Supervisor Kuehl also serves as the Chair of the Board of Commissioners of First 5 LA, an innovative funder, leader and advocate on early childhood issues working collaboratively across LA County. Created in 1998 to invest L.A. County’s allocation of funds from California’s Proposition 10 tobacco tax, First 5 LA has invested more than $1.2 billion in efforts aimed at providing the best start for children from prenatal to age 5 and their families.

Here’s the Supervisor’s recap of this month’s First 5 meeting:

The vision put forth by First 5 LA is for all of our children throughout Los Angeles County to be born healthy and raised in safe, loving and nurturing environments so that they can grow in mind, body, and spirit; and be strengthened with opportunities to reach their full potential. In order to advance that vision for all children, this month’s Board of Commissioners meeting focused on systems change, which is grounded in partnerships with others. Systems change work is hard, complex and a long-term proposition. The good news is we are not alone in this transformation strategy and approach.

As a learning organization, we have an opportunity, to learn from and lead with other funders focused on strengthening families and improving outcomes through a systems change approach. This month, First 5 LA invited three leading grantmakers working to influence systems through their work to address the Board: Dr. Peter Long, President & CEO, Blue Shield of California Foundation; Dr. Meera Mani, Director, Children, Families, and Communities (CFC) Program, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and Shane Goldsmith, President & CEO, The Liberty Hill Foundation. The purpose of the discussion – titled “The Funder Perspective: What Does It Take to Do Systems Change?” – was to hear firsthand from these three panelists how they are undertaking their own systems change efforts.

To focus our discussion, panelists were asked:

  • How does your foundation define “systems change” as a strategy?
  • What types of investments does your foundation make to advance its systems change work?
  • How do you work in partnership with others?
  • What are examples of early systems changes you see/expect to see to inform your progress, long-term?
  • How does your foundation measure where progress is/is not being made? How do you report that learning and use it to refine your strategies?

Taking the time to learn from other funders is an important component of being an effective organization. The invited panelists represent a set of organizations that work across several content areas and use different approaches to contribute to social change. While their missions are different, they are all grappling with the complexity of effectively contributing to policy and systems change.