In all of its work, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) seeks to develop and catalyze shared aspirations through connecting, learning, sharing, evolving, and strengthening (henceforth referred to as CLSES).
To what extent are the actions of CLSES woven into 1.) An internal report on the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's (SCGLR) many projects, and 2.) A one-year budget narrative describing SCGLR's upcoming projects?
A great deal, perhaps surprisingly.
The monthly report demonstrates how SCGLR weaves CLSES into prior work, while the budget narrative shows how the words and actions will be integrated into SCGLR's work during the upcoming year.
For example, in the June and July monthly reports, I learned about previous virtual family engagement nights. In June, TPF hosted one night with Spoken Word Poet Cedric Hameed, who (with his kids) showed the audience how to create a chain poem that focused on, broadly speaking, familial love. Then, parents and their child/children were invited to create their own poems and share them. Those moments were particularly moving — participants first connected on Zoom with Cedric and his family, and then connected with their own families through creating these poems. Participants learned how to create a chain poem. Some shared their moving words of love, evolving toward a new understanding of the power of poetry and words. The activity strengthened connections between parents and children and between members of the community.
The budget narrative explains how money will be allocated for each SCGLR project in the upcoming fiscal year. It is difficult to predict how money will be spent in what I'm sure will be a very unpredictable year. Even with that thought in mind, I saw CLSES woven throughout planned project descriptions.
For example, Mind in the Making is one of many endeavors. Pre-COVID, Mind in the Making training was always conducted in-person. The training shifted to an online format afterward and continues to be offered online.
It's unclear when it will be safe to return to in-person teaching. However, the online Mind in the Making workshops offer opportunities to connect with other participants and facilitators, learn important lessons about children's brains and how developing life skills early on will help them long-term, share experiences that might be helpful to others, evolve (or grow) one's knowledge about children's minds, and strengthen bonds between cohort participants and the communities where they live, work, and play.
While it's unclear the ways that Mind in the Making will operate from July 2020 through June 2021, it is clear that SCGLR's commitment to moving Mind in the Making and other projects online demonstrates its dedication to CLSES and to developing shared aspirations across a wide variety of initiatives and programs.
Clarity during this time is incredibly important, even as uncertainty pervades and permeates every layer of society and community. We will encounter many unknowns as we face the upcoming months, and we will have to make difficult decisions. SCGLR isn't operating in the way that it's used to, and it's most likely that it won't revert to the old, pre-COVID normal.
I view this "new normal" (what Larry Clark of No Margin, No Mission refers to as a continual "abnormal") as a way for TPF and its partners to demonstrate even more commitment to CLSES. Is it more difficult to connect with people now as we're mostly confined to spaces without others? Yes. Can it be more difficult to learn and share at times? Yes. However, TPF and others around the world are finding ways to connect over new technology. As families spend more time together, TPF is looking for ways to connect, learn, share, and evolve with them, therefore strengthening the community as a whole.
It's not easy work, but TPF strives to achieve high levels of CLSES no matter what the situation, as demonstrated in internal work and through external engagement. Whether through SCGLR's monthly report, its budget narrative, or team members' determination to connect with children and families through THIS BOOK IS COOL!, TPF strives to connect, learn, share, evolve, and strengthen in every action that it takes.
So, to return to my earlier question, how is a commitment to connecting, learning, sharing, evolving, and strengthening viewed through two internal, seemingly boring documents?
To me, it's quite clear. And that commitment, regardless of the challenges the world faces, doesn't waver.