City of Little Rock Master Plan

The City of Little Rock needed to rewrite the book on supporting youth and families. ACS created a community engagement process that informed the first ever three-year Master Plan for Children, Youth and Families. The plan hit the streets with unprecedented levels of buy in and community support.

How we did it: Little Rock needed a way to hone youth prevention, intervention, and treatment investments to deliver more targeted and positive outcomes, enhance youth’s skills and abilities, increase graduation rates and academic proficiency, and reduce youth crime and violence. ACS, in partnership with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College, worked to gather input and guide stakeholders in a way that ensured the effort took into account national promising practices and integrated local needs. ACS managed the planning process and guided city staff and local stakeholders to recommendations that engage families and youth at a grassroots level, make sure they are getting the services they need, and work with funded programs to raise the bar for services. ACS combined these elements into a cohesive citywide plan. The result? A Master Plan that provides a clear roadmap for a coordinated, citywide approach that ensures Little Rock’s children, youth, and families get what they need to thrive.

Outcomes: Since the plan was completed in June 2016, the city already has worked closely with partners and community to make significant strides in implementation, including revising standards and set of expected outcomes for city vendors and partners that lead youth-related programming.

Based on evidence and community feedback, the Master Plan is the guiding document for the Department of Community Programs, to serve as leaders, conveners, and partners to help children, youth, and families in Little Rock succeed.”

Bruce Moore

City of Little Rock

First Things First

First Things First (FTF) is Arizona’s only public funding source exclusively dedicated to early childhood, partners with families, and communities to support the healthy development and learning of the state’s children birth to age 5. They do this by investing in programs and strategies through grants to community organizations that provide services to children and families; provide professional expertise and oversight to support local programs and statewide initiatives; and collaborate with other early childhood system partners. Since 2009, FTF has turned to ACS to provide guidance and support for advocacy, communication, strategy development, and capacity building.


How we did it: For nearly 10 years, ACS has become an integral part of FTF’s efforts. Our work has included (but isn’t limited to):

  1. Communication – Conducting messaging research and developing messages that resonate with a variety of target audiences. Developing a three-year communication plan for reaching target audiences.
  2. Capacity Building – Increasing the capacity of outreach staff and regional directors to facilitate and serve as spokespersons for FTF.
  3. Strategy Development – Forging advocacy and communication strategies for several FTF-led initiatives. Providing ongoing facilitation services for extended periods (6 months to two years) with diverse sets of stakeholders from across the state for a variety of purposes, including establishing long-term strategic direction and sustainable financing options for the Quality Improvement Rating System, standardizing early childhood screening tools, and establishing a strategic vision and strategies by facilitating the Arizona Early Childhood Task Force and committees.

Outcomes to date: With our help, FTF’s efforts have increased awareness of and support across the state, and FTF has the capacity to sustain early childhood efforts statewide.

Learn more about First Things First at

One thing you learn when implementing a thorough plan like ours is that even though the initial implementation is underway, you constantly need to take your work to the next level and raise the bar to ensure you do not become complacent. We knew that we still had more to do to meet our goals and advance the system. ACS had the right skills to help us find solutions to our existing and anticipated challenges.”

Michelle Katona

Chief Program Officer, First Things First

Franklin County Job & Family Services

FCDJFS is Central Ohio’s public social service agency handling one of the state’s largest overall caseloads. The county agency is responsible for basic financial, medical, and social services programs for residents, including Medicaid, workforce training, and child care. By July 2020 the State of Ohio will require all child care providers who receive public dollars to be quality rated through Ohio’s Quality Rating Improvement System – Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) or lose that funding. FCDJFS has engaged ACS on multiple projects since 2014 to improve internal operations of their child care departments and to engage providers and parents to increase awareness about SUTQ and increase the number of star-rated providers.

How we did it: The work has been accomplished through multiple phases during several years and continues today:

  • Phase one was focused on internal effectiveness. ACS engaged agency leadership and community partners and stakeholders to help build a strategy to utilize limited public funds that support child care and youth services more effectively and purposely; outlined a messaging strategy for the changing landscape of Medicaid expansion and Federal healthcare exchanges; and coordinated agency efforts as part of a regional infant mortality task force to build a collective strategy to increase program enrollment and improve outcomes.
  • Phase two utilized focus groups, survey research, and public advertising to increase awareness among providers and parents about high quality early learning. ACS led and developed FCDJFS’ Early Learning Media Campaign between May and September 2017.
  • Phase three in 2018 utilized additional surveys and focus groups with parents, and analysis of existing FCDJFS data, to develop more focused advertising and outreach to key community partners. ACS also developed and implemented a no-cost training for center and home-based providers to help them understand the SUTQ process and prepare them to become or stay quality rated.
  • In 2019, ACS began phase four, continuing the work started in 2018 with training for center and home-based providers regarding the SUTQ process. In addition, ACS is working with FCDJFS to ensure their child care unit has the capacity to take over responsibility of SUTQ ratings for home providers.

