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Illinois BUILD Team

What is BUILD?

The BUILD Initiative is a national organization that advances work on behalf of young children from prenatal to age five, their families, and communities. BUILD envisions a time when all children reach their full potential and when race, place, and income are no longer predictors of outcomes.

Each year, the BUILD Initiative State Services Team works closely with early childhood leaders and their cross-sector teams in partner states to create and improve systems that help children and families thrive. Currently, BUILD partners with Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, Ohio, Washington state, Washington D.C., Alabama, California, and New Jersey.

In collaboration with their Liaisons, BUILD partner states develop:

  • A cross-sector team embedded in the state's infrastructure to act as the core group engaged with BUILD. This team is responsible for early childhood policy implementation and improvement.
  • Multiple systems involved at the beginning of a partnership with BUILD. At a minimum, the cross-sector team includes leaders from early learning and health or early learning and economic development.
  • A shared vision across systems for young children and families and the actions to advance toward that vision.
  • Outcomes that benefit individual agencies and the cross-sector team.
  • A commitment to equity. The partner state teams are committed to tailoring programs, services, and initiatives to those furthest from opportunity due to historical injustice—including removing barriers to access and distribution of resources. Teams work to embed this equity commitment in each of the agencies and entities seeking to serve young children and their families.
  • Data-driven decision-making that includes the use of disaggregated, qualitative data, as well as qualitative data that emphasizes the voice of community contributors and the intended beneficiaries of the programs and services.
  • A commitment to a cycle of quality improvement for the systems building efforts and within the policy development and implementation process.
  • Leadership at all levels involved in early childhood systems development. Teams may be comprised primarily of one level of leadership (e.g. mid-level managers), but the early childhood systems work within a state involves providers, commissioners, directors, governor's staff, community leaders, county executives, city leaders, and many others.

Illinois BUILD Team Purpose and Priority Areas of Support

Team Purpose

  1. Shared learning and action on priorities.
  2. Relationship building among BUILD Team members allowing for the opportunity to have critical friends and a courageous space to do the challenging cross-sector work.
  3. Shared learning and relationship building with other states, including what Illinois can learn from other states and what other states can learn from Illinois.
  4. Shared learning on race equity to support family and early childhood serving systems across the State (includes the Early Childhood Interagency Team (IAT) and the Illinois Early Learning Council (ELC) but is not limited to these bodies).
  5. Identify areas of cross-sector work that could benefit from BUILD support.


Areas of Illinois BUILD Support

  1. Consultation and problem solving - BUILD offers thought partnership, provides ongoing support and problem-solving, helps leaders address specific problems, and supports planning and action steps.
  2. Leadership development and building capacity - BUILD supports leaders in their knowledge of, and capacity to, engage in systems building and racial equity work. BUILD further helps leaders understand and take action within their specific roles, responsibilities, and influence.
  3. Meeting facilitation or planning processes - BUILD provides meeting facilitation and supports planning processes that may involve data collection (quantitative or qualitative – surveys, beneficiary voice, interviews), analyzing the results, determining next steps/recommendations, and implementing those steps.
  4. Individualized technical assistance - BUILD provides or brokers expertise in the specific content area the state requests.
    Learning community and peer support - BUILD provides examples from other states and connects state leaders with leaders from other states who have similar plans and challenges and can inform each other’s work.

Illinois BUILD Team Members

BUILD Liaisons Supporting Illinois

  • Gail Nourse, BUILD Consultant
  • Aisha Ray, BUILD Consultant


  • Karen Berman, Senior Director of Illinois Policy – Start Early
  • Jamilah R. Jor’dan, Executive Director – Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development


  • Kisha D. Davis, Chief, Bureau of Subsidy Management – Illinois Department of Human Services
  • Carisa Hurley, Director of Early Childhood – Illinois State Board of Education
  • Zareen Kamal, Policy Specialist – Start Early
  • Kimberly Mann, Deputy Director of Research & Child Well-Being - Illinois Department of Children & Family Services
  • Leslie Mckinily, Deputy Chief of Early Childhood Education – Chicago Public Schools
  • Kenya D. McRae, Division Chief, Maternal, Child and Family Health Services and Title V Director – Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Senator – Illinois State Senate; Senior Policy Advisor – Erikson Institute
  • Oriana Wilson, Executive Director of Programs – Illinois State Board of Education

Resources Recommended by the Illinois BUILD Team

BUILD Initiative Resources

Other Recommended Resources