Strategic efforts to promote the well-being of children, youth and families in the St. Louis region are evolving. In the early 1990’s, the St. Louis Metropolitan Children’s Agenda emerged as the primary vehicle in the region for structuring collaborative, strategic, data-driven community action to promote the well-being of children and youth. Facilitated by Vision for Children at Risk, the Children’s Agenda engaged hundreds of organizations in implementing dozens of targeted strategies directed to making more effective provision for addressing the fundamental life needs of all St. Louis area children.
New strategies were developed and partnerships and alliances formed to improve the coordination and impact of child-serving efforts. Millions of new dollars were brought into the region through Children’s Agenda initiatives to promote child well-being. The collaborative, strategic, data-drive approach developed by the Children’s Agenda was emulated by newly-forming initiatives across the country directed to building communities that made more effective provision for meeting the needs of children, youth and families.
For all it accomplished, the Children’s Agenda was unable, on a regular basis, to take its programmatic efforts to scale and transform its policy interventions into comprehensive systems change. Interventions — even when well-formulated and effective in targeted settings — were not often in proportion to the scale of the problems they addressed. Additionally, engagement of community stakeholders working to promote child well-being was confined largely to the “usual suspects” — community organizations, agencies providing services to children and youth, and child advocates. With occasional exception, topic level business and civic leaders were not engaged in the undertakings of the Children’s Agenda. Neither did it prove possible to secure financial resources at the level needed to impact the well-being of children and families at the level of the whole community. The goals and strategies pursued by the Children’s Agenda were on target, but lacking the political clout and financial resources to achieve transformation in the way the St. Louis region goes about promoting the well-being of all its children, youth and families.
At the 2011 celebration of the 20th anniversary of Vision for Children at Risk and the St. Louis Metropolitan Children’s Agenda it was announced that the Children’s Agenda would adopt a formal collective impact approach in carrying out its mission of promoting child well-being. The goal was to take strategic efforts to promote child well-being in the St. Louis region to scale and engage a broader range of civic stakeholders in those efforts.