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Build an overarching leadership council

- that establishes accountability for improved outcomes from birth to young adulthood
August 21, 2011

First, you need a conductor for your concert. With various people and organizations playing unique roles in your community – focusing on particular issues, populations and geographic areas – someone needs to keep an eye on the big picture, connect the work of those groups and make sure there are no gaps. That’s why every successful Ready by 21 state or community has an overarching leadership council.


This is a task force, coalition or committee with a clear governance structure, responsibilities to engage public and private stakeholders, and members that hold each other accountable for carrying out their part of the big picture action plan. The council can be a new entity or an existing one. It can take many forms; only you know what’s best for your community or state.

You can, however, learn from those who have already done it.

Here are resources that address common questions:

What makes a successful local leadership council?

Certain elements are crucial for success. The Forum for Youth Investment has learned this through years of working with a variety of leadership councils, and from that experience created Dimensions of a Leadership Council. The chart outlines the important factors when selecting or forming a leadership council at the local or regional level.

How can we build a successful children’s cabinet?

Many state governments form children’s cabinets to coordinate the policies and practices of the myriad agencies whose programs serve youth and families. Children’s Cabinets are typically made up of the heads of all state government agencies with child- and youth-serving programs. They meet regularly to coordinate services, develop a common set of outcomes, and collaboratively decide upon and implement plans to foster the well-being of young people in their state.

This issue brief, State Children’s Cabinet and Councils Series- Elements of Success: Structural Options, reviews the range of existing children’s cabinet and council structures, and offers tips for getting the most effective structure in place. The brief was developed by the Forum for Youth Investment, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association Center on Best Practices.

What can we learn from successful children’s cabinets?


Whether you’re building a children’s cabinet or another type of overarching leadership council, you can learn from those who have led successful cabinets. The Overarching Leadership Body Structural Assessment Chart looks at components such as scope, authority, home, scale, resources and local connections. Use this chart to assess where your leadership body falls on each component.

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