Building Community

Strong, caring communities help to create the supports all young children deserve and need to thrive and do well in their lives.​​​​​​


Community engagement involves a broad cross-section of community members working together for the well-being of their young children and families.

 Why are communities important?

The communities in which children live have a fundamental impact on their development. Communities, as well families and society as a whole, create the early environments that affect brain development and set the course for children's futures.

Community engagement is an important aspect of Alberta's Early Child Development Mapping Initiative. Communities are provided with research information about how their young children are developing, so that they can better understand what is working well and what needs to be improved in their communities. Communities also contribute their knowledge and understanding to the information that is gathered about early development in Alberta.

 How are communities organized?

Geographic areas are organized into 'early childhood development' or ECD communities. ECD communities work through their coalitions.

How to involve community members

How can coalitions involve members of their community?

Identifying potential members

One of the first steps in community building is identifying potential members. Who will come to the table? Who needs to be there? Who are the people and organizations that influence and have an interest in early childhood development in the community? What skills and abilities can be tapped in the community? What perspectives and specialized knowledge would be useful?

A list of potential members can begin with people who are most directly involved with early development and move outwards to those whose influence may more indirect but still significant.

The list may include:

  • parents,
  • extended family members, including grandparents,
  • child-care providers,
  • foster parents and foster parent organizations,
  • preschool teachers and preschool organizations,
  • teachers and school administrators,
  • medical professionals, including doctors and public health nurses,
  • midwives,
  • social workers,
  • family support workers and services,
  • mental health clinicians,
  • municipal government officials and employees (including planners, elected representatives),
  • playgroups,
  • recreation services,
  • colleges and universities (early child learning and care programs and research units),
  • community leagues,
  • volunteer groups,
  • spiritual leaders,
  • chambers of commerce,
  • businesses,
  • police,
  • multicultural associations, and
  • arts organizations.

Membership in the coalition should be revisited on a regular basis to ensure that it is as diverse as possible, and includes non-traditional partners and a breadth of community knowledge, skills and perspectives. Coalitions may wish to consider the following question as a standing meeting agenda item: "Who is missing from the table/conversation?"

 Identifying local champions

Identifying and getting 'local champions' on board are key to successful community mobilization. In Australia, where the Early Development Instrument (EDI) was first implemented nationally in 2004, the availability of local leadership has been a determining factor in whether communities take action in response to their EDI results.

Local champions are not necessarily the most prominent or visible people in a community. They are the connectors in communities. They are the people with wide circles of relationships, who are trusted and respected and are able to motivate others to work together.

Making connections

There are many ways to connect with potential collaborators, including:

  • one-on-one conversations and meetings,
  • organizing group presentations,
  • planning events (and getting other partners involved),
  • setting up booths and displays at conferences and community events,
  • addressing events and meetings of service providers, teachers, parent groups, business organizations, etc.,
  • attending community and organizational events and networking with people informally,
  • communicating through social media,
  • doing media interviews (TV, print and radio), and
  • placing notices and articles in newsletters and other publications.

 Further resources


Tracy Smyth and Tammy Dewar. (2009). Raising the Village: How Individuals and Communities Can Work Together to Give Our Children a Stronger Start in Life. Toronto and New York: BPS Books. Find out more about this book:

Mike Green with Henry Moore and John O'Brien. (2009). When People Care Enough to Act. 2nd edition. Toronto, Ontario: Inclusion Press.  

Paul Born. (2008). Community Conversations. Toronto, Ontario: BPS Books.


AEDI National Support Centre. Building better communities for children: Community Preparation and Implementation Guide. Australia: AEDI National Support Centre.



Early Years Community Development Institute. (Vancouver, B.C.)