Outcomes to date: FCDJFS is positioned and prepared to be proactive and strategic on behalf of its taxpayers and clients. FCDJFS now has the tools and a detailed plan to improve operations within its child care departments. FCDJFS is implementing and tracking the progress of a strategy to prepare Type B Home Providers to transition into Step Up To Quality. In addition:

  • 185 child care providers and 463 individual professionals completed FCDJFS SUTQ training, fulfilling 100% of the 2018 training goal.
  • Awareness of a five-star rating system for child care went up 18 percentage points, from 32% to 50% in 2018, when compared to a similar survey from 2017.
  • Awareness of Step up to Quality (SUTQ) went up 13 percentage points, from 20% to 33% since July 2017.
  • 44% of survey participants had a favorable view of a five-star rating system (up from 28% in July 2017).
  • 31% of survey participants had a favorable view of SUTQ (up from 18% in July 2017).
  • Approximately 25% of respondents recall seeing advertisements.
  • 93% of survey participants believe that access to a child care provider is essential for someone in their household to attend work or school.

Learn more about FCDJFS at and


“The team at ACS really helped us realize our vision and put it into action. We’ve made great strides, but we certainly still have work to do—and those children and their families are counting on us for that.””

Joy Bivens

Director, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services

Their [ACS'] knowledge of job and family services, early childhood education, urban school districts, and their approach to analyzing community needs is really helping us create a long-term strategy that is ultimately going to help us serve this community.”

Anthony S. Trotman

Former Director, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services


As a leader in program integrity for Medicaid and Health and Human Services programs across the country, HMS sought a consultant that understood state government and interconnection among state agencies, their programs, and policy. They called on ACS’ knowledge in each area to help tap into opportunities for growth in Ohio.

How we did it: ACS serves as a lobbyist for HMS and Permedion, Inc., (HMS subsidiary) before the State of Ohio, including executive agencies and legislators, and provides strategic political, advocacy, and communication advice to help advance client priorities. ACS’ longstanding relationships within the state’s legislative branch and deep understanding of Medicaid provided HMS with the right information at the right time to make the most effective pitch.

Outcomes to date: With ACS’ help, HMS has secured more than $20 million in State contracts and now provides valuable services in Medicaid liability recovery, hospital utilization management, mental health utilization review, and Medicaid eligibility, saving the State of Ohio tens of millions of dollars each year. ACS was also instrumental in helping to establish a pilot program to help the State of Ohio Medicaid program recover millions in erroneous payments – the first of its kind in the country – for HMS.

Learn more about HMS at

Our government relations strategy goes beyond the typical. It’s more than lobbying and more dynamic. We like working with ACS because they’re creative and think outside the box to help us work with the state to build policies that better serve the people.”

Kristen Ballantine

HMS Vice President for State and Federal Government Relations

Housing First

For the past 15 years, the Housing First initiative in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has worked to reduce long-term (chronic) homelessness by providing rent-subsidized permanent housing, medical care, mental health, recovery and employment services to help individuals integrate back into their communities. Housing First has had remarkable success, cutting the rate of long-term homelessness by 86 percent in Cuyahoga County. The initiative’s lead organizations wanted to pursue a media campaign to earn positive media attention for this highly successful work.

How we did it: ACS worked with Housing First in a short-term engagement on a messaging and media outreach strategy. The goals of the media strategy were to celebrate Housing First’s success; to educate the community about Housing First and its impact on the community; to share best practices; and to boost momentum and recommit partners to sustain the initiative over the long term.

Outcomes: ACS’ messaging and media strategy reached nearly 9 million viewers/listeners/readers in Northeast Ohio.

