was having amazing partners to work with who were open to doing something new and breaking out of traditional silos. When I approached Danielle Lindley (Children, Youth and Family Services Director at Northwestern Counseling and Support Services), who is incredibly innovative and progressive in her thinking, she was immediately on board. When BBF was approached with the idea, they were willing to engage in conversations about how to make it work, in order to create a sustainable position that would meet the needs of both organizations. It happened pretty quickly, too. We all sat down and decided upon a scope of work, and everyone was really excited about it. To put it simply, we had the right people at the table.
From an organizational standpoint, Parent Child Centers and Building Bright Futures are two entities that understand how crucial it is to have strong relationships, on a community and state level, to have maximum impact. On a community level, being a regional coordinator allowed me to build and foster relationships with folks in the region that I otherwise might not have had. Having partners who trusted that this was the right move for the community significantly contributed to why the hybrid role was a success.
The Collective Impact approach is premised on the belief that no single policy, government department, organization, or program can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society. The approach calls for multiple organizations or entities from different sectors to abandon their own agenda in favor of a common agenda, shared measurement, and alignment of effort.
Margaret: I’ve heard you talk a lot about the importance of collective impact. Can you speak to what that is and if it was a factor in the success from the work of both PCC’s and BBF?
Amy: I think collective impact goes beyond collaboration, and people often use the terms interchangeably. We’re doing more than collaborating; we’re sharing our resources and focusing on allowing integration to be more impactful in our prevention and early intervention work with children and families.
We have both the breadth of reach and the depth of knowledge when combining entities, which is necessary when dealing with a complex system like early childhood. Pooling resources to do this work and extending our reach into the community creates a window of opportunity for change. However, you have to be willing to have common goals and open communication.
Collective Impact can look like a lot of different things, but a shared vision and true integration is key. Though the Parent Child Center and Building Bright Futures worked to create the position, it was the additional support of the region that allowed for Franklin/Grand Isle’s system of early childhood to be as robust and aligned as possible.
Margaret: Can you share a success during your time in the hybrid role?
Amy: The origin of the Child Care Action Team (CCAT) is one that should be highlighted. It came out more organically because of the hybrid role; that conversation might not have taken place if I hadn’t been talking to one of my NCSS staff that had worked in child care, managed the food program, and sat on the council.
There have also been times where I have served as a liaison on different projects, including the Promise Community initiatives. The Promise Community work allowed me to do a lot of teaming with community partners, including Northwestern Counseling and Support Services and the PCC. Any small or big successes were made possible through partnerships. It fast tracked all the ideas and initiatives we wanted to get off the ground in the region. I was able to have really important conversations and had supportive teams who could help me enact the work. We have a lot of conversations with great ideas in early childhood, so it’s critical to have relationships that make action possible.
Margaret: You’ve now transitioned from BBF to a different leadership role. What can you tell us about what your work looks like now?
Amy: I loved BBF and my work while in that role, and still actively follow all the great work that is being done. My work looks differently now in that I directly supervise 40 staff whom home visit and are part of prevention work that I think is so vital to our community. Being able to witness them turn the curve on some really important issues is incredible. It’s really neat to be able to see people on the ground supporting children and families and the true impact that it has.
To have the opportunity to then take all of that great work to statewide networks and legislators is so important, and I’m so invested in being that voice for our PCC. I have a lot more context for my role and for PCC’s now.
Our Parent Child Center is unique because it’s co-located within a Designated Agency, so I have NCSS that is supporting my work, and I also have the Vermont PCC Network supporting me as well. It feels great to have these two entities guiding and supporting me and also that you (Margaret) have taken over in the hybrid role as it allows me to stay connected with BBF.
Being housed under two organizations provided me with such a wonderful opportunity to make connections and continue the work that I think is so vital in creating healthy, flourishing communities.
Franklin Grand Isle Regional Coordinator
Building Bright Futures