It is very common for technology and digitization to dominate conversations and debates about innovation. However, innovation has other faces: those of the people who are at the center of the projects, the generation of knowledge and shared learning.
We have experienced this thanks to a wonderful alliance that was created 4 years ago with this innovation approach to promote the development of children in their first years of life in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Early Childhood Development Fund.
Since its creation in 2017, the Fund has embarked on a journey of innovation to improve the quality of early childhood development (ECD) services, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations. This partnership has allowed us to finance and support the design, implementation, and evaluation of innovative solutions for early childhood development in 5 areas of work:
i) improving the quality of care offered in child development centers and preschools; ii) programs to support families in the development of their children; iii) integrating components that support early childhood development in existing interventions in the sectors of education, health, nutrition, and social protection, and others; iv) generating data, studies, learning and the dissemination of this knowledge; and v) strengthen regional ECD networks to share knowledge and best practices.
Throughout the years, we have identified key elements in our projects and our way of working that have strengthened our purpose of achieving quality ECD services and scaling them: services that have the capacity to positively impact a large number of children for the rest of their lives. These three key elements in the Fund’s work are:
i) create innovative people-centered projects,
ii) generate knowledge about the quality of services;
iii) articulate alliances and learning communities.
Let’s look at each of them.
1. Innovation begins by putting people at the center of interventions and the ECD Fund is committed to this approach with 16 projects under implementation in 7 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. For example:
• In El Salvador, we conducted an unprecedented skipped-generation household census. In these homes, grandparents take care of their grandchildren because their parents have migrated or are absent. The census allowed us to get to know this vulnerable population and begin to put grandparents at the center of their grandchildren’s development and learning.
• In Boa Vista, we adapted a program to support mothers, fathers and caregivers through group meetings. In addition, due to the pandemic, we adapted content to send through WhatsApp, in order to support caregivers in vulnerable homes to stimulate their children.
• In Uruguay, we are taking advantage of the use of applications (apps) to promote school attendance and that parents can monitor quality. This has allowed us to understand the behavior and perception of mothers and fathers towards initial education, as well as the importance they give to it as part of the development of their children.
2. Our projects are designed to make a substantial, cutting-edge contribution to knowledge about ECD. For example:
• In Mexico, we collected, for the first time in this country, data at the national level on the quality of ECD centers and child development. The diagnosis made with this information has generated important learnings and recommendations for Mexican public policy dedicated to the youngest children.
• In Jamaica, we are witnessing the implementation, at the national level, of the famous Reach Up program, supporting the evaluation of the process and its impacts to learn what are the factors that influence the success of scaling up an intervention. In other words, understand how this program reaches many boys and girls while maintaining its quality.
• In Rio de Janeiro, we conducted an analysis of the effects of a daycare intervention that was implemented on a large scale. This project was the first experimental study on the medium-term effects of a program of this type and allowed us to see the impact of daycare centers on children’s learning 10 years later.
3. We believe in the power of partnerships and learning communities. Innovation is the product of collaboration and learning between different stakeholders and we see it in our work on 3 fronts:
• Teamwork with national and local governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, foundations and international organizations for the implementation of our projects in 7 countries.
• Contribution to dialogue and knowledge exchange among broader audiences through support for existing ECD networks and the creation of the Knowledge Hub on Early Childhood Development, a learning space with more than 2,000 links to resources produced in the region.
Consolidating these three elements, from the Early Childhood Development Innovation Fund we will continue working in the coming years with the firm intention of innovating to achieve the quality of ECD services at scale and thus promote the development of all children in our region: this it is the best guarantee of a good present and an excellent future for them.
Do you know of innovative projects to support early childhood development in your country? Share them in the comments section or on Twitter mentioning @BIDEducacion #EnfoqueEducacion @BIDGente.