Community System Development Resources

North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration

Formerly known as the North Lawndale Innovation Zone

In 2012, Illinois won a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant to strengthen early childhood systems and kindergarten readiness for Illinois children. Within that initiative, IAFC led the Innovation Zones project. We engaged 11 communities to develop and test strategies to increase the enrollment of children with critical needs in high-quality early learning and development programs. North Lawndale—a neighborhood where 72 percent of the children age five and under were living in poverty—was among them.

Partnering with a diverse coalition of community organizations and parents, we set out to build a comprehensive community infrastructure to ensure that all children born in the community are on track to succeed by third grade. In North Lawndale, we  focused our efforts on creating a robust enrollment pipeline that would effectively connect families to the formal programs available to them and on enrolling more high-need children in high-quality early learning programs.

Ongoing Success

The North Lawndale team’s work during the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant continues to provide the community with benefits of the work the team completed, including:

  • A strong community collaboration, the North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration, that has developed a more systematic way of sharing information and referring families.
  • A pipeline of partners that are referring families to early learning programs
  • A feedback loop between the Chicago Mayor’s Office (Early Learning Department), (Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), Chicago Public Schools and the North Lawndale community collaboration.

Innovation Zone Case Study from Illinois Action for Children

Case Study

Read more about the North Lawndale Innovation Zone case study.