We have had the fabulous opportunity to design and facilitate nine learning and action workshops across North Carolina. Thanks to the NC Infant and Young Child Mental Health Association and funding from the NC Early Childhood Advisory Council. This opportunity came about from a recent study completed by the NC Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) titled “Growing Up Well: Supporting Young Children’s Social-Emotional Development and Mental Health in North Carolina” (2012). The report provides “guidance on how to create the kind of comprehensive, integrated system that is needed to support the social-emotional development and mental health of all young children.” One of the report’s recommendations calls for raising awareness of the social-emotional health needs of young children.
Each workshop is designed to do just that, with about 20% didactic and 80% interactive, the latter being time for participants to learn from each other. Those of you familiar with our work know that The Lee Institute thrives on designing engaging processes where our clients solve problems, make discoveries and find consensus. The group process builds ownership in the outcome and sustainability.
Little did we know, however, how truly hungry the participants of these workshops would be to have time together. While the busy participants-ranging from pediatricians, mental health therapists, parents, professors, advocates to child evaluation specialists know their own professions well, they don’t necessarily have as much knowledge of the resources around them as they would like. When provided with the structure and space to converse on topics of interest they share, they have discovered common ground and surfaced inspiring ways to work together.
Participants have been inspired to start organizing and advocating at the grassroots, by first connecting with the other participants at their workshop. Several people from these workshops have taken the lead on gathering information from others, such as collecting stories and personal experiences from the diverse group of professionals that have been in attendance.
Social media has also been a hot topic at these workshops. Participants have been brainstorming on how they can use social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube in a creative way. Their hope is to not only to connect those within the field, but also to share the importance of young child mental health with others, especially legislators.
The last of this series is here in Charlotte on May 17.