ACS did an incredible job for Housing First. We were impressed by their work and who they are as people. Thank you on behalf of the hundreds of people who won’t be living on the streets and in shelters in the near future. ”

Mark McDermott

Vice President of Enterprise Community Partners


When Cleveland, Ohio, leaders wanted to increase access to and quality of preschool for 3- and 4 four-year-olds, ACS helped create a highly acclaimed model, build local support, and raise the profile of their work across the state and the nation.

How we did it: In a three-pronged approach, ACS planned, facilitated and helped to implement PRE4CLE’s communication and advocacy strategy, and developed and raised awareness of the organization.
1. Facilitation. The ACS team led and facilitated nine separate working groups, with more than 60 participants, to delve deeply into aspects ranging from finance to teacher quality to transportation.
2. Increased awareness. ACS developed and implemented a multi-faceted communication plan and a full suite of print and electronic materials, and secured media attention to showcase PRE4CLE.
3. Advocacy. ACS created the guiding strategy for PRE4CLE’s local, state, and federal advocacy efforts, coordinated activities for all PRE4CLE partners and took the lead on direct lobbying to raise awareness, funding, and policy support.

Outcomes to date:

• More than 4,818 children are currently enrolled in high-quality preschool, which represents a 69% increase since PRE4CLE’s baseline year of 2013. PRE4CLE exceeded their goal that 40% of preschool-aged children are enrolled in high-quality preschool by June 2018.
• PRE4CLE has seen gains in kindergarten readiness. 50% of children who attended a PRE4CLE preschool are “On Track” on the language and literacy subscale of the Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment in the fall of 2018 (from the baseline of 44.7%). 65% of children who attended a PRE4CLE preschool are in the Demonstrating or Approaching school readiness bands of performance on the Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, with at least 25% in the “Demonstrating School Readiness” band in the fall of 2018 (from the baseline of 60.2% in 2013).
• At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, 87% of available high-quality preschool seats in Cleveland were full, which exceeded PRE4CLE’s the goal of 85% capacity.
• PRE4CLE met and exceeded the goal to increase the number of Step Up To Quality highly-rated preschool programs by 30% between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018.
• 79% of PRE4CLE providers are high-quality and meet additional standards above and beyond what Step Up to Quality requires.
• PRE4CLE worked with Cuyahoga County and private philanthropic and business leaders to advocate for and secure a $22.8 million public investment in Universal Pre-K, Cuyahoga County’s high-quality preschool model, which has shown to produce great results for Cleveland’s children.
• ACS helped to position PRE4CLE as a model for preschool expansion and a go-to resource for policymakers.
• ACS received the MarCom Platinum Award for PRE4CLE’S two-year strategic communication plan; selected from a field of 6,000 entries from 34 countries.
• Garnered extensive media coverage in local, state, and national outlets including the following recent coverage:
o News Channel 5 (local ABC): Cleveland PRE4CLE program aims to get more kids into affordable, high-quality preschool
o Cleveland Plain Dealer: Cleveland PRE4CLE program aims to get more kids into affordable, high-quality preschool
o Crain’s Cleveland Business: High-quality preschool seats on the rise, says PRE4CLE annual report
o The Sound of Ideas (local NPR): PRE4CLE Quality Report
o There’s a compelling reason to spend more    on quality preschool in Cuyahoga County
o Cleveland gains “high quality” preschool seats, still has many fewer seats than kids
o News Channel 5 (local ABC): More preschool kids in Cleveland are ready for kindergarten than in previous years, study says
o Cuyahoga County surpasses pre-K goal: more than 2,600 new spots available
o FreshWater Cleveland: Step by ‘step:’ How PRE4CLE is helping local preschools ramp up kindergarten readiness
o FreshWater Cleveland: PRE4CLE’s report shows kindergarten readiness is on the rise
o FreshWater Cleveland: PRE4CLE and Cuyahoga County are on a mission to make Universal Pre-K truly universal
o State elections will have an impact on our children
o Ideastream: Early education in the DeWine administration

