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building an action team

While relationships generally are key to advancing innovative child development and prevention initiatives, developing and strengthening relationships with people who have access and influence in your local community or state is particularly helpful in navigating the world of regulations and financing for public programs. This prong focuses on developing a group of well-connected citizens and professionals who are knowledgeable, share your goals, and have political clout.

The Action Team is a small leadership group with particular and essential attributes for advancing your policy goal of sustainability; it will usually be nested within a larger collaboration committed to children and youth issues.

What will the Action Team do?

The primary purpose of an Action Team is to:

  • Devise strategies and tactics for the overall policy advocacy work of advancing behavioral health promotion and social and emotional wellness, in conjunction with the ongoing work of other coalitions and partnerships committed to these goals.
  • Network with a wide range of state and local leaders to informally and formally convey knowledge about healthy development and emotional well-being, learn about relevant issues that elected and appointed officials are concerned with, and find allies.
  • Execute particular actions that their skills and connections make possible, e.g., certain meetings with senior state officials or opinion influencers.
  • Often serve as a public face of the initiative, e.g., at public hearings or with the press.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for determining which relationships will enable you to advance your initiative. All strategies must be adjusted to your unique set of circumstances, including the breadth and depth of current relationships with coalitions and partnerships that work on like minded issues, school-community alliances and your community’s and state’s decision-making processes.

Use the available templates for download in the Tools and Resources section to organize information and create a strategy and implement activities to build your Action Team.

Guiding Questions
  • What individuals in your existing networks share your goal of improving behavioral health and social and emotional wellness for youth and believe the education system plays a critical role in realizing these goals?
  • Who can help you identify other important individuals who should be included?
  • Can you identify a mix of people with diverse skills and assets to serve on the Action Team?
  • Which legislator(s) has expressed interest in making behavioral health promotion, emotional wellness, or youth development one of his or her priorities?
    • How can you shape your activities in order to link with their priorities?
    • What information might assist that legislator in pursuit of their objectives?
  • Is there a governor’s commission, state board of education, or children’s council that is addressing a problem for which your behavioral health promotion or social and emotional development initiative is a possible solution?
  • How will the Action Team nest within any larger networks of activists and supporters of child development or youth prevention programs within in your state?
Key Actions
  • Identify a small number of individuals whose interests are aligned on mental health promotion/prevention and child development and who have the necessary range of skills and connections that can advance the initiative.
  • Figure out how best to reach out to them (who will call, what will he/she say) and get their commitment.
  • Convene them for a straightforward discussion about the initiative, one that builds trust and commitment to your initiative.
  • Identify and reach out to any school-community partnerships on mental health to build an alliance for action.
  • Use our checklists to identify any other individuals or organizations with which your Team should network.

Updated June 2015

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