Empowering Generations: The Evolution of LIFT-Chicago’s Partnership with Start Early 

In 2015, LIFT-Chicago narrowed its focus from a community resource center serving individuals to a two-generation program serving parents with young children. To jumpstart this process, LIFT spoke directly with prospective members, potential community partners, and other stakeholders. We learned that members’ top goals included building long-term savings for their children, obtaining higher education for themselves and their children, and providing positive social activities for their children. Taking these goals to heart, we launched our revamped services – focusing on financial and career coaching – in June 2016. 

During that time, LIFT built a partnership with Educare-Chicago (Start Early). Throughout the summer, LIFT-Chicago led a community centered design process with 10 parents from Educare to create a program designed for parents, by parents. Over six weeks, these parents participated in LIFT-led peer groups and weekly one-on-one coaching, giving their feedback on necessary shifts. In September 2016, we launched our two-generational program with 25 Edcuare families. By aligning our work with Educare, we integrated parent education and child development work, providing services that benefit the entire family.  

This partnership grew and LIFT expanded its services to other Start Early grantees across the city. Additionally, LIFT has served on Start Early’s policy council since 2016 as a community engagement representative.  Educare and other Start Early grantees remain key partners and LIFT has expanded and currently serves families across the south and west side of Chicago, primarily focusing on recruiting parents from our Start Early partners and City Colleges of Chicago.  

In 2020, Start Early applied to run the National Center for Parent Family Community Engagement (NCPFCE), one of the four training and technical assistance hubs of the Office of Headstart. Due to our growing partnership and strong outcomes with Start Early families, LIFT was asked to serve as a community partner focusing on Family Economic Mobility (FEM). As the FEM subject matter expert for the Office of Head Start’s NCPFCE, LIFT works to create accessible, evidence-based Training and Technical Assistance resources for Head Start and Early Head Start Parent Engagement Professionals, staff, and families as they set and make progress towards their economic mobility and financial well-being goals. These resources include, but are not limited to, goal-setting tools and implementation guidelines, in-person and virtual trainings, staff and family-facing tip sheets, topical newsletters, and more. 

Our partnership with Start Early represents our strategic plan brought to life: 

  • An ambitious plan to expand our current reach ten times by 2025, generating learnings, programs, and policies that transform the social service systems parents of young children rely on each day. 
  • Direct service as an action tank, providing a foundation for meaningful partnerships and advocacy efforts that yield system partnerships, research insights, and policy influence.  
  • And increasing our programmatic reach on a wider scale and building social service providers’ capacity for holistic and humanistic coaching models for economic mobility at scale.