Building Organizational and Community Strength

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Building Organizational and Community Strength Key Learnings from Best Starts for Kids Partners July 2021

Best Starts for Kids

Key learnings from Best Starts for Kids Partners By listening to what Best Starts partners have shared with us at Cardea about program implementation and backed by evaluation data, we’ve identified five key themes critical to Best Starts partners, spanning all strategies. 1. Leading with Equity

5. Working to Transform Policies, Systems, & Environments

2. Centering Culture & Language

5 Evaluation Themes 4. Building Organizational & Community Strength

3. Supporting Communities that Thrive

In this case study series, we share stories and data from Best Starts partners that highlight these five themes. 2

Cardea analyzed stories and data shared by Best Starts for Kids partners Earlier this year, Best Starts for Kids asked Cardea to develop this series of case studies to document key learnings from across the Best Starts for Kids initiative. Best Starts grounds its work in community knowledge as well as science and research in an effort to continually reflect community needs and deepen the initiative’s impact. To support this effort, Best Starts partners regularly share stories about their work along with data, including information about who participates in Best Starts programming. Best Starts analyzes these data and stories each year to share learnings back with their partners, their communities, and the residents of King County through community conversations, publications, and the Best Starts for Kids data dashboard. This case study series features data and stories that have been shared with Best Starts since the initiative launched. Cardea also partnered with local artist, Michael B. Maine, to capture Best Starts partners in their own words. Nine partner organizations also participated in conversations this spring so we could better represent their work related to the case study themes. Although so many Best Starts partners could be highlighted in this series, these nine organizations were selected because the stories they had previously shared with Best Starts were particularly wellaligned with the themes.

Best Starts for Kids centers communities to build impact Cardea found that partner organizations have nourished the strengths of communities and the young people in them to lead. Continued capacity building support for community-based organizations and cultivation of community leaders is a promising strategy to create environments where children, teens, and young adults can thrive. Best Starts for Kids capacity building supports partners in developing programs; conducting evaluation; and supporting human resources, finance, and administration which enables partners to best serve community. With Best Starts support, partners build the capacity of diverse communities through community-centered programming. Future capacity building should prioritize meeting partners where they are, providing a breadth of technical assistance topics, and using a strengths-based approach. Best Starts for Kids

For more information about Best Starts for Kids please visit the 2020 Annual Report and Implementation Plan. About Best Starts for Kids


Best5Starts for Kids

What we found

Best Starts capacity building support helped organizations build strong foundations and community-centered programming. Partner programming built the capacity of their diverse communities.

Best Starts for Kids provides culturally meaningful resources and guidance to support partners both before and after they receive funding from the initiative Best Starts for Kids


In 2020, Best Starts provided over 7,200 hours of capacity building support to 90 partners

Best Starts funds and provides capacity building to support program development, implementation, and sustainability rooted in community strengths, needs, and values. Capacity building is the provision and cocreation of information, tools, and resources along with individualized, responsive, and ongoing coaching and support.


Of partners who received capacity building support felt their capacity builder understood their community’s cultural needs

To see more data for the capacity building strategy, check out the data dashboard

What we found


Best Starts worked with providers on a variety of capacity building supports

Program design and development support resulted in the implementation of programs that were responsive to community needs.

Data support helped organizations monitor and evaluate their work and use data for program and quality improvement.

What we found

Staff training support contributed to reduced staff turnover and retention of staff who reflect the community served.

Human resource, finance, and administration support helped partners solidify back-end operations to focus more time providing programming to community.


Best 10 Starts for Kids

Through the workforce development strategy, Best Starts supported providers with workforce group trainings, which expanded the number of trainings and participants threefold from 2019 to 2020 Workforce Development programs seek to set up a coordinated system of professional development for King County’s prenatal-tofive workforce. These programs serve to enhance providers’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills in Best Starts priority areas (equity, healthy child development) and build providers’ sense of self-efficacy, well-being, and reflective capacity.

92% Of workforce development participants reported training content was meaningful to their work with children and families

To see more data for the workforce development strategy, check out the data dashboard What we found


Through the developmental promotion strategy, Best Starts supported early learning providers with developmental screening and promotion trainings. In 2019 and 2020 over 1,100 providers were trained.

The Developmental Screening Training Pilots engage community members to increase their confidence in using a developmental screening tool. By training community members to use these tools, more children may have access to developmental screening.

97% Of developmental screening training participants reported increased knowledge around developmental screening

To see more data for the developmental promotion strategy, check out the data dashboard What we found


Best Starts partners valued capacity building support

I was new to my role working with youth and was struggling collecting and organizing data. This [capacity building] team helped me break down our issues into manageable portions and helped in understanding of how data collection can help an organization grow and meet the needs of the community.

