FAQ: Connect the dots: building a movement for children and families

Connect the Dots lifts up and links individual and collective actions across the country that make children and families a priority in our communities, budgets, and policies. We accomplish this by providing tools to:

1.      Connect individuals taking everyday actions that benefit their families, the families they know, and families in their communities.

2.      Support community efforts to mobilize actions that benefit families.

3.      Strengthen budgets and policies to promote child and family well-being.

4.      Grow positive social norms (behaviors, attitudes, and actions) that improve the lives of ALL children and families.

 

Click the questions below to learn more.

What is Connect the Dots?
Connect the Dots is a fast-growing grassroots initiative to develop and promote a variety of actions that can be taken by individuals, groups, and organizations, communities, and policymakers to transform the culture of how children and families are supported in our society.

Connect the Dots seeks to bring together all of us in the United States who want to make ALL of our communities places where children and families can thrive in an era marked by both recognition of the need for change and increased cynicism about its possibility.

Why this, and why now?
Every day, across the country, Americans show that they believe we’re all in this together. Neighbors are helping neighbors; community organizations are meeting the needs of children and families; businesses are supporting family events; and citizens are standing up for policies that give all children the opportunity to reach their potential.

Building a national movement for America’s children means recognizing and celebrating those efforts, lifting up examples that others can follow to play their role, and infusing the guiding principles behind those efforts into policies that affect families.

Building a movement above all means recognizing that too many families and communities are left out in the cold, without the resources they need to support healthy child development—and that we are all affected when this happens. As the movement grows, fewer and fewer families will miss out on these crucial supports and opportunities.

When did it start?
The work started in August 2011 when a group of organizations came together because they wanted to determine how to engage and activate community members to organize on behalf of the children and families who live in their communities and to build collective actions to advance policies at all levels that offer sustained support for children and families.

Who are the leaders of Connect the Dots?
Connect the Dots is led by a national steering committee that includes representatives of:
  • Center for the Study of Social Policy
  • Circle of Parents
  • National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds
  • Prevent Child Abuse America
  • ZERO TO THREE
Harnessing the collective resources of these partners and others that join establishes Connect the Dots as a movement greater than the sum of its parts. Additional organizations will have opportunities to join the steering committee later in 2015.

In states and communities, anyone can be a leader in building a movement for children and families. People in formal leadership roles such as elected officials, policymakers, and directors of child and family-serving organizations have a role to play, of course. But business owners, congregation members and neighbors are also critical leaders in this growing movement as they take steps every day that strengthen and support the families around them.

What are the outcomes we’re trying to achieve?
The goals of Connect the Dots are:
  • Communities are welcoming and supportive of children and families
  • Community members – from neighbors to business leaders to congregations to elected officials – take steps both large and small, formal and informal, to support children and families
  • All families have networks of support to help them meet their children’s physical and emotional needs, especially in times of stress
  • Our society recognizes and celebrates that “we’re all in this together” rather than telling children and families they are on their own
  • These actions are reflected in policies at all levels of government that affect children and families
With each action taken by an individual, an organization or a community to support families, we collectively take steps to transform our society to reach these goals.
What does it mean to call this a “movement”?
A social movement such as Connect the Dots includes a variety of actions by individuals, groups, organizations and others mobilizing to achieve a particular social change. These actions may include specific campaigns and tactics as part of the broader movement, but a social movement has a broader social impact.

Historically, social movements like the Labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, the Women’s Rights and Civil Rights Movements, the Environmental Movement, and others grew out of a sense of broad social discontent with the status quo. Similarly, Connect the Dots recognizes and builds on an emerging awareness that we are not doing enough to help children and families succeed in this country. Too often neither our individual actions nor our collective policies kick in until families and children are struggling or in crisis. As with those earlier movements (which are still ongoing), a movement for America’s children will need both changes in society’s views and protections in policy and law to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their potential.

The good news is that many positive things are occurring. Individuals, groups, organizations, businesses, policymakers, and others are taking actions in small and large ways to affirm the understanding that “we’re all in this together” in our collective efforts to help all children thrive.

Connect the Dots seeks to coalesce these actions, build momentum, and provide strategic direction to achieve the goals of the movement to transform social norms. In building this movement, we seek to:
  • Facilitate communication for those who support the movement’s goals
  • Capitalize on initiating events which mobilize further action
  • Celebrate success and build momentum for accomplishments
  • Build capacity and power for the movement to affect lasting transformational change

What are the core values of Connect the Dots?
Positive, not defeatist

Connect the Dots is committed to a strength-based aspirational approach. We strive to use language and imagery that points to the future and the change that can come about when a group of people aligns to support programs, policies, and actions that will strengthen children and families across America. Instead of dwelling on the negative and all that is wrong and scary, Connect the Dots will call attention to what anyone can do to make things better.

Community, not isolated

In our messaging and outreach—as well as our internal communication—Connect the Dots focuses on partnerships, group action and success, and what happens when groups and interests align for the benefit of all.

Active, not stationary

Connect the Dots will always focus on what actions people and groups can do when it comes to the movement. We will err on the side of action and initiative, seeking to set the agenda and lead the conversation related to stronger children and families. We seek to move fast and inspire others to do the same.

Easy, not complicated

In all of our branding and public-facing communications and tools, Connect the Dots will be easy to use and to understand. We will strive to avoid communicating with the general public in discussions that are overly complicated or wonky. Rather, Connect the Dots will remain simple in design and language so that it can appeal to as many people as possible.

How do I become involved?
There are many ways to get involved – from helping a neighbor going through a rough time to organizing others in your community to advocate for better services for children and families, and many things in-between. We propose that everyone has a role that they can play, or a “Dot” that can be connected to others in building this movement.

Please join us to connect to others and help us in growing a movement for children and families.

What do Dots look like?
Your dot might be something like:
  • Host a community baby shower for new parents in need.
  • Listen to a friend or neighbor who is struggling with a child's behavior
  • Organize a soccer game for neighborhood dads and kids
  • Call your elected official to urge them to make quality child care more affordable for working families