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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.

Getting Organized

1. Decide 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.

2.     Call together a small group of interested people to plan a public launching event. 

  • Send 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.
  • Discuss 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,

single parent families, parents who don't care, or hyper-competitive coaches, then the movement will degenerate into finger pointing and defensiveness

  • Clarify which community will be the focus of your work, and which communities you hope the movement will spread to.
  • Begin planning a public launching event. You may have to meet several times to finish this task. 
  • Once 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 local movement.


    Publicizing the Launching Event

    • Aim for intense and widespread publicity, through every channel available to you. Create a sense of urgency and opportunity.
    • Broadcast that your community is considering joining with a national movement to take back family life.
    • Tell people that they will be asked for their opinions and ideas at the event.

Structure for the Launching Event: Stage Setting, Speaker, Town Meeting

    • Stage 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.
    • Speaker (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.
    • Town Meeting (40 minutes)
    • A 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.
    • The 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.
    • Then 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.
    • At the outset of this open discussion, pass out written material on the Family Life 1st movement.
    • Invite 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 between meetings.
    • Announce 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 comes next.
    • Have members of the planning group staff a table at the back of the room to take the sheets and answer questions.

Alternative Launching Event Structure:  Stage Setting, Panel of Parents, Open Forum

Depending on 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.
    • Invite 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.
    • Ask these parents to reflect in advance of the meeting on three questions:
    • How do you struggle with the issue of family time and outside activities?
    • Do you see this as a community problem as well as an individual family problem? In what way?
    • How could this community find ways to support families in making family life a higher priority?
    • Someone from the planning group facilitate.
    • Stage Setting process as described above.
    • Parent Panel
The following process has worked successfully in a wide range of settings.
    • The 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.)
    • Then 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.
    • After 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.
    • The same process for the third question.
    • The 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.
    • The panelists rejoin the rest of the group.
    • The facilitator or another planning group member then invites participants to sign up for the Action Group or Supporters Group, as described above.

Initial Work of the Family Life 1st Action Group

The Action 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):
    • Decide on a name for the local movement, such as Family Life 1st of ______
    • Develop a vision and mission statement (See ours as an illustration.)
    • Develop a statement of a desired future for families in the community. (See ours as an illustration.)
    • Generate ideas for initial action steps such as the Family Life 1st Seal of Approval.
    • Conduct 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:
    • I am with a group called Family Life 1st. Our mission is to make family life a higher priority in our community.
    • Could you tell me about your interest or work with families in our community?
    • Here is a problem we are seeing in many families. (State in your own words.)
    • Do you see this as a problem?
    • What do you think is causing it?
    • What do you think can be done about it?
    • Here are some things we are thinking of doing about it. (Name them.) What are your reactions to these ideas?
    • Are you interested in being part of this work for families in our community?
    • Start planning the first action steps
    • When 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.
    • Call 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 Group.

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.