Community Decision Making (CDM) presents research-based lessons on what a community needs to do to achieve results for young children through a process that engages the people most affected by the decisions. A community decision-making process uses data, as well as the perspectives of parents, to understand the conditions of young children in order to develop community-owned strategies for improvement. Data-driven decision-making leads to changes at both the systems and program levels. The six CDM learning guides (developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy) are an important reference resource for communities and include the elements listed below.
In a local governance structure, those who are most affected by the decisions are responsible for the decision-making. It is an inclusive process that reaches out to community members who are often not listened to or not included in the formal decison-making process.
Collaboration is a process among a group of stakeholders with a common agenda. In the case of Discovery, the common agenda is to improve the lives of children from birth to age 8.
The best practices in education and child development result from encouraging and listening to all voices of the community and sharing information as widely as possible.
To affect change, buy-in from local leadership is essential. Discovery communities, for example, are encouraged to reach out to the city or town's mayor or chief elected official and school superintendent. These stakeholders, as well as a parent and the chair of the local collaborative, are all required signators to receive a Discovery grant. Capacity building opportunities provided through Discovery are also available to these leaders.
Sustained change will happen with the active engagement of all parents, and in particular those whose children are most at-risk. The Memorial Fund views parent engagement as an ongoing process in which parents, over time, take on multiple roles that include: Engagement, Civic Participation, Leadership, Stewardship, Knowledge, and Information and Involvement.