Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.
Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston
Director, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Degree: M.D., New York University, (1972)
Office: 50 Church Street 4th Floor
Office Hours Contact: Email the Faculty Member
Faculty Assistant: Yaimani Rivera
Jack Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education; professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital; and director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He currently serves as chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a group whose mission is to bring credible science to bear on public policy affecting young children, and chairs the JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress. In 2011, Shonkoff launched Frontiers of Innovation, a multi-sectoral collaboration among researchers, practitioners, policymakers, investors, and experts in systems change who are committed to developing more effective intervention strategies to catalyze breakthrough impacts on the development and health of young children and families experiencing significant adversity.
Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Shonkoff served as chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families and the committee that produced the landmark report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. He also served as a member of the Panel on Child Care Policy, the Committee on the Assessment of Family Violence Interventions, and the Roundtable on Head Start Research.
Shonkoff's honors include being elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Pediatric Society; being designated National Associate of the National Academies; and receiving the C. Anderson Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children from the Society for Research in Child Development.
Shonkoff has served on the core scientific group of the MacArthur Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Executive Committee of the Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has authored more than 150 publications, including nine books; co-edited two editions of the Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention; and served on the editorial board of several scholarly journals, including Child Development.
Shonkoff completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell, medical education at NYU School of Medicine, pediatric training at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and fellowship in developmental pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. He has been a visiting professor or delivered named lectureships at universities in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and the U.K. He was the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and dean of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
Click here to see a full list of Jack Shonkoffs courses.
Executive Leadership Program in Early Childhood Development (ELP) International Course 2017 (2017-2017)
Bernard van Leer Foundation
ELP is designed to build leadership capacity in senior policy makers, public managers, and civil society organizations to develop and implement science-based policies and programs in early childhood development in Brazil. ELP uses science-informed principles of institutional and leadership development to give its participants the necessary tools to create and implement more efficient social policies and Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs. To this end, the program culminates in creating Plans of Action, authored exclusively by course participants and based on cutting-edge science with the goal of strengthening specific ECD policies and programs. Since its launch in 2012, ELP has trained over 280 Brazilian officials who have implemented programs at the federal, state and municipal levels across the country. In 2017, the investment by Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) will enable the course to be offered in Spanish to leaders from other countries in the region, particularly Peru and Colombia. A critical dimension of developing and implementing effective child development policies and programs is understanding the science of child development and being able to apply that knowledge base. The NCPI partners assessed that many of the key public officials in Brazil responsible for ECD policy and programs lacked this knowledge base and the strategies and tools to apply it effectively. ELP has been designed to provide both the knowledge and tools around ECD and the support to apply them in developing a concrete action plan to address a specific child development challenge participants are facing. Over the five years that ELP has been operating, a significant number of the action plans created through the program have been implemented at municipal, state and federal levels, and many of them have been in the poorest and most disadvantaged regions of the country. BvLF has provided individual scholarship support to Brazilian participants over the past several years, and the goal of this current proposal is to deepen and expand the ability to engage key foundation partners in Brazil and now in Spanish speaking Latin America to increase their ability to utilize the science of child development in designing and implementing more effective programs.
General Operating for the Center on the Developing Child (2017-2018)
The time has come to move beyond the use of science simply to explain why investing in the early childhood period is so important, and begin to leverage its power to address the more complex question of how we can generate greater returns in both human and financial terms. This is particularly true for young children who experience toxic stress as a result of insufficient buffering protection from significant sources of adversity in their lives. We have begun to demonstrate that four key insights from 21st-century science can feed new strategies to increase impact. 1. Experiences matter much earlier than age 4 or 5. The longer we wait to intervene on behalf of children at high risk, the more difficult it will be to achieve positive outcomes later. 2. Protection from excessive stress is needed as much as enriched experiences to support healthy development. Extensive evidence demonstrates that significant adversity can disrupt the developing brain and other maturing biological systems. 3. We can build a foundation for lifelong health, not just school readiness, by ensuring that children have responsive, supportive relationships with the adults in their lives. 4. In order to achieve breakthroughs for children, we must help adult caregivers build a set of essential core capabilities that are needed to provide supportive and stable environments. One of the truly unique benefits of a potential partnership between the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard and Genentech is the companys deep understanding of how a science-driven, innovation pipeline can achieve breakthrough impacts in addressing complex threats to human health. With that model in mind, the following thoughts illustrate some of the promising ways in which a financial investment in the Center could be complemented by a synergistic investment in time, energy, and expertise by a cadre of highly motivated company staff: Collaborating as a thought partner around two of our core principles. Becoming a public champion for science-based innovation in the early childhood years. Becoming an active member of our Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) learning community.