Advocacy outcomes:
o PRE4CLE preserved Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (which was recommended for elimination).
o PRE4CLE preserved Ohio’s three existing teaching licensure “bands” (which was recommended for elimination).
o During the 2018 election, PRE4CLE was able to provide the final two gubernatorial campaigns feedback/edits and content for campaign briefing documents and policy priorities, and a framework for early learning, setting the stage to be a resource for whomever will be Ohio’s next Governor and building them as a champion for early learning. As a result of this groundwork, PRE4CLE has a strong relationship and is able to influence and support the executive branch in their efforts for Ohio’s youngest children.
o Proactive advocacy work yielded quick changes in the executive branch. The day after he was elected, Governor DeWine announced a new position and named the director of children’s initiatives, which is the same individual PRE4CLE engaged with during the previous year on his campaign.
o On January 14, 2019, Governor DeWine created the Children’s Initiative by executive order to elevate the importance of children’s programming in Ohio and drive improvements within the many state programs that serve children.
o Ohio fixed the “38 county issue” which, because of a formula error, placed providers from 38 counties in the incorrect reimbursement band and denied them the market rate increase that their peers from other counties received.
o Ohio’s three-licensure band structure, language was clarified to ensure content exams are required for teachers when being placed in a grade outside of their licensure band and that this placement is temporary, and legislative language was added to clarify the intention to include preschool licensure in any band.
o PRE4CLE organized and conducted a provider focus group on compensation with 14 providers from 10 centers and a separate educator focus group with nine educators from seven centers, ultimately helping to inform PRE4CLE’s internal discussions related to sustainable funding for a key component of the PRE4CLE plan – quality educators and quality providers.

ACS' limited client list allowed them to focus on our policy priorities and maintain the daily contact necessary in a fast-paced political process.”

Katie Kelly

Director, PRE4CLE

Prevent Childhood Abuse Arizona

Prevent Child Abuse Arizona wanted to position child abuse prevention as a lead strategy in Arizona’s statewide child safety system. In just six years (2009-2014), Arizona saw a 44% increase in the number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect; today there are over 18,000 children living in foster care in Arizona, and thousands more cases have been left unclosed or uninvestigated. The threat of child abuse and neglect for Arizona’s children and families is of great magnitude, and as PCA Arizona seeks to elevate prevention as a solution to that threat, the number of reported child abuse and neglect cases, and the number of children living in foster care in Arizona, continue to grow.

How we did it: In 2015, ACS assisted PCA Arizona to develop a two-year advocacy strategy to further their goal to position prevention as the lead approach in the child safety system in Arizona. This included messaging and a media engagement strategy. ACS helped PCA Arizona expand its capacity for engagement with the media and the state government through a champion engagement strategy. ACS worked with PCA Arizona leadership to determine the best approach to direct advocacy with the child safety leadership within the Executive branch via the Governor’s office and the Department of Child Safety (DCS), and the Arizona state legislature.

Outcomes: A two-year advocacy strategy document has allowed PCA Arizona to be efficient in its effort to elevate the conversation of prevention and leverage its internal and external staff capacity, resources, and partners to begin to change the dialogue about and related to prevention in Arizona among the media and state legislators.

Learn more about PCA Arizona at

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forward Promise

In 2015, RWJF launched Forward Promise, a special initiative that aimed to help remove barriers to success for boys and young men of color. In doing so, they knew the grassroots grantee organizations they supported in this work would need technical assistance to achieve the outcomes they sought. ACS not only provided a wide range of technical assistance to the Foundation’s grantees, but also helped RWJF to plan and facilitate a convening of 40 leaders from across the country representing organizations and programs working to improve lives and opportunities for boys and young men of color. In 2017, RWJF funded the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education to manage the Forward Promise National Program Office (NPO). Building on the work of previous Forward Promise grantees, NPO continues to support culturally-responsive practices that buffer the effects of historical and systemic trauma on boys and young men of color.

How we did it: ACS provided a variety of technical assistance services to help RWJF’s Forward Promise grantees build strategies and internal capacity, including communication planning, coalition building, collateral development, and development of promising practice research. ACS worked with grantees in multiple ways, conducting a group coaching session at an RWJF grantee conference, developing individual advocacy and communication work plans tailored to the needs and goals of each organization, helping grantees learn how to successfully work with multiple partners, informing their processes with national research, and helping them develop processes for sustainable leadership and funding. As the grant initiative drew to a close, ACS helped plan and facilitate a national convening to gather input and recommendations for future work.

Outcomes: RWJF’s Forward Promise grantees now have tools, approaches, and strategies to sustain local efforts to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color. This work supported RWJF in developing recommendations, which led to the new Forward Promise NPO.

The Ohio 8 Coalition

The Ohio 8 Coalition members’ perspectives – as school administrators and teacher representatives – uniquely position them to drive changes to K-12 policy at the state level. When this group needed to come to consensus on how to achieve the policy changes they sought, they turned to ACS for lobbying and communication that ensured their voices were heard loud and clear.

