This paper is about a disciplined thinking process that helps people get from talk to action, specifically actions that will measurably improve the lives of children, families and communities. It is now being used, in whole or in part, in 40 states and at least 6 countries. It breaks with past planning methods in several important ways. First it begins with discipline about language and the use of words to label ideas. Second, it posits a sharp distinction between population and program accountability. And third it offers a common sense progression of work that produces effective actions with minimum paper. While the following sections focus on the well-being of children and their readiness for school, this framework is being applied to the well-being of many other groups, up to and including the well-being of the whole population of a city, county, state or nation. The entire framework can be found on the website: www.raguide.org.
The most common problem in this work is the problem of language. People come to the table from many different disciplines and many different walks of life. And the way in which we talk about programs and services for children and families varies from place to place and meeting to meeting. This means that the usual state of affairs in planning for children and families is a Tower of Babel, where no one really knows what the other person is saying, but everyone politely pretends that they do. As a consequence, the work is slow, frustrating and often ineffective.
It is possible to exercise language discipline in this work. And the way to do this is to agree on a set of definitions that start with ideas and not words. Words are just labels for ideas. And the same idea can have many different labels. The following four ideas are the basis for definitions used at the beginning of this work. Alternative labels are offered: