Community Organizing & Family Issues (COFI) and Collaboration for Early Childhood


COFI is a 22-year old nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago which works to build the power and voice of low-income and working families at all levels of civic life. Through COFI’s intensive and systematic leadership development and organizing process, Family Focused Organizing, parents develop skills, confidence, and the organized power to win improvements in schools, communities, and public policies.

Using this approach, COFI has successfully helped parents become strong leaders and supported their engagement in action campaigns that have transformed policies and institutions that impact the lives of the parents, their children and their families.

The model emphasizes the interconnection between personal struggles and broader community issues and builds capacity for leaders to address these issues at both a personal level and through public action. Parent leaders participate in a multi-step process of training and leadership development, team building, and action. COFI’s innovative model consists of different phases of leadership development and organizing curriculum. Read more about COFI’s model.

Overview of Project:

Through a partnership with the Collaboration for Early Childhood, COFI will be leading trainings and supporting parents in Oak Park and River Forest over the next two years. The goal of this partnership is to support and assist the Collaboration utilizing COFI’s unique Family Focused leadership development and community organizing model to engage and empower parents who often feel their voices aren’t heard in the community. Training will give parents the tools to become early learning leaders and peer advocates in Oak Park and River Forest.

In the first year, COFI will work with Collaboration staff and partners to recruit and train two cohorts of about 15 parents with each group going through Phase 1 of COFI’s model. Phase 1 training will take place during the 2017-2018 school year. The training includes:

Phase 1-Self, Family & Team / Team Building: A 7-session course that includes community visioning, leadership skills and qualities, goal-setting, and asking for and providing mutual support. At the training’s end, the group forms a Parent Action Team and works together on a mutually agreed upon team goal.

After parents complete the training, COFI will work with the Collaboration to help build two Parent Action Teams that can do peer-to-peer outreach in the community around early learning resources. They will also work together to accomplish at least one additional team goal.

In the second year, the parent teams will be trained in Phase 2: Community Outreach & Action with a more intensive focus on connecting parents with the broader community and building parent leadership around early childhood issues. The second year will include supporting the parent teams in conducting outreach interviews with other parents and community residents and hosting a community forum on school/community/early learning issues as identified by the parent team. Parent leaders will also be trained as Peer Trainers to continue to bring in new cohorts of leaders. The Peer Ambassador/Advocate program can continue during the spring/summer of the second year.

If you are interested in participating in the COFI project, or you know someone who may be interested, please contact Jennifer Little,

Community Organizing & Family Issues (COFI)
1436 W. Randolph, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60607

Collaboration for Early Childhood
123 Madison, Room 209
Oak Park, IL 60302

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