Georgia Family Connection Conference Unlocks the Possibilities and Power of Its Statewide Network

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Every partner committed to this noble work has joined in a historic effort to empower children and families across the state.
Listen to some of the most iconic prophets of our time, and look at some images of the work of our own hands in Georgia.

More than 400 Georgia Family Connection Collaborative members, local and state partners, and a contingency from partner organization Missouri Family and Community Trust (FACT) gathered for the 2014 Georgia Family Connection Conference in Augusta, October 22 – 24. The conference, hosted by Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP), marked the statewide network’s first in seven years.

“This is a huge network, and in order for us to do our jobs effectively, it is necessary to reconnect in person,” said GaFCP Executive Director Gaye Smith. “This conference was all about possibilities. It was about pulling from the past and learning from what we’ve done. But it was also about celebrating our strength and perseverance, and about leveraging our expertise and resources to realize what is possible for our children and families.”

Focusing on the conference theme—A Powerful Network of Possibilities—workshops, keynotes, and networking opportunities enabled participants to share, listen, and learn about local strategies and best practices that are improving conditions for children and families throughout Georgia.

“This is a network of 159 locally governed county Collaboratives,” said Smith. We honor public-private partnerships, we’re all about results and accountability, we promote collaboration, and we advocate for data-driven decision-making and for systems change. Our purpose is clear—to improve the lives of children and families in Georgia. No doubts, no change since 1991.”

The 32 workshop sessions were designed to get to the essence of Georgia Family Connection’s mission, regardless of what the landscape looks like where partners in the network live or work. Conference attendees also learned about each other’s struggles and discussed solutions to take back to their communities.

“We’re here to make sure the people we’re trying to help get what they need,” GaFCP Board Chair Bryan Williams told conference attendees. “That’s not an easy thing to do. You work in so many environments, in so many different areas, and in so many different situations. But you’ll be able to get the answers you need from the other folks in the room who are doing the same things with different faces.”

Keynote speakers Lt. Col. (ret.) Rob “Waldo” Waldman—The Wingman—author of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, Never Fly Solo; master trainer David Nelson of VitalSmarts, an innovator in leadership training; and Atlanta Community Food Bank founder and executive director Bill Bolling stressed that the power of the network lies in its members and their willingness to lean on—and support—their wingmen, that engaging in crucial conversations is the path to influencing behavior change, and that engaging every segment of the community in our work is how we can improve the lives of children and families.

Attendees also enjoyed a powerful performance by JAMP (James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils), a local musical, instrumental year-round hub designed for youth to discover their musical ability, and a Wednesday evening reception at St. Paul’s Church, hosted by Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives in Region 7. Smith and Williams both took an opportunity to thank the sponsors for their generosity in supporting the conference and providing scholarships.

Missouri FACT participated in the conference to engage in cross-state peer learning with Georgia Collaborative leaders. Back in the early 1990s, six states embarked on an experiment called local community collaboration. Georgia’s and Missouri’s networks of local Collaboratives are the only two still standing.

“We hope this partnership between our states will model and inspire practice and peer-to-peer learning among other states,” said Smith. “We leverage our state dollars five to one. That’s an investment. We also know through our research that there’s a heavy correlation between the ability to improve outcomes for children and families in communities that have a collaborative environment. This isn’t a promising practice anymore. It’s a proven practice.”

Before Smith adjourned the conference, she asked the participants to gear up for the 2016 conference when Georgia Family Connection will celebrate 25 years of collaborating to improve conditions for the state’s most vulnerable children and families. “One entity alone can’t make the change we want in Georgia,” she said. It takes all of us working together to improve results for our children and families.”

Contact:
Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x113)
[email protected]

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