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By Us and For Us: A Story of Early Childhood Development Systems Change and Results in a Rural Context

by Catherine McDowell; Charles Cotton; Clare Nolan; Kirsten Scobie; Lisa Payne Simon; Phoebe Backler; Susan Cloutier

Dec 1, 2018

Since 2007, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund — a donor-advised fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation — has invested in early childhood development in Coös County — New Hampshire's largest and most rural and economically disadvantaged county. Community providers from a range of disciplines formed strong professional relationships and agreed on common goals and evidence-based strategies to improve services for children and families. This article describes how local community members joined forces with the fund to create an integrated early childhood development system for Coös' children and families. It provides background on the investment and initiative strategy, summarizes key results, and outlines lessons for funders and others pursuing systems change efforts in early learning, in rural areas, or more broadly. With increasing interest in strategies to promote childhood resilience, school readiness, and community revitalization, Coös County's rural story of relationship and community systems change can inform the field.