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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET MOVING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FORWARD | 7 • figuring out how to rearrange ECE’s systems as a coherent whole instead of focusing on adjusting individual parts; • fostering generative conversations that spawn new possibilities; and • joining together to bring a coimagined future to fruition. 12 This will be a complex undertaking. Yet once united around a vision for the field’s future, the shared image of what we’re trying to create will focus and channel the purposefulness and energy of our systems change efforts. 13 This means, though, that “one needs to know what the profession aims to do,” 14 and we create “the ca- pacity to hold a shared picture of the future we want to create.” 15 Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era was written to move ECE beyond its longstanding impasse regarding the field’s purpose and responsibility. This stalemate has stymied our ability to progress as a field of practice and become “whole.” Study of other professions makes evident that the process of professionalizing will involve an extended developmental jour- ney that requires • identifying ECE’s unique contribution to society’s well-being; • ascertaining its specialized expertise; • forging a shared commitment to fulfilling its purpose; and • navigating currents of the field’s social and economic contexts. 16 Participants experienced with similar journeys recount that actions and decisions typically emerge while engaged with the work. As Peter Senge and his colleagues have forecast, “Like others before you, you will discover much of the plot as you invent it.” 17 Those of us engaged in systems work can relate to the accuracy of this last state- ment. This reality may be uncomfortable, though, for those preferring linear planning and clearly identified and timed benchmarks. The literature on systems change, however, makes it clear that ECE’s next step begins with • creating the conditions for seeing and thinking differently, both individual- ly and together; COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL