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NOW builds on the Vital Village Network approach and uses a trauma-informed lens to align systems of care and education in early childhood to promote optimal growth and healthy development. One of our central goals is to achieve health and educational equity by creating opportunities for every community to access peer support and resources to align systems of education and care in early childhood.


We began with a co-design process. Drawing on the wisdom and experience of community stakeholders, families, and practitioners from diverse sectors, we formulated a theory of action to promote child wellbeing and health and educational equity. We support community efforts by holding space for communities to network with and learn from their peers, contributing to the development of more precise metrics and tools to capture change, and facilitating a collective process to curate resources, tools, and examples of challenges and “bright spot” successes.


Our long-term goal is to pioneer a sustainable approach to setting-level interventions to improve child wellbeing with a specific interest in how early childhood systems align and interact. Improving the ability of local communities to achieve systems change and population health is critical to promoting a sustainable culture of health.

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Our History

With the support of a generous strategic planning grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NOW was launched in 2016 and led a strategic planning process to co-design a robust infrastructure to support community efforts to achieve optimal child wellbeing by transforming and aligning prenatal through early childhood systems. This process engaged community members, advocates, educators, practitioners, and policymakers in the co-design process.


The NOW strategic planning process was guided by the following core principles:

  • (1) a collective impact approach;

  • (2) a framework that promotes equity;

  • (3) a commitment to engage community members with lived experience in co-design;

  • (4) the development of two-generation strategies based on evidence of intergenerational pathways; and

  • (5) an understanding of the impact of early life adversity on children’s health and educational trajectories from preconception through age five.

During the strategic planning process, a group of six organizations wedded their complementary skillsets, resources, and networks to serve as the core leadership team for NOW. This leadership team included:


The NOW Community Innovation Convening was a unique experiment in using collective wisdom to build a learning community focused on supporting local efforts to align systems of care and integrate a new paradigm for understanding early childhood adversities in growth and development. The body of work generated from the two-day convening was used to design NOW’s theory of action and guide the development of the NOW learning community infrastructure.

Developing a Theory of Action

Co-designed by stakeholders, the NOW Theory of Action outlines the network’s infrastructure and framework, which embraces a solution-finding orientation as a strategy to improve opportunities to achieve health equity. As opposed to a problem-solving orientation, solution-finding begins with the assumption that assets, resources, wisdom, and scalable solutions exist within the community and existing efforts can be enhanced, leveraged, and aligned to achieve a greater impact. From this vantage point there is an abundance of health equity solutions that could be scaled to improve local efforts. This perspective orients energies toward engaging a wide circle with a diversity of perspectives and skillsets; appreciating intersectionality; highlighting human-centered design; embracing ambiguity; and pursuing continuous improvement.

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