On Monday, Governor Gina Raimondo and RI KIDS COUNT hosted the Governor’s Summit on Early Learning and Care, and one of the themes was the need for coordinated efforts in early childhood work, particularly as the state’s Race to the Top funding comes to an end in September 2016.  There are many reasons to become involved in early childhood work, not the least of which is the 1:6 return on investment, but there are a lot of important considerations for funders looking to have collective impact in this area.  FSG’s recent report, Improving the Odds:  FSG’s Report on Early Childhood Education Funding, provides some valuable insights for funders who want to make a lasting impact.

For those looking for the summary, here are the seven key principles for funders:

  1. Connect Siloed Dots Fragmentation and silos create a diverse but disconnected sector— funders have an opportunity to catalyze connections and trust among varied actors.

  2. Double Down on Family Engagement Families should be at the center of shaping, implementing, and evaluating the many facets of ECE systems change work.

  3. Embrace the Tensions Different settings, standards, and social norms create tension—successful systems change efforts must face, rather than circumvent, these tensions.

  4. Factor in Market Forces Childcare is an industry of small business owners competing for customers—supporting this industry means thinking beyond traditional grantmaking.

  5. Play the (Not So) Long Game Long-term systems change strategies in ECE must be coupled with short-term successes that foster and sustain commitment.

  6. Expand Your Outcome Horizon It is possible—and critical—to track indicators of incremental systems change on the longterm path to better outcomes for children.

  7. Adapt to Twists and Turns The dynamic context of ECE means that strategies must be agile and regularly subjected to rigorous reflection and course correction.

I also appreciated some of the insights about evaluation — be sure to check out the chart on page 16 of the report, looking at examples of progression from an ECE initiative in Virginia:

1. If we create and foster:
• A community-wide shared vision for ECE
• A joint action plan adopted by key ECE stakeholders
• Open data sharing among ECE providers
• Trust among ECE stakeholders
• A participatory process for residents
• Dedicated resources for ECE systems work

2.  There will be a stronger ECE system for:
• Better knowledge of available ECE resources
• Better access and ability to navigate ECE resources
ECE Providers
• Stronger competencies to serve diverse needs
• More connections and referrals among providers
The Community
• More socioeconomically mixed ECE programs and classrooms
• Increased public funding and support for ECE

3. Resulting in these better outcomes for children:
• More and better prenatal care
• Healthier birth-weights
• More access to primary healthcare providers
• More age-appropriate fine motor skills acquisition
• Healthier BMI ranges
• More and better pre-K experiences
• Higher school readiness in math and reading
• Higher 3rd grade proficiency in math and reading
• More diagnosed developmental delays
• Higher school readiness in socio-emotional areas
• Better self-regulation
• Better knowledge of self

This is a helpful framework for thinking about collective impact, as well as measurement on a systemic as well as an individual level.