Every five years, AOK Networks engage in an iterative community assessment, planning, and action process to develop their three initiatives: Network Capacity, System Building, and Child and Family Outcome. While the assessments and process vary for each type of initiative, the common denominator is a continuous learning and adaptive process throughout that includes assessment, planning, and action process.
AOK Networks begin the five-year program cycle by collecting local data. The Child and Family Initiative includes data about their community, children, and families. This data is compared to state, and sometimes, national data. Collaborative capacity data is gathered through the use of tools such as the Wilder Survey and the Illinois CSD Benchmarking Tool to inform the Network Capacity initiative. Other data tools and sources are used to inform the System Building Initiative depending on which system building component will be the focus of the cycle.
Additional system assessments are essential for the Child and Family Outcome and System Building initiatives. Gathering information from providers and parents/caregivers about how the system could be more accessible, coordinated, and equitable happens through primary data collection and analysis using a variety of methods. A root cause analysis is used to make sense of the complex data that is collected. From their root cause analysis, system issues and their root causes can be prioritized for action.
Once AOK Networks have prioritized the child, family, and system issues they seek to improve in their community, they can develop approaches/strategies to improve them. This is done through an integrated design process that incorporates four approaches.
- Human-centered Design: Engage people who are experiencing the problem in solving the problem. This means engaging parents/caregivers in improving the system in ways that will best serve them. It also means engaging the providers and other system actors whose behavior we seek to influence in our system change efforts.
- System Change: Seek to permanently improve the service system and benefit more children and families by identifying and addressing powerful system leverage points (specific system issues and their root causes).
- System Building: Build upon what works and towards what is desired. This includes building/improving the system components, considering and adapting successful solutions from other places; building upon local strengths, assets, and successes; and developing mutually-reinforcing strategies with related initiatives.
- Continuous Learning & Adaptive Action: Continually learn what is working and what is not, then adapt for better results. This means engaging in iterative PILA cycles of Preparing to take action, Implementing, Learning what happened through reflection, and Adapting as needed for greater results.
Another important part of the strategy design process is designing strategies that address the conditions for effective implementation. This includes making sure that 1) stakeholders agree upon and support the initiative and/or strategy, 2) the strategy is implemented effectively, 3) the strategy is implemented at an appropriate scale and dose, and 4) many system leverage points are addressed so that system improvements are made and sustained.
Once AOK Networks develop their program plans, they begin implementation. AOK Networks know that it is critical to engage in continuous learning and adaptive action. The complexity involved in systems improvement work requires continual and consistent attention to learning what is and is not working since taking action is the only way to know. Throughout implementation, AOK Networks use a simple iterative process referred to as PILA (Prepare, Implement, Learn, and Adapt) to help them continuously increase the impact of their efforts. More formal evaluation is integrated at points throughout the process to measure results.
Throughout the year and annually, AOK Network members adapt their plans in response to what is working, changing conditions, and emergent opportunities. In this way, AOK Network plans are more “living” than static, reflecting their commitment to continuous learning and adaptive action.
Beyond their own planning and action, many AOK Networks collaborate with the Illinois Project for Local Assessment of Needs (IPLAN), Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP), or other local comprehensive planning efforts. AOK Networks bring a specific focus, passion, and data about the needs of expecting parents and children birth to five and their parents/caregivers.
All Our Kids Early Childhood Networks are community-based collaborations that promote healthy pregnancies and the positive growth and development of all children birth to five and their parents/caregivers by assuring a well-coordinated, easily-accessible, equitable and just system of services and supports that engages parents as partners in making the system work for them.