From the beginning, Family
Life 1st has been designed to spread to other communities.If
you want to start a Family Life 1st movement in your own
community, here is our best effort to guide your planning. As of June,
2000 we are only 14 months into our initiative. We expect to learn
much more with time, and to learn a great deal from the experiences
of other communities.
what community you intend to mobilize—a school, a school district,
a religious congregation,
a neighborhood, a town The community should be small enough so that
you know the major players: the clergy, coaches, school officials,
activity leaders, other local leaders, businesses—but large enough
to make an impact beyond a small group of families. A city block group
would probably be too small to influence larger community and its
organizations, while a big city might be too large and diverse to
mobilize all at once. We see Family Life 1st as a movement
of local communities. If enough local communities get on board, then
perhaps something broader will arise from communities linked together.
Call together a small group of interested people to plan a
public launching event.
them material from the Family Life 1st website in advance
of the initial meeting.
Begin the initial planning meeting by asking
people to introduce themselves and to express their interest or stake
is in the Family Life 1st movement in their community.
Give everyone the chance to speak before there is general discussion.
the group's perceptions of the challenges that families face in making
family life a high priority in your community.
In this meeting and subsequent ones, try to
avoid creating villains of any community group (such as coaches) or
disparaging parents themselves. The Family Life 1st movement
is more likely to win widespread community support with a philosophy
that we are all part of the problem and can all be part of the solution.
The "enemy," if you will, is the culture of individualism
and competitive consumerism that we have created and now must change.
If the “enemy” becomes dual income families,
families, parents who don't care, or hyper-competitive coaches, then
the movement will degenerate into finger pointing and defensiveness
which community will be the focus of your work, and which communities
you hope the movement will spread to.
planning a public launching event. You may have to meet several times
to finish this task.
the launching event has been held, the initial planning group should
dissolve into the larger Family Life 1st Action Group that
emerges. It would undermine the democratic community effort if your
planning group were to remain as the self-appointed power behind the
the Launching Event
for intense and widespread publicity, through every channel available
to you. Create a sense of urgency and opportunity.
that your community is considering joining with a national movement
to take back family life.
people that they will be asked for their opinions and ideas at
for the Launching Event: Stage Setting, Speaker, Town Meeting
Setting (10 minutes): A member of the planning group should introduce
the evening by describing the goals of the event to tackle
the loss of family time and family connections in a too-busy and
too-competitive world, and to decide together how to take action
in this community. Inform the audience that there is a national
movement afoot in this direction, and that you are looking to
see if there is interest in this community to get on board. Before
introducing the speaker, ask for several volunteers from the audience
to say why they have come to the meeting. This is an important
process because it gets community members on board immediately
in sharing their concerns.
(40 minutes): A well-known local professional speaks to the challenges
and opportunities families now face in prioritizing family time
and building family connections. Why a speaker? Many parents will
only come to a public event if they believe they will learn something
from a speaker. Once there, they can be drawn to the idea of getting
involved and taking action. Make sure that you involve the speaker
in the planning process, so that this individual is on board with
the philosophy of Family Life 1st and is prepared to
support the formation of a community action group of families.
Meeting (40 minutes)
planning group member (or the speaker, if that person is fully
on board with the planning process and the movement) facilitates
the process after the speaker is finished.
facilitator invites the planning group to stand at the front of
the room and introduces each of them.Several planning group members
speak personally for a couple of minutes about their personal
passion and interest in starting a Family Life 1st
movement in the community.
the facilitator asks all those present to speak to their concerns
and their interest in seeing this community launch a Family Life
1st movement. An open forum discussion follows.
the outset of this open discussion, pass out written material
on the Family Life 1st movement.
and urge participants to sign up right now for one of two groups:
the Family Life 1st Action Group, which will serve
as the planning and steering group for the movement in this community;
or the Family Life 1st Supporters Group, which consists
of those willing to get involved when asked in the future. The
Action Group will be expected to attend monthly meetings and to
interview and interact with community members about the movement
when and where the first meeting of the Family Life 1st
Action Group will be held Pass out sign up sheets. End the meeting
with a summary of what was accomplished at the meeting and what
members of the planning group staff a table at the back of the
room to take the sheets and answer questions.
Launching Event Structure: Stage Setting, Panel of Parents, Open
the planning committee’s sense of what will draw parents from the
community, and the availability of an appropriate speaker, a panel
of parents might be better than a professional speaker. Following
is a suggested format for this panel.
4-5 parents to participate on a panel. The parents should be diverse
in family structure, have children of different ages, and be representative
of the ethnic composition of the community.
these parents to reflect in advance of the meeting on three questions:
do you struggle with the issue of family time and outside activities?
you see this as a community problem as well as an individual family
problem? In what way?
could this community find ways to support families in making family
life a higher priority?
from the planning group facilitate.