How we did it: Since 2011, ACS has successfully led The Ohio 8 Coalition in strategic conversations related to influencing state policy and brought the group to productive agreements on messaging and strategy. ACS regularly plans and facilitates quarterly in-person strategy discussions, monthly conference calls, and committee discussion for The Ohio 8 Coalition leadership team to help them continue to advance their mission and set and implement a strategy, while addressing the tactical needs of the moment. As part of the relationship with The Ohio 8 Coalition, ACS developed a number of materials over the years to bring greater attention and clarity to K-12 education issues. This has included a Year-at-a-Glance infographic, testimony to committees within the Ohio General Assembly, and numerous statements to the media. This content has helped the organization respond to legislative and media requests, engage in policy discussions, meetings, and special taskforces across the state with various partners and stakeholders; maintain a prioritized and flexible list of policy recommendations; and regularly engage members of the legislature and media. All of this is part of the statewide advocacy strategy ACS developed and implemented for The Ohio 8 Coalition for several years including multiple state budget cycles. This has resulted in positioning the Coalition as a go-to resource for both media outlets and policymakers, and a much-needed “pro-public education” voice for the entire state.

Outcomes to date: ACS helped the Ohio 8 Coalition successfully modify legislation to do the following:
• Preserve Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (which was recommended for elimination).
• Preserve Ohio’s three existing licensure “bands” (which were recommended for elimination).
• Ensure Ohio’s “N-size” law was maintained at 15 instead of 30 (which would protect at risk populations such as students of color, in poverty, and disabled to name a few).
• Work to include funding in legislation that seeks to prevent suspensions and expulsions in grades K-3, to support training for teachers and staff, and to ensure the inclusion of mental health services.
• Revise student graduation requirements to provide more flexibility to students.
• Include a member of the Ohio 8 leadership team on the State’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) Advisory Council to improve the collection, structure, and use of Ohio’s K-12 education related data.
• Eliminate legislation that would have haphazardly consolidated several state agencies, all of which were related to children and or education.
• Advance ongoing conversations related to the revision of Ohio’s report card system to ensure state policy includes a measure that reflects the growth of students and overall district improvement.
• Participate in the development of a revised K-12 school funding proposal to better balance the funding between the state and local communities and reduce the overreliance on local property taxes and property valuation.
• Advance conversations to change policy related to Ohio’s Academic Distress Commission, which allows for State takeover of school districts including the elimination of local control.

ACS is well respected and thorough with a reputation that is above others. They have a hands-on approach that has allowed The Ohio 8 ease of access to the legislature. Their quality of work and service is excellent.”

David James

Superintendent, Akron Public Schools, Ohio 8 member

A Place 4 Me (AP4M)

Presented with a tremendous opportunity to increase impact through a national challenge to house 100 homeless youth ages 18-24 in 100 days, AP4M was looking for help with communication and for help to increase local awareness and to strengthen support systems so no young person would age out of the foster care system into homelessness ever again. ACS provided the strategy and related messaging needed to make these ambitious goals a reality.

How we did it: ACS facilitated a strategy session to better understand the initiative’s communication needs and opportunities for break-through messaging and outreach. ACS developed a comprehensive communication strategy, created case studies on community partnerships and innovative AP4M practices, provided thought leadership in the creation of the AP4M homelessness symposium, prepared stakeholders to discuss the symposium and AP4M, and completed collateral around communication and frequently asked questions.

Outcomes: AP4M secured extensive media coverage (nearly a dozen stories, including News 5 Cleveland, Cleveland Magazine, ideastream, and ) regarding the 100-day challenge, and held a successful symposium that further elevated AP4M’s work. Most importantly, AP4M exceeded its goal of housing 100 youth in 100 days.

Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW)

With momentum behind Two Generational approaches (2Gen) from nonprofits and increased focus on poverty reduction by the Detroit Mayors office, CSW wanted to explore ways to talk about what 2Gen is and its potential value to the City of Detroit. ACS provided the strategy and messaging to increase buy-in for 2Gen work citywide.

How we did it: ACS interviewed and synthesized information from workforce and early childhood organizations in Detroit that have 2Gen programs. From this feedback, ACS made recommendations for how organizations could support and move 2Gen approaches forward in Detroit. ACS also conducted a national audit of messages about 2Gen work and developed tailored messaging to help make 2Gen approaches more accessible for target audiences.

