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Experience tells us that systemic change must be led from both at the community and state levels. Improving outcomes for young children and their parents requires the combination of both high quality programs and a connecting, coordinated infrastructure that webs them together into a comprehensive system.
Great Start Collaboratives serve as the local infrastructure for governance, planning, investment, advocacy and innovation for the Great Start system. Great Start Collaboratives grapple on a daily basis with difficult, complex but ultimately rewarding tasks of assessing the needs of young children and families in their communities; identifying community assets for addressing those needs, planning for systemic change that ensures those assets are aimed at , and implementing efforts to address the gaps, strengthen what works and knock down local barriers that may range from ineffective structures or policies to lack of resources and programs that impede young children from arriving at kindergarten ready to learn.
Their work is informed by the community leaders and partners at the collaborative table such as parents of young children, members of the faith and business communities, local philanthropic organizations, community leaders, educators and leaders of the local public agencies providing the majority of early childhood services in the community.
In January 2006, Michigan had just seven Great Start Collaboratives (GSCs). Today, thanks to leadership and support from the state’s administration and legislature, every Michigan community is represented by a Great Start Collaborative, thus a state-wide system of local infrastructure for the state’s Great Start system is in place.
Great Start Parent Coalitions are another integral piece to the local infrastructure and the state-wide system. The membership of the Great Start Parent Coalitions is open to anyone serving in the parenting role for a child under the age of 12 years, and who is interested in helping to assure that all children enter kindergarten safe, healthy and ready to succeed in school and in life. ECICI provides funding to support a parent or parents to serve as staff for the Parent Coalition on a part-time basis. The purpose of the Great Start Parent Coalition is to: