System building can have several meanings. Generally speaking, AOK Networks think about system building as an approach that builds upon what works towards what is desired. In practice this can take different forms.
One very important part of this approach is building a better early childhood system by making sure core system components are in place. These components were first described in the 1999 concept paper that laid out the purpose and work of what would become known as AOK Networks. These components are as important today as they were twenty plus years ago.
- Early Identification
- Public Information and Education
- Information and Referral
- Service Needs and Utilization
- Workforce Training and Development
- State and Local Policy
These components can inform broad strategy approaches for the AOK Networks’ Child and Family Outcome Initiatives. For example, to address specific system issues related to the child and family targeted problem, AOK Networks might look to one or more of these components as important mega strategies. For example, Networks focused on the positive development of young children proactively support families to assure their children are receiving routine developmental screenings. These screenings are a primary early identification strategy.
More recently AOK Networks have begun to address a specific system component across the state during a five-year cycle. Currently, AOK Networks across the state are improving information and referral efforts by bringing IRIS, an information and intake system platform, to their communities. While they are all focusing on improving information and referral, and are using IRIS, each local system is tailored to the communities’ needs and goals.
Another significant part of AOK Network’s system building approach is to identify and build upon what works. This includes identifying their community’s assets and strengths and looking outside of the community for hints about how other communities have solved similar problems. Aligning with other related efforts in the community is another way of expanding upon, and adding to, what is already working. Integrating Appreciative Inquiry (AI) by hosting AI Summits, engaging in AI interviews, and conducting SOAR analyses are examples of strength-based processes that inform AOK Networks’ efforts.