Demand, capacity building, incremental innovation and technology in early childhood

by | Jul 3, 2018 | Blog

This post was originally shared on Medium’s Early Insights by Tarun Varma, Initiatives Manager at the Lego Foundation

For the second issue of Early Insights we interviewed a number of policy influencers and professionals with a systems view of early childhood. We feature articles that spotlight specific interventions and carry narratives from people working day to day in the field. As we curated the issue interesting patterns emerged. The spotlights and narratives showcase some examples that attempt to address the lacunae in the system.

Our interview with Amanda Devercelli, Global Lead for ECD at the World Bank brought to light how demand from parents is driving need for early childhood services across countries. This requires nations to build capacity and scale quality of services on offer. Maniza Ntekim, then Senior Programme Officer at Open Society Foundations (and now at UNICEF) pointed out that ECD is stitched together across sectors. It needs an ecosystem of its own with recruitment, training and supervision to flower. This systems focus is seen at a national level too. Our interview with Sonja and Erika at Innovation Edge, an investment fund focused on ECD in South Africa, reveals that they’re most excited about innovations that scale and work with the system to create impact. Creating this impact sustainably defines Innovation Edge’s ability to exit its investments.

Innovation might make us think of technology but does not always mean so! Parenting presents an interesting range of options. Sarah Darton, CEO Family Links Foundation highlights the Nurturing Programme where the Foundation works to enhance parenting skills and improve parents emotional health. This is an example of a high touch programme focused on better parenting. This incremental innovation will be the bedrock of systems change as all the players above reiterate. At the same time as Shikha Goyal at Omidyar Network points out, demand from parents is only gradually becoming mainstream. Improved penetration of hardware (tablets and high speed internet) will meet the parents where they are. As a result demand for non-facility based care will soar. This is likely to accelerate change and demand for early childhood services for parents.

In cases where technology is already in the hands of children, we need to enable teachers and children to co-produce the rules of engagement. This is beautifully brought to light by Natalia Kucirkova from UCL in her article about personalization in early years reading.

Being able to echo nuanced views, highlight issues and solutions was why we started Early Insights. Between the two issues we were lucky to be able to share this on the Skoll Centre blog which carried a piece on why education is a wicked problem. The process of driving these solutions was featured in the Kellogg College, University of Oxford newsletter. We also registered our trademark as the year turned.

I’d like to thank Chris Heemskerk and Sonja Wiencke for helping us shape our positioning with their feedback. Robbie Deffense has been invaluable with support on our video edits.

Happy reading and look forward to your insights!