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Onward from Next Generation to the Opportunity Institute

When I joined Next Generation four years ago, I was inspired by the vision of Matt James, and Jim and Tom Steyer.  In founding Next Generation, they wanted to build a team that would use strategic communications and smart policy thinking to make the case that it is an economic imperative and a moral necessity to improve opportunities for children and to tackle the problem of climate change. They believed that if we are to truly invest in the Next Generation, these investments in kids and our climate had to start today.

We more than succeeded at meeting our goals because we built a phenomenally smart, diverse team and we partnered with individuals and organizations with real reputations for getting things done.  Here are a few of the accomplishments I am most proud of:

  • With the Clinton Foundation, we founded and launched Too Small to Fail, a national media campaign focused on the word gap and the importance of early brain development. That campaign, fueled by the energy, creativity and funding of partner organizations, is now raising awareness and touching families through a ground and air game in four cities across the U.S. and counting. Through our work, parents and caregivers are receiving messages everywhere they turn in their communities from trusted sources, including their pediatricians, home visitors, pastors, child care providers, and their friends.  Together, these teams are spreading the word to parents and caregivers that the little moments of talking, reading and singing to babies and toddlers pay huge dividends.
     
  • Too Small to Fail has also made its way onto TV screens across the country.  Through a major media campaign on Univision, more than 200 million Hispanic families have heard messages about the importance of early brain development and the importance of talking in whatever language you speak at home: the more your child hears the more their brain will grow.  Parents are also hearing messages of early brain development to those who watch “Orange is the New Black”, “The Fosters”, and a wide range of shows and programming on Univision. We have made the pages of the New York Times, The Economist, The New Yorker, and scores of other print and online news outlets. Although there is more to do, we have definitely made big strides towards our goal to get people across the country to know more about the importance of having loving, language-rich conversations with babies and toddlers. 
     
  • Here in California, we have been working to improve the safety net for young children and working families, so that children growing up today have more access to child care and voluntary home visiting services.  We started our work in California with an important set of policy papers on childhood poverty in California which was picked up in a PBS special on poverty in Salinas, California. With the California Work & Family Coalition, we have made big changes at the state level for working Californians, helping to pass the state’s monumental paid sick days law and the country’s first predictable work schedule law in San Francisco. We continue to work on these issues at the state level, and I am encouraged to see a wide range of new bills this year that show promise for helping working Californians balance their work obligations and their family responsibilities.

I am reflecting on these accomplishments this week because this marks my final week with Next Generation. As Matt James announced last week, Next Generation’s founders and board have decided that the organization can be most successful as a non-profit incubator in which successful projects are incubated and then spun off. 

I’m delighted that Next Generation’s Board has decided, along with the Clinton Foundation, that they will support spinning off Too Small to Fail to an organization that I am co-founding with my dear friend, visionary leader and Too Small to Fail advisory councilmember, Christopher Edley, Jr., Professor and former Dean of UC Berkeley Law. We are calling our new organization the Opportunity Institute. Too Small to Fail will continue to be a joint initiative between the Clinton Foundation and soon the Opportunity Institute, in place of Next Generation.  

The Too Small to Fail team, along with our children and family policy team, will remain in place at Next Generation while I spend the next few months getting ready to open the doors of the Opportunity Institute, as well as work on a few other projects to advance opportunities for children and families. In the months ahead, please be in touch with Matt James, who will continue to lead Next Generation, Kara Dukakis about Too Small to Fail and Sarah Crow about our children and family policy work. 

Please find me at my new organizational home when it opens in the next several months. Thank you all for your tremendous partnership and friendship.  I look forward to continuing our work together very soon.

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