In spring of 2011, all 31 of Colorado’s Early Childhood Councils embarked on a strategic planning process. For MECC, what a journey it was! Fortunately, we had a detailed road map from the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning and School Readiness in the form of specific instructions, training in the process, technical assistance, as well as plan review and feedback to make revisions before the final submission of the plan.
Because a majority of our funding for three years (7/1/2012 – 6/31/2015) would be based on the quality of the plan and the degree it met the criteria set out by the CDE, we threw ourselves into the work for the next 8 – 10 months. A majority of MECC’s partners, members, and community stakeholders participated in most or all of the journey.
Most of us had participated in strategic planning before; however, the CDE wanted the councils to use an entirely new approach, one that would capture the complexity of local systems building. Meeting this challenge resulted not only in a superior strategic plan but in stronger engagement, collaboration, and relationships among MECC Council members, and a stronger early childhood system.
One of the lasting lessons we’ve since learned is that our journey did not end with the written plan – it is not about the product but the continuing process of improving our early childhood system. It’s all about relationships!