The COFI Way is a community organizing and parent leadership development model that is taught in three phases. Based on the parents’ real world-based priorities, COFI’s approach deliberately takes time and effort, which results in powerful leaders who win real, lasting change.

A group of Latina parent leaders gather at a meeting

Phase 1: Self, Family & Team + Team Building

The COFI Way begins with the individual. In the first half of Phase 1, parent participants take a hard look at themselves – envisioning their future, establishing personal goals, finding support, and beginning to work to achieve those goals.

In Phase 1, parents attend an orientation session and six two-hour workshops, which cover:

  • Personal visioning
  • Self-assessment and goal setting
  • Building a web of support
  • Overcoming obstacles and developing an action plan
  • Family goal setting
  • Team goal setting 

Over the course of several weeks, parents begin to see the connection between their personal struggles and larger societal issues, and are empowered to come together to make change. The second half of Phase 1, Team Building, can take between 10 weeks and several months. It includes:

  • Defining team purpose
  • Creating ground rules and team rituals
  • Establishing a meeting format
  • Planning action
  • Implementing campaign or project plans
  • Holding one another accountable
  • Resolving conflict
  • Evaluating the work
  • Winning victories and celebrating accomplishments
A group of African-American parent leaders sit at a table doing outreach

Phase 2: Community Outreach & Action

Phase 2 of The COFI Way picks up where Phase 1 leaves off, teaching teams to reach out in their local community, building relationships and partnerships with parents and neighbors, organizations, businesses, schools, and community institutions. Using team and relationship building skills, emerging parent leaders conduct a door-to-door community assessment, bringing new parents and partners into the planning and community action process. The teams launch community action campaigns and succeed in making change locally. The process typically takes around nine months.

The Community Outreach & Action curriculum includes:

  • Community visioning
  • Self-interest and motivation
  • Relationship-building one-on-ones
  • Choosing an issue
  • Building partnerships
  • Outreach and recruitment
A Latina woman proudly shows off her purple sash covered with Advanced Leader badges

Phase 3: Policy & Systems Change

COFI’s policy and systems change work in Phase 3, the final and ongoing phase of The COFI Way, builds off of the incremental steps during the first two phases, as parents build strong and trust-filled relationships across diverse communities and with professional allies both inside and outside the system. It is aimed at creating a tight cross-cultural community of parents that work together to create policy and systems change. In Phase 3, parents also create the organizational structure needed to sustain their ongoing development of new leaders and campaign organizing work.

The Policy & Systems Change curriculum includes:

  • What is policy and systems change and how government works
  • How parents can impact change
  • What it means to be a leader in The COFI Way 
  • Working across race, culture, and language barriers
  • Choosing issues that broadly impact children and families
  • Research through relationships and outreach to identify solutions
  • Telling your story
  • Building allies, champions, and strategic partnerships
  • Working with public officials and negotiation
  • Speaking with the media and fundraising skills
  • Why and how to build the organizational or network structure
Read our comprehensive 20-page report all about Policy and Systems Change: The COFI Way

Packed with parent stories and perspectives, as well as interviews with prominent allies who have sat alongside COFI parents at decision-making tables, this report proves how parents engage policymakers… and win.