Outcomes: Stakeholders in Detroit now have clear and compelling messages to talk about 2Gen and an informed approach to integrate and formalize 2Gen into the nonprofit sector and city government.

Cuyahoga Community College Foundation (TRI-C Foundation)

The Tri-C Foundation, which raises funds for student scholarships and educational program development, is working to increase staff capacity to meet the foundation and college’s strategic goals. ACS helped the foundation’s employees build and enhance their knowledge and approach to get the job done.

How we did it: Using an in-depth survey and staff interviews, ACS has gathered data on how the foundation team approached their work, autonomy, and understanding of roles, and identified ways to enhance their systems and processes, as well as strengthen their working relationships. ACS developed the framework for a full-day staff retreat to build staff rapport, introduce new leadership to staff, and to better understand how individuals within and across each department can better work together to reach Tri-C Foundation goals.

Outcomes: Tri-C Foundation has increased the strength and cohesion of their team and now has a clearer picture of the current organizational workflow, areas of improvement, and new systems in place to get the job done.

groundWork™ Ohio

As more and more nonprofit, for-profit, and school-based early childhood education providers began or continued efforts to increase their quality through Ohio’s Quality Rating Improvement System – Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) – one question repeatedly arose: How much is this going to cost? To help answer this question, Groundwork Ohio launched a one-year project in early 2014 to estimate baseline and increasing costs for providers. Groundwork Ohio turned to ACS again in 2018 to help prepare a gubernatorial transition document for Ohio’s next governor, which laid out the critical policy changes needed to the state’s early care and education system.

How we did it: In 2014, ACS facilitated meetings across the state with early care and education providers to gather information and validate preliminary findings about their use of SUTQ.

In 2018, ACS interviewed stakeholders across the state and national experts to form state policy recommendations and write a coherent and comprehensive strategy for the state’s early care and education system.

Outcomes: In 2014, the feedback Groundwork received from providers at the facilitated sessions helped them adjust their findings substantially, getting them much closer to the real costs of increasing quality in early care and education across the state. Accurate baseline information and estimates of quality enhancements gave Groundwork powerful information to advocate for the additional funding providers will need to reduce class sizes, hire and pay teachers with the appropriate education, and implement other measures that ensure young children start school ready to learn.

The 2018 transition document was shared with Governor Mike DeWine and his lead policy staff to help shape his early care and education agenda for the state of Ohio. It is the basis for the state budget advocacy efforts of Groundwork and other early childhood advocates.

Learn more about Groundwork at



Health Foundation Of Western And Central New York (Health Foundation)

The Health Foundation wanted a way to more effectively communicate about policy issues important to their work, including their groundbreaking “Triggers of Decline” framework. In addition, the Health Foundation sought to understand the landscape as it relates to organizations and coalitions that are engaging in advocacy to improve access to health care and health care coverage.


How we did it:

  1. ACS worked with the Health Foundation to distill complex policy issues and develop materials about the Triggers of Decline for those outside of the research field, to encourage efforts that support healthy aging across the country.
  2. ACS helped map activities and efforts to ensure they have the right messages and tools to generate interest and engagement around the important work of the Health Foundation.
  3. ACS researched public, private, for-profit, and non-profit organizations and coalitions that engage in efforts to provide, increase, or improve access to healthcare across New York State, as well as a few key organizations that have led in this space in other states.

Outcomes: The Health Foundation staff and board now have a streamlined and customized Triggers of Decline white paper, a comprehensive understanding of their network, and the tools and increased capacity they need to effectively communicate to a wider range of audiences and funders. In addition, the Health Foundation has information to guide the foundation’s future investments in advocacy or advocacy-related efforts to ensure all New Yorkers have access to quality health care by 2027.

Idaho Association For The Education Of Young Children (Idaho AEYC)

In 2016, Idaho AEYC needed a strategic communication and community outreach plan to ultimately ensure that every child under age 6 has access to affordable, high-quality early learning programs. ACS was the perfect partner to help design and implement a three-year, statewide strategic communication and community outreach plan.

