We have a pending task to ensure a good start for all children in Latin America and the Caribbean: achieving high-quality child development services on a large scale. We can address this challenge through the generation of knowledge, innovating in the design of effective programs, measuring and monitoring child development, articulating the work across the different sectors involved, and strengthening early childhood development networks.
In order to contribute to this purpose, we recently launched the Knowledge Hub on Early Childhood Development, a unique effort focused on contributing to collective learning about early childhood in the region. In addition to gathering multiple resources, the Hub also seeks to be a meeting point where governments, organizations, researchers and other stakeholders can share their experiences and knowledge, strengthening the networks and communities dedicated to early childhood development that already exist in the region (see webinar of the launch in the link below).
The dynamic conversation we had during the launch made us think about two questions: How to innovate on an issue as important as child development? And why is it important to measure child development and evaluate the impact of innovative initiatives?
How to innovate on an issue as important as Child Development?
• The focus of the programs must change: Putting children at the center, as creative citizens and society builders. Learning from games and exploring their own interests but aiming towards the development of critical and creative thinking, as well as socio-emotional skills such as teamwork, leadership and problem solving.
• Designing programs relevant to each context: Listening to the communities, educational agents and families to jointly design creative ways that allow adapting programs to the realities and needs of the population they serve.
• Developing adaptability: Developing new ideas and/or adapting existing initiatives to difficult situations such as the current one caused by COVID-19. Given the pandemic, organizations, governments and programs dedicated to early childhood have had to rethink their activities to continue promoting the development of children. For example, promoting simple activities as part of the daily parenting routines and resources available to the families, through text messages, WhatsApp, radio, TV, booklets, and other formats.
• Seeking sustainability and scalability: Developing tools, services or operational processes that allow offering and expanding the impact of quality services to reach all children, regardless of their conditions or characteristics. Also, with programs that can be maintained over time with innovative and effective financing and management models.
• Valuing the power of partnerships: Collaboration between governments, educators, experts, parents and organizations is important in all issues, but it is crucial to achieve systemic changes in favor of child development, where the involvement of the different sectors determines the success of children’s development.
Why is it important to measure and evaluate the impact of innovative initiatives? Because it allows us to:
• Understand what works: Assessing the effectiveness of interventions and the programs’ quality helps to understand the impact they can have on children’s lives. In this way, evidence can generated to decide on the continuity or elimination of programs and to provide feedback for their improvement.
• Improve processes: Direct monitoring with families and centers is key to guaranteeing the programs’ effectiveness. Likewise, monitoring their operation allows improvement of administrative processes and providing support to those who operate them.
• Identify cost-effective programs: Although there are numerous initiatives, resources are limited, so having information to identify the most effective programs according to their cost can guide and help prioritize investments.
• Scale programs with information on their effectiveness: Governments can use impact evaluations of pilot programs to make decisions about the design and implementation of programs at scale that would reach a broader and more diverse population. Scaling up these programs has its own challenges, so monitoring all beneficiaries is essential to verify effectiveness and identify areas of quality or development that require greater targeting of resources.
You can see more details of the launch in the following video:
Both the Knowledge Hub on Early Child Development and the webinar are efforts coordinated by the Early Childhood Development Innovation Fund, which is a partnership between the IDB, FEMSA Foundation, Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, Open Society Foundations and Porticus.
We invite you to explore the Hub and continue learning about early childhood development in Latin America and the Caribbean! Access it through this link: https://desarrollo-infantil.iadb.org/
Do you work in child development in Latin America and the Caribbean? Tell us about your experience innovating in programs that support the youngest children in our region. Share your opinion in the comments section or in Twitter by mentioning us with @BIDEducacion #EnfoqueEducacion.