Best Starts Partner Capacity Building

What we found

Best Starts partners built the capacity of the community they serve through programs funded by Best Starts Best Starts for Kids


Best Starts partners worked with the community they serve on the following capacity building supports

Partners provided culturally responsive training to community organizations and program participants to advance skills, knowledge, and practices. Culturally responsive approaches intentionally consider the culture of each community and use techniques rooted in that culture to best serve families.

Partners elevated the strengths and built the capacity of leaders of color and BIPOC-led organizations. They also led trainings for other organizations and partners on anti-racist practice, cultural humility, and meeting the needs of the BIPOC community.

What we found

Partners helped the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by using Best Starts resources to purchase technology, host virtual programming specific to pandemic-response, and provide basic needs support.

Partners built the capacity of youth through culturally responsive youth programming and training and through building community infrastructure across King County.


Partners in the youth development strategy worked to build the capacity of over 13,300 young people from 2018-2020 Youth Development programs offer opportunities through mentoring, leadership, positive identity development, and healthy relationships. Partners focus on engaging marginalized youth who are facing challenging life experiences, offering a broad range of programs that open up new possibilities to develop skills, form lasting relationships, and build their self-confidence.


Of youth/young adults reported improved knowledge or skill as a result of youth development programs on average in 2020

To see more data for the youth development strategy, check out the data dashboard What we found


The community valued the capacity building support from Best Starts partners

Support from Best Starts partners added value to and positively impacted participants’ work.

Participants developed relationships that supported their ability to learn, reflect, share, and grow.

What we found

Participants who attended trainings reported that they were able to implement what they learned in practice.

Participants reported seeing positive change in their community.


The community valued the capacity building support from Best Starts partners

I think this funding has had a tremendous impact on community… supporting young people and their families outside of school allows for such a rich…holistic experience and has direct linkage to how they fare in life…my hope is that the tremendous investment that has happened across Best Starts…will be continued, because there's so many incredible things that have been set up.

Omana Imani

School’s Out Washington Sustaining the Gain

What we found

Best 19 Starts for Kids

Stories of Impact

Strong and supported organizations can best deliver high-quality services that result in thriving communities and equitable outcomes Stories from Best Starts for Kids Partners: ▪ School’s Out Washington ▪ Young Women Empowered

Best Starts partners work to build organizational and community strength through capacity building support Best Starts for Kids partners School’s Out Washington and Young Women Empowered share their stories of providing capacity building support to community-based organizations and King County youth, building community strength. Capacity Building stories from School’s Out Washington and Young Women Empowered provide rich, specific examples of the larger impact of capacity building that we heard from multiple organizations. School’s Out Washington is highlighted for their work providing organizational capacity building and program development using a continuous quality improvement model. Young Women Empowered is highlighted to demonstrate their direct service work building the capacity of youth.

Stories of impact

Best Starts for Kids


Best Starts partner School’s Out Washington builds the capacity of youth-serving organizations Best Starts for Kids


School’s Out Washington leads the Out-of-School Time initiative to strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations who provide youth programming The School’s Out Washington (SOWA) team knows that youth and families thrive with a full range of holistic supports such as staff training on programming and administration. The SOWA Best Starts team, led by Omana Imani, SOWA’s King County Expanded Learning Systems Director, provides support to youth and families furthest from opportunity by strengthening the capacity of organizations that provide those holistic supports.

Best Starts for Kids

In partnership with Best Starts for Kids, SOWA’s new Out-of-School Time initiative supports organizations in King County who work with elementary and middle school aged youth to provide after school and summer programming. The goal of the work is to partner with community to offer culturally relevant after-school and summer programs for youth in underserved areas of King County.

Stories of impact


School’s Out Washington provides holistic capacity building support to organizations so that they can best serve youth In the Out-of-School Time Initiative, the SOWA team partners with BIPOCled and community-based organizations to deepen their program practice and provide stronger, culturally-matched learning and enrichment activities through their Youth Program Quality Intervention model. Since 2017, Best Starts for Kids funding has enabled the SOWA team to provide the following capacity building support: •

Funding 32 community-based organizations to implement their program

Goal setting with a coach to deepen program practice, SOWA provided over 1,500 coaching hours in since 2018

Professional development trainings for program staff, SOWA provided 70 trainings to more than 375 staff since 2018

Seasonal program assessments with self-assessment and external assessment components Stories of impact

Best Starts for Kids


Best 25 Starts for Kids

School’s Out Washington’s capacity building support has a positive impact on organizations Through this work, SOWA has deepened their expertise around what it takes to be responsive to community organizations and the partnering organizations have been able to:

Best Starts for Kids

Increase staff capacity, deepen and expand programming, and serve more youth than projected

Build partnership with one another to support resource sharing

Pivot programing quickly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the needs of the community, including virtual offerings such as academic tutoring, at-home cooking class and other activities and basic needs support

Stories of impact


School’s Out Washington built organizational capacity, including data and evaluation capacity

Best Starts for Kids

One way that Out-of-School Time’s partners have strengthened their capacity relates to the way they gather and use program data. Each Out-of-School Time partner gathers and shares program data, including information about young people served and their outcomes. Because of Out-of-School Time’s funding, some partner organizations chose to receive evaluation capacity building support to help organizations create data collection tools, generate survey questions, and analyze data. These organizations were then able to use their data to make program improvements and data-informed communication strategies.

