The Raising Places National Convening took place on April 24 and 25 in Chicago, IL. This 1.5-day event was the culmination of our yearlong journey to build child-centered communities across the US. The participatory gathering was a mix of inspiring speakers, dynamic “learning and doing” sessions, and interactive networking opportunities. Our goal for the event was to uncover new opportunities for building places where all children and families can thrive, and to find ways to sustain and scale the work of the six Raising Places communities.

National Convening Agenda

The event began with opening remarks from Sara Cantor Aye, the Raising Places Project Director. Sara shared what the labs-based process looked like, and insights about designing for children and families. Watch her opening remarks here.

Sara Cantor Aye delivers opening remarks

Each day of the convening had a keynote speaker. Gil Penalosa of 8 80 Cities opened the convening by sharing a healthy dose of inspiration around what it means to design cities and communities for our most vulnerable residents. Watch Gil's opening keynote here. And Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink closed the convening by imploring us to consider children, place and race when thinking about community progress. Watch Angela's closing keynote here.

Opening and closing keynotes at the Raising Places national convening

The convening also had 20 small group discussions across the two days. Participants gathered in tables of 10-12 to discuss a topic related to child-centered communities. On Day One, these topics focused on the "what" - for example, child-centered housing, child-centered economic development, or child-centered justice. On Day Two, these topics focused on the "how" - for example, setting child-centered policies, financing child-centered projects, and engaging with children and families. The conversations were lively and inspirational, and surfaced a wide range of challenges and opportunities.

Moments from the small group discussions

One of the more hands-on aspects of the convening was a sequence of lab sessions to design ways to sustain and scale the work of building child-centered communities. During the first lab, participants interviewed each other about what the phrase "child-centered" means to them, and gathered stories about times when they were working towards this goal. The team at Greater Good Studio synthesized these learnings and put together a series of brainstorm prompts based on the opportunities surfaced.

Then during the second lab, participants generated hundreds of ideas for programs, policies and systems that would advance child-centered work across the country, then spent time developing their 40+ strongest concepts further. Take a look at those concepts here.

Moments from the human-centered design lab sessions

Each of the six Raising Places communities sent a delegation from their convening organization and design team. These groups shared their projects with attendees during a social hour on the evening of the first day, including posters and vision documents describing their pilot concepts. Attendees had a chance to learn about the different communities' ideas and process, as well as engage in dialogue about moving the concepts forward.

Attendees and design team members sharing ideas during the social hour

On the morning of the second day, conveners from the six Raising Places sites joined in a panel discussion to share what they'd learned from the process. They discussed how they put together their design teams, how using a child-centered lens impacted the work, and how the human-centered design methodology augmented their current organizing and coalition-building processes.

Convener panel with Sara Kendall from Hudson, Heather Murphy from North Wilkesboro, Megkian Doyle from Valley of the Chiefs, Angelica Cabande from SoMa, Adair Mosley from Minneapolis and Colleen Mooney from Wilmington

One thing many participants noted was how much they appreciated the different kinds of diversity in the room. Participants included Raising Places advisors and other national experts working at the intersection of kids and place, including funders, policymakers, academics, planners and advocates. The six community teams brought a great deal of geographic diversity, hailing from urban, rural and tribal places in all four U.S. time zones. And a group of design students from the local Evanston Township High School added creative perspectives and youth voice to each small group discussion and lab activity.

A wide variety of participants added richness to the conversation at the national convening

Overall, the convening was a great success! Thanks to everyone who participated to advancing the work of building child-centered communities!