“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight Eisenhower
The vision of Milwaukee Succeeds—success for every child, in every school, cradle to career—requires that we change the way we operate across all sectors. But that level of systematic change doesn’t just happen, it requires good and continual planning.
All the work happening across Milwaukee Succeeds is tough; I learned that lesson quickly over my first 90 days. There are late nights, countless meetings, and discussions that regularly end at an impasse. Wait, that last point’s not true (although the first two certainly are). We wrestle with complex issues that seem to have no solutions. But this initiative has engaged the most passionate, committed people that I have ever come across. People who value every child; people who believe that every child can succeed; and people who will not give up until we realize our vision of success for every child.
For whatever reason, I have quickly developed a fondness for Goal 4. That goal was given a seriously difficult task: addressing all non-academic factors influencing a child’s success. After analyzing the research and hearing from experts and practitioners, the significance of Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) was undeniable. The network learned about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the tragic, long-term impact ACEs have on the welfare of children and adults. They began to proselytize about the need to reduce ACEs through a coordinated, community-wide approach to SEL. Impressively, they did this all without dedicated staff. Now the network is asking, what actions can it take to improve SEL within our community?
That’s the current objective of Goal 4: creating an action plan for 2016 that links its strategic objectives with the tactics needed to advance its work. But unlike past planning initiatives, the network is taking a leaner approach. Last Friday the group took 5 priority areas and drafted statements of need, analyzed root causes, and identified tactical actions. This work will be placed into an action plan template (complete with timelines and performance metrics) and finalized next month. The goal of this process is to accelerate improvement through a thoughtful and informed structure. As the network implements this action plan, there will be rapid cycles of learning to ensure continuous improvement.
So what’s next for this tenacious group? The priority areas for 2016 include SEL training for adults (teachers, youth workers, parents, and coaches), promoting quality programming, creating youth leadership training, and building awareness of SEL/trauma across Milwaukee. Even though there’s a great deal of work ahead, I have no doubt they’re ready to take the next big step towards action…and help create the community our children deserve.