School districts in community intersectoral coalitions : models of collaboration for young children.




Mort, Janet Nadine

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The study explored the differences that resulted when school districts participated in successful interdisciplinary community coalitions to improve the quality of and the opportunities for services for young children and their families—and ultimately enhance school success. The study examined the structure, function and impact of four successful intersectoral community coalitions in British Columbia. It determined that the coalitions’ work resulted in improved coordination, services and access to programs for the early learning of young children. The types of services examined were those that addressed local needs; were examples of collaboration of different service providers, including schools; addressed different needs of children and families; were designed to promote the community’s ability to care for its own families and to resolve issues and develop programs at the local level. The study employed case-study methodology—focus groups, interviews, data collection and analysis, and observations—to explore four diverse communities that had established programs in response to defined needs and had evaluated the effect of the services provided to children and families. The services examined were those that (1) capitalized on existing assets and resources; (2) planned for and accessed new resources through partnerships; and (3) promoted promising researchbased practices. The study focused on early-childhood initiatives that supported literacy development in the context of social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. The research questions examined the function and evolution of the intersectoral coalitions and the involvement of public schools in them; the characteristics that contributed to or impeded success; descriptions of programs and services initiated by the school district; and evidence of enhanced school success. The study noted social processes, relations, practices, experiences and actions. The study examined programs that evolved through the collaborative efforts of intersectoral professionals, and created social solutions for early learning issues. The study resulted in eight conclusions related to: (1) the pivotal role intersectoral coalitions play in community development, with four specific caveats; (2) the key role schools and school districts have to play if community coalitions are to reach their full potential; (3) the need for reliable data in order for proposed changes to be embraced; (4) the role of family literacy programs in meeting social and emotional needs as well as those of literacy; (5) the need for community coalitions to break down barriers to access in order to support the most needy families; (6) the momentum created by a sense of moral purpose and community consciousness as coalition work matures; (7) the need for sustainable and transformative leadership that changes as the coalition evolves and (8) the need for government to support grassroots movements by new service reorganization, funding mechanisms and related policy development. Through rich descriptions and respondents’ quotes, the study provides a variety of models that can be replicated by community agencies seeking to establish a broad, coherent approach to services for young families.



Early childhood education, Literacy, Coalitions