Stories of impact


Engagement in our [Youth Program Quality] system allows us a much more intentional and high touch partnership [with community-based organizations] than we would see in other more traditional funding arrangements. The [community-based organizations] have expressed deep gratitude for the coaching, training, and ability to be in real dialogue with us. I think it's the [high] level of interaction that has created strong partnerships and trust.

Omana Imani

School’s Out Washington Sustaining the Gain

Stories of impact

29Starts for Kids Best

Best Starts partner Young Women Empowered builds the capacity of young women Young Women Empowered


Young Women Empowered’s Youth Leadership Council builds the capacity of young women to be leaders in their community Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) cultivates the power of diverse young women to be creative leaders and courageous changemakers through transformative programs within a collaborative community of belonging, centering youth of color and immigrant, first generation youth.

Young Women Empowered

In partnership with Best Starts for Kids, Reagan Jackson, Y-WE’s Co-Executive Director, facilitates the Youth Leadership Council. The Youth Leadership Council is designed for young women aged 13-19 who have completed at least one previous Y-WE program and would like to deepen their leadership in the Y-WE community. Through the Youth Leadership Council, Y-WE connects youth to diverse mentors as well as learning events related to the arts, community, and education.

Stories of impact


Youth leadership projects demonstrate the breadth of creativity and courageousness young women demonstrate With support from Reagan and Y-WE program staff, youth lead a project on a topic that inspires them. Through that leadership, youth gain skills in workshop facilitation, supply drives, communications, and technology. Youth Leadership Council Projects have included:

Young Women Empowered

A partnership with the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association to curate the Let’s Talk Race series co-facilitated by Y-WE participants

A class on Nepali language and dance for elementary students who recently immigrated from Nepal

Health and hygiene empowerment workshops and collection of feminine hygiene supplies to be donated to Ethiopian women

Interviews with youth of color in Seattle Public Schools that were published in a book that is for sale in a local bookstore

Stories of impact


Best Starts for Kids [support] allowed us to have more capacity to be able to engage in this work…Now I can just be in my programs. Since I have more time and capacity, I can take time to do professional development and to educate myself more and to make that a priority for my staff on my team.

Reagan Jackson

Young Women Empowered Sustaining the Gain

Stories of impact

Youth Leadership Council participants shared what they will take away from participating in the council When asked, What do you take away from the Youth Leadership Council?, participants from the 2021 cohort said:

Leading and facilitating events and activities is a lot more rewarding and fun than I could imagine, I feel passionate about speaking, and being put a little out of my comfort zone is okay. It's progressive in the most positive way! That I am a powerful, strong young woman and I can literally do whatever I set my heart to.

Young Women Empowered

How to be more confident in who I am, setting boundaries, and learning about all the different ways a person can be a leader.

Stories of impact


In their own words… Young Women Empowered

Stories of impact


Thank you

Contributors: School’s Out Washington

Young Women Empowered

Omana Imani

Reagan Jackson

King County Expanded Learning Systems Director

Co-Executive Director

Cardea is a national, women of color-led organization, based in Seattle. We envision a world in which optimal health and wellbeing, equity, and justice are realities for all communities. For 50 years, we have been committed to addressing complex program, policy, and systems issues by cocreating solutions that center community strengths and wisdom.

Authors & Contributors

MJ Coppock Avanthi Jayasuriya Kelsey Liu Olivia Lutz Elizabeth Menstell Wendy Nakatsukasa-Ono Erica Wei Wu Amanda Winters

Michael B. Maine uses photography, video, and audio to work with people to find, develop, and share their stories. Rather than Michael telling their story, he provides a platform for a person to tell their own. With this process, he hopes to create pieces that are authentic, unique, and beautiful.

Strong and supported organizations can best deliver highquality services that result in thriving communities and equitable outcomes

This work is made possible by Best Starts for Kids. Best Starts for Kids strengthens families and communities so that babies are born healthy, children thrive and establish a strong foundation for life, and young people grow into happy, healthy adults. Learn more at

Best Starts for Kids