Shared learning is aim of Bernard van Leer Foundation’s new early years studies

The Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF), which works to improve opportunities for disadvantaged children, has published the first in a series of case studies examining global early years initiatives.

Three initial reports, which look at projects in Albania, Brazil and Peru, are the first of 15 in total looking at a particular region’s goals for social change, how plans were developed and implemented, and the main challenges faced, both on the ground and in the political arena.

They have been carried out by researchers at Princeton’s Innovations for Succesful Societies, RAND Europe and Harvard Kennedy School. The aim is to enable shared learning of the processes gone through and lessons learned along the way, as well as to inform and improve decision-making in future initiatives.

Logistical challenges faced

These cases can be used for teaching purposes or for self-study: Urban early years reforms in Tirana, Albania, including new parks, playgrounds, nurseries, schools and pedestrian spaces, under the leadership of Mayor Erion Veliaj (download here);  Mayor Geraldo Julio’s investment in the early years in Recife, Brazil, as an innovative Urban95 strategy to address crime and economic inequality (download here); and the logistical challenges faced by the Cuna Más home visiting programme in Peru, an ambitious nationwide parenting initiative of President Ollanta Humala (download here via paywall).

The Netherlands-based BvLF believes the transition to scale, which it defines as reaching at least 50,000 children, or covering the full population of a defined administrative territory such as a city or state, is the major current challenge in early childhood development.

How to ‘scale up love’

It highlights key challenges like inter-sectoral collaboration and coordination, monitoring and management mechanisms, quality of the workforce, operating models, understanding cost drivers and maintaining continuity across electoral cycles. Another critical issue in services for young children is how to ‘scale up love’; in other words, responsive caregiving and affectionate human interaction.

Building on its strategic plan of building partnerships to support implementation of promising policy ideas at scale, the BvLF says it commissioned the case studies to support an ongoing process of shared learning with its partners, and to try and provide insights into what does and does not work.

It will publish more links to other case studies as and when they are published, both on the foundation’s website and via its Twitter page. For more information email

Author: Simon Weedy

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