appreciated about the Reggio approach was the foundational value
that children are competent learners. I also connected with the idea of
establishing a classroom community where the children were part of
creating classroom rules and norms, and where the curriculum fol-
lowed the strengths and interests of the children. Today these ideas are
well accepted as best practice in our field (Lewin-Benham 2011), but
at that time, they were considered innovative. Some of the teachers at
our center were interested in applying the Reggio learning principles to
their teaching practice, so we did a lot of thinking together about how
to implement the new ideas and approaches into our existing learning
philosophy. Additionally, as a somewhat new director, I was in the pro-
cess of immersing myself in leadership books and articles, both from
the business world and the early childhood education field. I started to
wonder whether the principles we were trying to use in the classroom
might be applied to leadership and adult learning.

Around the same time, I returned to school to work toward a grad-
uate degree in social work. As I continued to learn more about how
systems influence people (Bronfenbrenner 1992), strategies for com-
munity engagement and organizing (Alinsky 1971; Freire 1970), and
strengths-based practice, I continued to build a foundation of theoret-
ical knowledge that would later support my ability to embrace the idea
of collective leadership.

In 2009 I was exposed to some ideas that could be considered life
changing in a professional sense. I attended a systems thinking seminar
based on the thoughts and ideas of Peter Senge and a course on coach-
ing in education. This is also when I met Cassandra; she was the trainer
for the coach training. Around the same time, I worked for a nonprofit
agency that was leading a collaborative process to try to replicate a
Promise Neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona. We used a collective impact
approach and implemented ideas used by others across the United
States who were using cross-sector collaboration to solve complex
social issues. These foundations and frameworks deepened my sense of
and curiosity about how these ideas might support leaders in the early
childhood care and education field.

Our field is addressing complex social change. Increasingly we are
integral parts of cross-sector initiatives, and we are even creating our
own systems that require a new level of collaboration, such as qual-
ity rating and improvement systems. More often than not, we find
ourselves working in collaboration with colleagues from other fields,
engaging in processes that involve multiple partners, and designing
4 Introduction