Harvard executive programme on scaling early childhood programmes

Demonstrating that a project benefits young children is one thing; delivering that model at scale, to benefit millions of children, presents different challenges altogether. Together with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (HKS) the Foundation has developed a one-week executive education programme for professionals working to scale early childhood initiatives.

The challenges of going to scale

The programme is not about early childhood itself, but about the leadership, strategic thinking and skills needed to bring initiatives focused on early childhood to scale.

Models of delivering services to children and families that work in a pilot project or small geographical area will not necessarily work at scale. Challenges include training new staff; adapting to new contexts, and populations who may have different needs or expectations; maintaining a consistent level of quality; finding synergies and avoiding overlaps with existing large-scale services; and building political support and popular demand to ensure sustainability.

A training course for professionals

The Foundation has supported the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in developing a 1-week executive education programme for teams of senior government officials, NGO and business leaders, researchers and foundation staff from around the world working to identify and scale real-world initiatives focused on early childhood development.

The programme is developed by senior faculty at the Kennedy School and will be taught by Harvard faculty. Teams will be supported to continue their collaboration in the months and years following the programme. April 2017 will be the second year of the programme, with seven teams and 44 participants from various countries attending the course. The groups have been carefully selected by our Harvard selection team. All groups are from countries the Foundation is working actively, except for two groups that are composed by two of our partners.

Participation is by invitation only – we regret we will not be able to accept applications.

The objective of each participating team in 2017 is:

  • Brazil: To scale ‘Criança Feliz’, a home visiting program integrated to the Cash transfer program ‘Bolsa Familia’ (social welfare program) that will train child development and/or health agents to provide family support to vulnerable families
  • Liberia (Open Society Foundation): To provide access to quality early childhood services to care-givers and children from pre-birth to entry into primary school
  • Côte d’Ivoire: To scale up early childhood initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire using the health and Nutrition sector
  • Israel: To enhance early childhood development and urban experiences for low-middle income families in Tel Aviv
  • Latin America (Ministers selected by UNASUR): To focus on dealing with stunting, through scaling nutrition and parenting together with ministers and vice-ministers of health form Peru, Paraguay and Ecuador and Bolivia
  • The Netherlands: To promote healthy child development (reducing risk factors to childhood obesity) by focusing on emotional well-being and confident, responsive parenting as well as promoting a heathy lifestyle for the whole family.
  • India: To scale improved learning environments, demonstrate better language proficiency and School readiness with a model of mother tongue based multilingual early childhood education in 7202 Anganwadi Centres (‘Courtyard Shelters’ in Hindi)

Based on successes in Brazil

The programme follows the success of a similar initiative run by the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation and the Harvard Center on the Developing Child for which the Bernard van Leer Foundation provided funding. This me trained 125 Brazilian public and private leaders to better understand the science of early childhood development.

They included members of the Federal House and Senate from multiple political parties, who together drafted a new law – the Marco Legal da Primeira Infância – on promoting early childhood development. Two course graduates subsequently became mayors, in Boa Vista and Arapiraca, and started implementing municipal policies to benefit young children.