In 2018, Idaho AEYC asked ACS to develop a toolkit that will assist local decision makers, school districts, and other entities develop a local collaborative that will increase access to quality Pre-K for families in their communities. Idaho AEYC launched their coordinated and broad-reaching policy advocacy campaign “Preschool The Idaho Way” to assist communities in developing local preschool collaboratives. These “collaborations” – partnerships with community-based early learning and care providers – can help address some challenges, such as the lack of resources and expertise or the inability to meet the comprehensive needs of children and their families. Collaboration also allows public school systems to avoid “reinventing the wheel” and instead to build upon the work of community-based programs and to enhance families’ preschool choices.

How we did it: To develop the communication and community outreach plan, ACS worked closely with the Idaho AEYC team to establish measurable goals and the strategies and tactics necessary to achieve them, including a detailed work plan for year one activities. Because ACS’ recommendations included the addition of a new program director, ACS worked alongside the Idaho AEYC executive director to develop that position description and interview and hire a top-notch candidate. ACS also supported Idaho AEYC’s work toward research goals contained in the plan by designing the scope of research activities (including polling, surveys, and focus groups) and identified research firms and contract terms to deliver on those activities.

To support Idaho AEYC’s broader “Preschool the Idaho Way” campaign, ACS developed a comprehensive how-to guide for local leaders to collaborate and develop local preschool initiatives by leveraging their national knowledge and gathering information about Idaho-specific initiatives.

Outcomes to date: Idaho AEYC is moving forward with a clear, comprehensive plan that will allow them to understand target audience perceptions about preschool; educate parents; and build awareness, support, and demand within Idaho communities and among state leaders to invest in early childhood education.

Idaho AEYC launched the toolkit in concert with their statewide plan to develop local preschool collaboratives. The toolkit is currently being publicized through statewide partners and three communities are already working through the toolkit to create preschool collaboratives. In 2019, Idaho will assist 10-13 additional target communities work through the toolkit. Idaho AEYC’s Preschool the Idaho Way toolkit can be found online here: 


The Arras Foundation Foundation

With new leadership, the Arras Foundation sought to develop a new strategic direction based on community input and engagement. ACS helped the new CEO educate her board, develop a powerful yet manageable community outreach process, and forge a vibrant and inclusive new vision.

How we did it: ACS shared national best-practice examples and developed a community engagement plan and process. ACS trained board members to lead focus groups and community meetings, and developed a comprehensive communication plan to help the foundation be strategic and intentional in their community outreach. ACS synthesized information from community meetings, focus groups, and a survey, and explained the results to the foundation’s board. ACS has facilitated multiple strategy sessions to help the board and staff make tough decisions and zero in on a strategic vision. ACS guided the development of a weekly communication plan to help support the implementation of that vision. ACS continues to be a thought partner to help guide and facilitate the Foundation’s strategic decision-making.

Outcomes to date: The Foundation now has established a strategic direction for the next five years and increased its community engagement and community partnerships. Now, it can deliver more effectively on its three strategic pillars: to support and build a healthy community, help youth successfully transition to adulthood, and elevate philanthropy. ACS continues to help implement aspects of that plan, as well as increase staff capacity, and provide thought leadership and communication support to the foundation to ensure they stay focused on achieving their organizational goals.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

NAEYC’s goal is to make early childhood education a priority in elections across the nation through local, state, and federal advocacy. They also strive to develop a consistent structure for competencies, qualifications, standards, compensation, and educational pathways for all those who work in the early learning field. They turned to ACS to lead the way in terms of communication planning and strategy and tool development, and in helping to increase staff capacity for its communication work.

In 2017, NAEYC asked ACS to work with five state affiliates to engage providers around the national Power to the Profession (P2P) initiative, a two-year national, collaborative effort among leaders who engage professionals who educate children birth to age 8 across all settings to develop a consistent structure for competencies, qualifications, standards, compensation, and educational pathways for all those who work in the early learning field.

How we did it:
Communication: ACS assisted NAEYC on three levels: 1) providing strategic communication planning for NAEYC national leadership, including proactive and reactive media relations, communication collateral development, major media event strategy development for National Week of the Young Child, and internal communication infrastructure; 2) providing technical assistance to five states – New York, New Mexico, Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin – as they work to elevate conversations among stakeholders about the important questions related to the early childhood education profession; and 3) supporting NAEYC to develop its strategy for promoting the profession and developing toolkit resources for state affiliates. ACS also provided training at NAEYC’s annual Public Policy Forum, and helped the entire organization build stronger connections between the national office and state affiliates, ensuring powerful, consistent communication nationwide.

