Directions for Future Research
The goal of this report was to share a snapshot of parent leadership organizations across the U.S. In future analyses of the survey data, we can explore relationships, such as the relationship between funding and engagement of children. Additionally, we would like to research how organizations, funders, and parent leaders use, and would like to use, the Parent Power and Leadership Directory. For example, are organizations making connections with other organizations within their region and issue area? Are they making connections across regions and issue areas? If so, what is the nature and impact of these new connections? If not, what are the barriers and how can they be addressed? We are also further exploring how children benefit from their parents’ leadership through in-depth profiles of families engaged in leadership development across the U.S.
Focus group and interview participants raised several questions for future research that are better suited for in-depth qualitative methods. First, many participants asked for documentation of what a true partnership with parent leaders looks like. One parent leader shared how parent leaders are often brought into policy discussions after an agenda is already determined. A staff member remarked that often professionals “overcompensate because they don’t know what to do with parent leader groups and act patronizing.” Funders, in particular, were interested to know how parent leadership organizations wished to partner with them.
Second, participants wanted to know more about the process of parent leadership and organizing. A parent leader noted, “we talk a lot about what’s being done but there’s not a lot of direction of how to get it done,” for example, how to get attention from legislators and community leaders. Parent leaders also discussed the importance of not only documenting wins but also failures, how to recruit parent leaders and sustain their participation, what motivates and drives parent leaders, how to navigate internal conflict, and the different roles parent leaders can play.
Additional interests included: how organizations provide social and emotional supports for families, how parent leaders strengthen democracy, how gentrification influences parent leadership, challenges/tradeoffs for parent leaders who are at risk of burning out, and how organizations wish to partner with funders.
This landscape analysis illustrates the collective power of justice-oriented parent leadership organizations. There are parent leadership groups in every single state across the U.S., as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico. They are spread across urban, suburban and rural areas, and they vary in size and scope from local neighborhood groups, to city-wide, to multi-county to statewide and national.
These organizations are mostly composed of, and often founded by, women. They are focused on issues of racial equity and social justice, especially in the K-12 and early childhood systems. Yet, parent leaders work on multiple issues that affect their lives, often in multi-racial settings. They share decision-making with staff, learn critical civic and political skills, and deepen their understanding of social justice, particularly racial justice.
They have accomplished major wins in legislation, policy, budgets, funding, juvenile justice, social benefits, mental health, and government operations. Most of the organizations engage children and youth in some way. Over one-third offer leadership development for young people, building intergenerational power.
We hope this report sparks partnerships among parent leaders, organization staff, government agencies, researchers, and the philanthropic community to ensure that parent leadership organizations gain more resources for racial justice; can engage the children of parent leaders, men, and LGBTQ+ communities; form and sustain coalitions and networks; increase their geographic diversity; and access more flexible funding. We also hope this report further motivates documenting how leadership and organizing can be holistically transformative for families and communities.
Read References Section