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Reflecting on a Week of Connections

By: Becca Thomas, Managing Director, Communications, Groundwork Ohio

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Our team recently traveled to Charlotte, NC, to take part in the Alliance for Early Success’ CONNECT23 conference, a gathering of national early childhood advocates focused on advancing early childhood policy in individual states and on the federal level.

The conference had a packed agenda that started for our team with a walking tour of the Brooklyn neighborhood in Charlotte, once a vibrant and thriving community of color in the city. We also heard from an incredible coalition of early childhood and maternal health experts who worked together in Minnesota to pass landmark legislation in support of their state’s youngest. The coalition was a masterclass in various groups coming together with an underlying goal and clear deliverables. The panel included a former state representative, a member of an indigenous group focused on early childhood issues for American Indians, a public health practitioner, and campaign and consulting strategists who all worked together to achieve their common goal.

We were able to witness a unique plenary featuring the stars of the Refuge, a documentary that told the true story of a reformed white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member who joined forces with a Syrian refugee to form an organization to help others break away from hate organizations. The conversation was an incredible display of bridge building and what can happen when work is put in to find common ground.

Breakout sessions throughout the day discussed child care advocacy in a post-pandemic world, building and sustaining effective coalitions, uplifting kinship care, supporting those in child care deserts, and how the climate crisis is affecting child care, among other topics.

We came back together to discuss strategies for navigating a media ecosystem that feeds on misinformation and sensational headlines, and participated in a workshop aimed on focusing our storytelling and messaging so the messages we’re trying to get in front of policymakers and other advocates are received.

It was an inspiring few days to be in the company of so many early childhood advocates and to feel support from a national partner. We came home with lots of ideas and look forward to putting them to use for Ohio’s children!


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