P2P Community Engagement: ACS is working alongside NAEYC on the Power to the Profession initiative (P2P) to provide technical assistance to five states – New York, New Mexico, Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin. These states are working to elevate conversations about the early childhood education profession and related policy changes among diverse stakeholders, particularly targeting outreach to underrepresented individuals.

Outcomes to date:
Communication: NAEYC’s national office and affiliates have the tools they need to communicate, advocate, and build relationships with stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels on behalf of early childhood. NAEYC state affiliates also have guidance to lead conversations around professionalizing the early childhood workforce.

P2P Community Engagement:
• ACS supported the development of resources such as a one-pager and facilitation guide to help NAEYC membership engage in P2P and gather feedback from stakeholders.
• ACS facilitated two sessions at NAEYC’s 2017 Public Policy Forum, including a communication and message development to personalize messages for priority audiences and a network mapping session where participants learned how to prepare for future policy and legislative activity by identifying, leveraging, and engaging their networks around the P2P.
• ACS provided one-on-one technical assistance to five NAEYC state affiliates to support their engagement in the P2P initiative.
• ACS supported reporting out of engagement activities, organizing and synthesizing feedback from five states, and documenting each state’s outreach approach.
• ACS developed a roadmap to help other states initiate outreach to diverse stakeholders based on lessons learned by the five affiliate states.

New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute (The Institute)

Although the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute (the Institute) actively translates research, policies, and practices to help prepare an exemplary early childhood workforce at the local, state, and national levels, this work is often behind the scenes and unknown to many stakeholders. In order to address this, the Institute asked ACS to help increase its internal capacity to communicate more clearly and confidently about its work.

How we did it: Based on stakeholder interviews, a media audit, and conversations with the Institute staff, ACS made recommendations to revise the Institute’s core and targeted messaging, drafted the organization’s first annual report and additional communication collateral, and developed a comprehensive communication plan to guide communication activities.

Outcomes to date: The Institute now has the tools to increase awareness about its work at local, state, and national levels – and the internal understanding and capacity to keep its communication work going.

North Carolina Workforce Development Boards

As part of an overall goal to educate and engage priority audiences regarding the purpose, value, and role of the workforce development boards, the Centralina, CharlotteWorks, and Gaston County Workforce Development Boards wanted to create a formal plan for helping board members become effective spokespersons and ambassadors. Existing board members represent various sectors of the community and this is an opportunity to leverage their knowledge and networks to advance workforce development boards as a go-to resource.

 How we did it: ACS facilitated strategy sessions with key staff and board members to form the basis of a plan to leverage board members as spokespersons, as well as develop consistent messaging and related communication materials for the workforce development boards.

Outcomes: Centralina, CharlotteWorks, and Gaston County Workforce Development Boards now use consistent messaging that highlights their work. These boards also proactively engage board members to speak in the community as board ambassadors.

Port of Cleveland

The Port of Cleveland needed to better communicate its economic impact to strengthen community partnerships.

 How we did it: The Port of Cleveland turned to ACS to develop a three-year strategic communication and outreach plan to guide the organization through shaping its future communication.  ACS conducted a national scan of communication strategies, goals, and community outreach efforts of eight Port Authorities across the country and a full communication and media audit of the Port of Cleveland to better understand the Port’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities for more successful and strategic communication methods.

Outcomes: ACS’ research provided a foundation for the strategic communication goals and strategies that prioritized the Port’s efforts, audiences, community outreach, and messaging, allowing the Port to effectively communicate with stakeholders and the community in an intentional and relevant way. Based on ACS recommendations, the Port of Cleveland asked ACS to develop an Ambassador Program to turn key allies into messengers in order to broaden the reach of the Port’s community outreach. The plan was completed in September 2013 and is currently being implemented along with the Ambassador Program.

Wisconsin Alliance For Infant Mental Health (WI-AIMH)

WI-AIMH sought to increase awareness about infant mental health in the state of Wisconsin among policymakers, the professional community, and families. ACS gave them the strategies and tools to stand out among the crowd.

How we did it: ACS developed a communication plan that includes goals, strategies, activities, and a monthly timeline. ACS also created a coordinated messaging to help WI-AIMH raise its profile and increase awareness about infant mental health.

Outcomes: WI-AIMH has begun to raise their profile in Wisconsin and nationally, and its executive director, Lana Nenide, has gained state and national recognition for WI-AIMH’s work.