Timothy J. Bartik
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Early Childhood Investment Corporation, Diversity Specialist
When I ask myself questions such as this I often recognize that if the world was in balance we wouldn't be facing the challenges we have today. That lets me know that I need to look for instruction or teaching from another arena. I will often turn my attention to nature, the plants or the animals, and see what it has to offer in the way of clues. I notice that there is an interesting balance between how plants naturally know how to give away their energy (such as the oxygen they produce that we breathe) and how the animals naturally know how to receive energy (such as how horses will let you ride on their back and offer a form of transportation). And somehow without understanding everything about how it all fits together I can see the natural balance and partnership in the giving and receiving that is created in nature.
In the last few weeks, my partner and I have re-engaged our three times a week practice of Bikram Yoga. This is a yoga practice where for an hour and a half there is a series of movements where you hold a posture for a certain length of time and then have a resting pause where you integrate the move into your being. This is all done in a room of 105 degrees with high humidity. To say the least, it is an incredible challenge and as the sweat pours out of me in the pauses I remind myself that I do this discipline as a way to awaken and remember my own natural balance that was given to me as a right of my birth. It very intentionally balances the giving and receiving in the way it orchestrates the moves and postures. It reminds me that balance has a very receptive and creative component (the pauses) partnered with a very active and conceptive component (the postures) both of which are equally important.
These are the same elements and qualities that exist when a partnership is balanced. All of us have a variety of experiences in life that reflect partnerships---whether it be in a marriage or a work team. And we certainly know that this type of balance takes work and effort---just like my yoga practice. It may be the most natural thing in the world, but that doesn't mean it is simple or easy. Great partnerships - just like great marriages - learn how to effectively work through challenges and deal with confrontations and conflicts. They don't get stronger because we ignore or avoid what isn't working. They get stronger because they recognize how interdependent they are on one another to create a shared vision of a successful life together. And they know that "Together we are better."
This is the potential and design that is built into the local Great Start Parent Coalitions and Great Start Collaboratives. Each body brings an important unique element to the work. And each individual involved in these efforts needs to make his or her own commitment to work through the challenges, tensions and conflicts inherent in a partnership that truly believes that "Together we are better." This is the formula for what is takes to actualize the vision of the Great Start Initiative in Michigan. This is the heart of how we can honestly approach truly reforming our system of early childhood programs and services to meet the needs of families with young children so every child is given a chance to really succeed in life.