Around The Block
Better Place To Live
Fuels-Up For The Future
What Creativity Can Lead To
Learned At The Water Cooler
by Maryann Brennan
Business News Briefs
for a Change
Quality Tool I Never Use
A Better Place To Live
How One Community Reached Out to Help Its Youngest Citizens
Every town has its share of challenges calling out for
collaborative action. Neighborhood watch programs. Big Brothers and Sisters.
Drug Free America. We are inundated with programs to address these challenges.
And yet, many issues remain unaddressed waiting for the right person, at
the right time, to take the initiative to help make their community a better
Tom Terez is one such person. Terez, like many of us, needed
a defining moment to stimulate his involvement. For him it was the birth
of his first child.
I had never been around babies before and those first
few months were quite an exercise in personal change management. Over time
we all adjusted and began to marvel at the wondrous nature of child development,
The wondrous nature of Terez childs development
ignited a fire in him. He researched the beginning years of childrens
lives and discovered that these years are the most significant in a persons
life. A child is born with 100 billion brain cells. By age three, a single
cell can connect with as many as 15,000 other cells. Theres so much
activity during this time that a childs brain uses twice as much metabolic
energy as an adults. And the kicker: Children who are loved
and nurtured during these precious years end up having brain-cell circuits
that are more developed and functional, states Terez.
Launching the Initiative
As Terez continued to acquire more information regarding early childhood
development, he turned his attention to the community. The challenge
seemed so important, I wanted to know: What are we doing around town to
support each other in giving kids the best possible start in life?
says Terez. What he found was a rather fractured system. Parents were talking
to parents. Doctors were talking to doctors. Educators were talking to educators.
There was very little discussion and collaboration across groups and
no articulated sense of a common mission, says Terez. Thats
when I resolved to do somethingto bring these groups together and
launch a community initiative for the good of our youngest citizens.
As assistant director of the Ohio Office of Quality Services,
Terez decided to apply some of the tools he uses in his quality efforts
in state government to initiate a community group. We have these wonderful
tools and techniques for engaging peoples hearts and hands and minds,
and it was easy to see how they could be used among community members to
find new ways of helping newborns, toddlers and their families. Thus
began the Citizens Summit on Early Childhood.
Terez booked meeting space for two meetings. He clarified
the overall end in mind, identified the specific tangibles that
people would create and developed a process for making it all happen. Next
came promotion. I pulled out all the stops; posting signs and brochures
at 15 local libraries, sending out news releases to all local media, following
up with editors to ensure pre-event coverage and writing letters to community
leaders and making calls to many others.
Fifty community members attended the first meeting. The session focused
on learning, relationship-building and information sharing. Three early
childhood experts talked with participants, educating them on the first
few years of child development. One of the ways they encouraged networking
was by displaying three oversized writing stations throughout the room:
the I know board, I need board and I wonder
board. On the I know board people wrote the names and numbers
of useful books, networks, organizations and people. The I need
board illustrated specific needs and challenges participants were facing
and finally questions regarding early childhood were posted on the I
wonder board. There was plenty of useful content, but perhaps
more important was the nature of the 50 folks who attended, says Terez.
The group reflected a wide mix of parents, early childhood professionals
and others all united by the fact that everyone can do something for the
good of our youngest citizens.
The second session included the original 50 people and an additional 15.
There was more time for networking and a brainstorming session. Eight carousel
stations were positioned around the room each with a different label: parent,
teenager, pre-teen, child-free single, child-free couple, senior and so
Each group was charged with developing ideas for children
ages birth to three. With two people from each team writing furiously on
Post-It notes to capture each brainstormed idea, the eight teams
worked simultaneously for 10 minutes. Then time was called and each team
moved on to the next station,until they had visited all eight. When
it was all over, we stared in amazement at the 400 ideas the group had generated,
Building the Momentum
By the end of this second session, many grassroots efforts had spontaneously
emerged, says Terez. Several parents exchanged phone numbers and went
on to form a childrens play group. Another person launched a letter
writing campaign. Yet another intervened in a child-abuse situation, thanks
to information and inspiration she acquired at the Citizens Summit.
And news reports about the event heightened community awareness.
Five months later, the group reconvened. Some of the members
presented ideas for starting action teams targeted at specific problems
or opportunities. The folks gave brief commercials for their ideas
and through the conversation with the group, fine-tuned their missions.
Four ideas emerged and the group organized itself into
four separate teams; people headed to the station that seemed the best fit
for their interests and talents. Each team spent the remaining time developing
a mission statement, trading names and numbers, getting to know one another
and sketching out a set of next steps.
Headed in the Right Direction
One of the biggest challenges is to involve even more people while
ensuring that veteran Summit participants move on to higher levels of understanding,
commitment and action, says Terez. As one way of meeting this challenge,
Terez assembled a participant directory that lists each persons specific
interest areas. All participants have received copies of the Gold
Pages, as they are called, in order to foster connections beyond the
regular Citizens Summit gatherings.
The next biggest step has been development of the Early Childhood
Challenge website, www.takethechallenge.com. Sponsored by Worthington
Industries, the site features 100 action ideas to show people the many ways
they can help our youngest citizens. It includes inspirational stories,
photos from the Citizens Summit and amazing facts about early childhood.
This website is our way of reaching beyond the gatherings and beyond
our community, says Terez. It provides information and inspiration,
and the aim is to build awareness, stir action and create a better future
for everyone. Terez and his team also have produced a booklet version
of the 100 action ideas, but theyre still seeking a sponsor who wants
to join them in their effort to make their community a better place to live.