Setting process as described above.
process has worked successfully in a wide range of settings.
facilitator asks each parent to respond briefly to the first question.
Panelists should be encouraged to speak conversationally rather
than giving a speech, and the facilitator should be free to paraphrase,
ask follow up questions, or offer clarifications. Make it a dialogue
rather than a series of disconnected remarks. The panelists’ role
is to start the discussion, not to say everyone they think about
the subject. (Make sure there are at least three microphones:
one for the facilitator, one for the panelists, and one for the
audience if the room is large.)
the facilitator poses the same question to everyone present, and
asks participants to speak from their own perspectives. Encourage
everyone to focus on responding to each question rather than asking
questions of the panel or making broad speeches. The goal is to
tap everyone's experience and wisdom.
giving a variety of parents the chance to respond (and keeping
an eye on time), the facilitator moves back to the panel to ask
for responses to question two, followed by posing this question
in the same way to the whole group.
same process for the third question.
facilitator can summarize and paraphrase as the conversation goes
on, and broaden the perspective if things drift towards villainizing
particular groups as responsible for the problems.
panelists rejoin the rest of the group.
facilitator or another planning group member then invites participants
to sign up for the Action Group or Supporters Group, as described
of the Family Life 1st Action Group
Group should consist of no more than 15 members. Ideally it would
have a day-long retreat to start, followed by monthly meetings--although
the retreat may not be feasible. It is essential that this group be
facilitated by someone who is committed to a democratic approach to
community action, rather than a professionally-driven approach. The
tasks of the group are as follows (more details will be provided on
this website later):
on a name for the local movement, such as Family Life 1st
a vision and mission statement (See ours as an illustration.)
a statement of a desired future for families in the community.
(See ours as an illustration.)
ideas for initial action steps such as the Family Life 1st
Seal of Approval.
stakeholder interviews with parents and community leaders. The
purpose of these interviews is to start the community discussion,
to tap the wisdom an experience of citizens, to test out ideas
about community action (such as the Seal of Approval), and to
solicit allies in the effort. Here is a format for the interviews:
am with a group called Family Life 1st. Our mission
is to make family life a higher priority in our community.
you tell me about your interest or work with families in our community?
is a problem we are seeing in many families. (State in your own
you see this as a problem?
do you think is causing it?
do you think can be done about it?
are some things we are thinking of doing about it. (Name them.)
What are your reactions to these ideas?
you interested in being part of this work for families in our
planning the first action steps
plans are ready, do another round of stakeholder interviews to
get feedback on them. Include new people to interview as well
as getting back to some previous interviewees. Find out what the
problems are with your plans.
a public meeting to announce the plans and to generate involvement
of parents and others in the next phases of the movement. The
Action Group should continue as a Steering Group, but new Action
Groups should be formed in areas such as family-to-family outreach,
clergy and faith communities, coaches and activities, child and
family professionals, communications and publicity, and business
leaders. These groups should be chaired by members of the Steering
Launch the First Initiatives
Our first initiative is
the Family Life 1st Seal of Approval. We have developed the criteria
and are piloting the approval process. We hope to have our first awards
of the Seal in Fall 2000. At that point we will be ready to share
the application and review procedures. The Action Groups are meeting
to generate additional initiatives. Ideas being considered are family
support groups and family peer mentors. Stay tuned for updates as
we move forward.
What to Avoid
Creating Villians. The
spirit of Family Life 1st is that we are all in the problem together
and must find a way out together. Coaches are not the enemy, no our
youth ministers or any other group. Over-competitive parents as individuals
are not the problem, because they too are caught up in a broad culture
trend that is spinning out of control. No villains, no scapegoats.
Being prescriptive. Family
Life 1st is not about telling parents how to manage their time. We
offer not "rules" such as one sport at a time. The Family
Life1st Seal of Approval does not prohibit proctices during dinner
hour. We are call for reflection about the value of family time and
for conscious decisions by families and community organizations about
how they intend to foster a balance between family time and outside
activities. When parents living highly scheduled lives say, "We
like this lifestyle just fine," our response is "Good for
you." Family Life 1st aims to influence by attraction, not by
prescription or guilt induction.
Developing a professionally-led
program. Our vision is that families take primary responsibility for
the Family Life 1st initiative, even if a professional,, such as family
therapist, guides the process. (See the Theoretical Model.) If you
want to hold to this vision, avoid a "program" approach
that focuses on bringing in professionals to conduct classes or workshops.
Such educational experiences can be useful as part of a menu of activities,
but should not be the main course. Speakers and workshops, however,
can be a good way to draw families into the movement of the professionals
generate community audiences and if Family Life 1st leaders are present
to recruit families to join the movement. Family Life 1st is not primarily
an educational program but a grass roots movement of families to take
back family life in a fragmenting world.