My good friend Kwame Brown recently posted an article from the Star Tribune’s “Your Voices” site, entitled “Stadiums versus our children’s future.” The article asks why $1 billion would go to a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, while funding for Early Childhood Development (ECD) seems impossible to get.
I posted a response to the article on Kwame’s site, which I am republishing in full here. I’d love to know what you think about this.
Interesting article, for many reasons.
This argument is old as the hills.
What blew me away was his honesty, right up front. The author says – “I’m not sure it was a realistic choice (in part because I love the Vikings).”
This is how he initially frames his review of different policies and reasons for ECD. So the entire time, in the back of our minds, we’re thinking “it isn’t realistic.”
He sums up by serving another seemingly insurmountable blow to the whole concept, quoting the unnamed state legislator, who says – “It’s simple, at the Legislature it is about entrenched interest and power and children don’t have either.”
How are we supposed to feel when we read an article like that? Does it lead us to come up with solutions, or merely to shrug our shoulders at the progress of the “inevitable?”
The question posed (which is never explicitly posed, or expanded upon) is “How do we get more funding for ECD?”
Priorities will always be priorities. But priorities are shifted by action. The Minnesotan’s love of the Vikings is a priority that is manufactured by media, social persuasion, and everything underlying that (desire for power? money?).
The question is, how do we shift priorities, or at least make our priority (ECD) seem like a valuable partner-priority to already existing, dominant priorities?
Tax-breaks are one way. Why do we always see those United Way campaign commercials from NFL footballers? Well, teams/organizations and individuals get to write off charitable donations. Maybe that’s one way.
Another way is one that Arne Naess recommended the “ecological” movement in the 1970′s take – to make an economic argument for “green.” It took a lot of years for people to grasp his message, but now that it’s happened, you see it everywhere. Everything is sold as “green,” and people come together under the “green banner” to get things done (even very opposite groups, like Exxon and Greenpeace).
Under the “green banner,” and all of the ideals and slogans that it stands for, corporations can see a way to continue to make profits while serving the people’s desire for efficiency and ecological-friendliness.
Many of the efforts for ECD, or childhood development in general (including play and physical education, arts education, and education generally), fail to recognize this important fact – their “customer” is the organization from which they’re seeking assistance.
That is, they need to market to the groups they want help from…
Instead, these groups often just talk about their own interests – like a selfish boyfriend or girlfriend. “Blah blah blah, I want more money for the children…” is all the owners of the Minnesota Vikings hear. They drink their wine, look around anxiously at the other tables in the restaurant, wondering how the Redskins owners got that good looking partner, and why they’re laughing and having so much fun…they excuse themselves to go to the bathroom and then make a break for their car, never looking back.
Consider this – how would you create a “product” out of Early Childhood Development? What would that product look like. What problem would it solve for the people who could buy it (who are not children, by the way…they are adults, and in the case of the article listed, corporations)? What are the compelling fears and desires of your customer (those adults and corporations), and how can you appeal to those fears and desires in your marketing? How do you solve their problem? How do you put the risk of buying your product on yourself, and take the risk off of your prospective customer? Finally, how do you sell it? And once it is sold, what happens next?