Let’s Stop Loving the Problem: Making Room for the Future

As April’s Month of the Young Child draws to a close, we acknowledge that the journey to support young children is ongoing and necessitates sustained commitment. Through our partners, we see how early childhood professionals and families struggle to navigate the fragile child care system as they continue to make a compelling case for transformative change. That is why initiatives like WeVision EarlyEd, an investment in making the ideal child care system real, are a central part of the foundation’s approach to systems change.

We are being more intentional about dedicating time, space, and resources for conversations and partnerships that can help pave the way for transformation. Given our outsized privilege in the early childhood ecosystem, simply describing the child care crisis and helping our partners endure it is not enough.

In February, we hosted an event, “Making the Ideal Real: A Gathering of National Early Learning Policy Influencers,” where we convened 46 national early learning policy influencers to reground ourselves in the work and renew our collective commitment to young children. It was an opportunity to transcend what exists and reimagine the public policies and narratives needed to make the ideal child care real.

Here are five things we learned from this gathering that we will take with us on our journey to support young children.

  • A graphic representation of how we, as a society, can achieve high quality early childhood care for all children

  1. Stop loving the problem. This guidance from Trista Harris, a futurist, and author of FutureGood: How to Use Futurism to Save the World took us aback. All too often we become so mired in what doesn’t work that it can be difficult to see the solutions and opportunities. We were encouraged to dwell less on describing the already well-documented crisis and focus more on working alongside partners to demonstrate what the world would look like if it were fixed.
  2. Change minds to change systems. John Harper, CEO of FSG, a leading organization dedicated to systems change, underscored the need to address the mindsets about child care to drive transformative change. We recognize that there are layers to power and privilege and are committed to amplifying the knowledge of proximity experts (i.e., the families, educators, and administrators closest to the system) and working in partnerships with others to advance transformative mindsets.
  3. The future is already happening. Another lesson from Trista Harris was the idea that the future is not something that just happens, we have the power to create it with the choices we make today. We are committed to strengthening our futurism muscle with partners to explore what is possible, probable, and preferable.
  4. Art is a powerful social justice tool. While we reviewed PowerPoints and reflected on data as a group, it was poetry that helped to inspire hope and action. Carlynne Newhouse, a poet who performed her “Now, WeVision” poetry during the event, poignantly expressed,

    “If we were to linger on the memories, how many lineages
    would we find of people who loved their children so much
    that they were willing to build a world they never got to touch?
    We have done this before. We will do it again.
    This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last
    Where we hoped, and we loved, and we learned
    We Visioned
    Now, it is our time to build.”

    These words encapsulate the spirit of our commitment to stand up for young children and families, not just during designated months.

  5. If you are excited about the future, the present becomes uncomfortable. As we think about the work ahead, we are prepared to lean into the discomfort. Systems change, shifting mindsets, and flexing our futurism muscle can be difficult and time-consuming but it’s a necessary undertaking 

As we bid farewell to April and welcome May, let it serve as a reminder of our collective resolve and let us move forward the rest of the year with conviction, knowing that our children’s future depends on the actions we take today.  

Thank you to the 46 policy influencers who participated in Making the Ideal Real: A Gathering of National Early Learning Policy Influencers; our presenters Trista Harris, John Harper, Carol Brunson Day, and Aly Richards for sharing their knowledge; as well as our team of facilitators, School Readiness Consulting and Maurice Sykes.