It's true: These times are unprecedented. But there is a small part of my brain that keeps pushing back against this and pulling me back to my days of leading the citywide afterschool intermediary in the days and months (and years) following Hurricane Katrina. So much of what I am feeling and experiencing as a leader feels familiar—the worry, the concern, the overwhelm, the gratitude.
The good and the bad.
All of it.
But the most pressing feeling I am having right now is the need to think about and plan for the future. The struggles to respond to the present remain and we will still be addressing those. Yet if we as leaders in afterschool and out-of-school time want to have any voice, role, or leadership in what the future looks like for our field, we need to have those conversations now.
For the past three years, NAA has been bringing you this Let's Talk Afterschool newsletter. Our vision for this email communication was to share news, information, and resources with leaders—like yourselves—who influence and impact others in the broader afterschool community.
But now, in these unprecedented times, we are changing the focus of this communication—but not the community we've created here. NAA will continue to provide timely updates and resources to our membership and work at the national level to inform policymakers, funders, and other decision-makers about the state of the afterschool field's efforts and needs. At the same time, we are moving forward with action and transitioning this monthly communication to a new set of biweekly conversations: Let's Talk the Future of Afterschool.
NAA is leading by example to carve out space to have conversations about the future—what do we know, what do we need to know and how can we share across the field.
These conversations—with program leaders, funders, researchers, and other decision-makers—will explore the current situation facing the afterschool field and, most important, look beyond the immediate crisis and into the future. Those joining in will hear examples of effective responses to the crisis and data from the field, be able to identify anticipated issues and the roles of influential people and organizations to provide resources to address them, and learn specific actions for different audiences to address short- and long-term issues.
Each biweekly conversation will last 45 to 60 minutes. They'll use Zoom technology, be moderated by me, and welcome two to three outside experts who will be asked to respond to the specific topic for that week. Conversation participants will be able to ask questions, write comments and respond to others through the Zoom chat function.
We can't be so overwhelmed with the response that we don't focus on the future. As I learned in New Orleans after Katrina, it is our opportunity—and, frankly, our obligation—to look to the future and seize this opportunity to create a better future for children, families, and our afterschool community.
We look forward to you joining us for the premiere Let's Talk the Future of Afterschool conversation, Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 12 p.m. EDT. Look for information on speakers, the conversation topic and the meeting link to arrive in your inbox soon.
—Gina Warner, President and CEO, National AfterSchool Association.