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Family Voice & Leadership: How to Elevate Family Voice in Community Systems Building

Watch the recording of our May 29, 2024 webinar to learn from systems leaders and family members on the tools and tactics needed to elevate and center family voice in community systems building.

Family engagement and leadership is crucial to building community systems that are equitable, supportive, accessible, and of high quality for all children and families. For community system leaders, it is beneficial to include families in policy making and systems design, as families can offer firsthand experiences navigating existing services and provide invaluable insights into the shortcomings of the current system. On May 29th, we hosted a webinar in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund, titled: “Family Voice & Leadership: How to Elevate and Center Family Voice in Community Systems Building.” Panelists included Diana M. Rauner, PhD, President of Start Early and Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, President of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), along with family leaders and practitioners.

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It is essential to involve families in the building and improvement of the system itself. This means inviting families to co-create programs, policies, and systems as equal partners, working side-by-side with public sector leaders and educators. At Start Early, we believe the best way to do this is by teaching systems leaders and families how to work together using the principles of human-centered design (HCD). HCD helps systems consciously create programs that replenish relationships with families and communities, rather than extract a toll from them. One strategy that leverages human-centered design to build comprehensive, equitable, birth to five systems is Family Centered Design from Start Early’s Innovation Lab. Through the Family Centered Design experience, families gain the skills and confidence to make positive changes in the policies, services and systems that affect their lives, and systems leaders gain insight into the families’ lived experience, needs and behaviors.

Finally, system leaders and advocates must deploy strategies to intentionally partner with families – going beyond conducting surveys, focus groups, or interviews to ensure strong family influence and power in decision-making. Examples include forming a parent committee to influence policy and programming decisions, and/or including family leaders on a team to support implementation. And to enable family leadership in these efforts, supports such as stipends, travel reimbursement, and interpretative services should be provided.

Need extra support with promoting family leadership and effectively partnering with families? Start Early Consulting invites systems leaders to leverage our consultants as strategic advisors with this and other work toward a more equitable early childhood system. Please reach out to us at to learn more.