Children Now

Spring-Summer 2024
Project Type


Founded in 1988, Children Now has worked for over 35 years to improve local, state, and federal health, education, and child welfare policies to positively affect the lives of millions of kids. Over the last decade, Children Now’s leadership has yielded significant, tangible outcomes, including massive investments in child care, the passage of historic school equity reform, major improvements to youth mental health services, health coverage for all kids in California regardless of immigration status and the cancellation of Medi-Cal premiums, and the implementation of a new 24/7 hotline and mobile response system to support youth in foster care. The organization has transformed children’s advocacy on many levels, most notably via the Children’s Movement of California, connecting a diverse network of over 5,400+ direct service, parent, student, business, labor, civic, faith-based, and community-based organizations.

To maximize its impact across the comprehensive landscape of issues, Children Now uses a decentralized Project Lead model (which was enhanced by a previous Stanford ACT project). The seven Project Leads are essential to fulfilling Children Now’s mission and have autonomy over their goals, project management, and external relationships. They are recognized experts in their field and have long tenures at Children Now in part because of their independence and recognition. This decentralized model allows the organization to recruit and retain high-level leaders who could otherwise run their own nonprofit, and who bring field-leading results in terms of wins for kids.

This model needs to be consistent within a traditional – and increasingly prioritized - supervisory structure. The current structure consists of four Project Leads reporting to two senior-level supervisors and the other two reporting directly to the President. In the past, all Leads reported to the President – an untenable long-term structure. The supervisor role when it comes to Project Leads is strictly around support and mentorship, but there has been some confusion and lack of recognition by staff around the Project Leads’ autonomy and role as organizational leaders. Specific communication of roles and responsibilities has been helpful, but Children Now would like ACT’s ideas on how to better communicate the compatibility of the Project Lead and supervisory models, and if needed possible changes to the structure and/or the organization chart.

Children Now’s question: How can Children Now better communicate its decentralized leadership model as it increasingly prioritizes the need for strong supervision?

Date and Time for this Session: Thursday, April 25 from 12-2pm Pacific