Infrastructure holds communities together: roads, bridges, an electricity grid. But what about the connections that we can’t see? Relationships, collaboration, goal setting and data sharing are part of a community’s infrastructure, too. These pieces are called civic infrastructure.

Civic infrastructure joins leaders from across a community — from education, business, health care, housing, philanthropy and more — to work collaboratively, using data, to improve outcomes for children and families. With a strong civic infrastructure in place, communities can change systems by shifting practices, policies, resources and power structures.

Civic infrastructure enables a community to adapt and flourish, even in crisis. What does this look like?

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, along with the public awakening to racial injustice, have tested communities as never before. But across the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, we’ve seen that communities with established civic infrastructures have been better prepared to tackle these challenges. Let’s take a look at four Wisconsin communities with the civic infrastructure needed to respond, recover and thrive.

The difference made by civic infrastructure

Cradle to Career Network members in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine and Green Bay make up the StriveTogether Wisconsin Partnership. Since 2018, the Wisconsin Partnership has focused on securing access to high-quality, affordable childhood education. The partnership has shaped public policy by providing crucial data and training parents and child care workers as advocates. When the pandemic hit, 25% of Wisconsin’s child care centers were suddenly at risk of closing. That’s where civic infrastructure made a key difference.

All four of these communities have used civic infrastructure to address immediate, pandemic-related needs in ways that have also informed and enhanced their long-term work. And they have kept equity front and center.

Read the full article about civic infrastructure from StriveTogether at Medium.