Proposal to Establish a Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship (2017-2019)
Novak Djokovic Foundation
The aim of the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship is to develop this next generation of academic change agents who will both contribute to advances in science and leverage those advances to inform, inspire, and mobilize key actors in the field of early childhood towards new solutions that yield breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. As such, Djokovic Fellows will receive rigorous training in translational research, framing and communications, and science-based innovation. In addition, the Djokovic Fellows will be able to draw on the Centers many resources to deepen their own scholarly interests and advance their scholarly pursuits. While the program experience will be tailored to each Fellows research interests and professional development and it will universally include: 1. Learning about the Centers Translational Science Model (TSM) 2. Learning about the Centers knowledge synthesis, translation, and communications work and strategies 3. Learning about the Centers approach to science-based innovation in policy and practice systems
Launching the Next Phase of an Innovation System (2017-2017)
Pritzker Family Foundation
One of the hallmarks of the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) approach to incubating new intervention strategies is that it has evolved over time based on the need to maximize learning and efficiency through iterative cycles of design, evaluation, and adaptation. This is true not only for the guiding principles and components used by FOIs Translational Science Model (TSM), but also for the process for providing technical assistance to project teams. In other words, we have been creating a new innovation system by doing it, with the expectation that the product of this effort will be best suited to meet the needs of the field because it is being developed jointly with project teams that are trying to innovate in real time and in real world contexts. As the TSM has evolved, it has become clear that the incubation of new intervention strategies is only the first stage of the work that is needed to achieve population-level impacts. For projects that show promise of greater impact than existing services, an accelerator function is needed to transition from early-stage pilots to scalability. In particular, we have identified a set of four interrelated activities that will be required for interventions to achieve the potential of impact at scale: 1. Facilitate refinement and adaptation of program components and materials 2. Identify potential markets for implementing specific candidate interventions and developing replicable strategies for linking project teams to system leaders. 3. Support expansion of the research base through sufficiently precise evaluation designs. 4. Provide technical assistance to support the development of organizational capacity in collaborating project teams to allow for scaling (e.g., development of a business plan, legal assistance with intellectual property issues and incorporation as a non-profit or for-profit entity, as indicated) and help resolving issues such as costing, packaging of programs to fit system needs, and identification of sustainable public or private sources of funding. To launch this phase, the HCDC team will identify an initial cohort of project teams that have developed promising interventions that are ready to move toward broader implementation. Using a process similar to the one through which we developed the TSM over time, we will work with each team to develop replicable strategies for navigating each of the four activities listed above. We will also develop a parallel set of procedures for providing technical assistance to the project teams as they prepare their interventions for scaling.
Building an Innovation Ecosystem for the Early Childhood Field (2017-2017)
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Purpose: To support the transition from incubation to scalability of two, pilot-tested interventions; the development and testing of three, newly-sourced innovations; and the development of a business plan for the Center on the Developing Child all in the service of building a system for science-based R&D that achieves breakthrough outcomes at scale for young children facing adversity. Although a phased, R&D pipeline is a common and accepted feature of successful, innovation systems that exist in other fields, this sequenced infrastructure does not exist in the fields of services currently provided for young children and families. To fill that critical gap, we are actively engaged in creating, testing, and refining an entirely new, innovation ecosystem at the same time that we are preparing to take the first round of pilots through it. Implementation: Over the next 12 months, we plan to work closely with selected project teams to advance the construction of an R&D pipeline for the early childhood field. Our plans for implementing the proposed initiative will include the following activities: (1) continuing to build their evidence base to understand for whom their intervention works best and least, and in what contexts; (2) refining their program model with a sharp focus on producing the materials that will be needed to achieve successful replication at scale; (3) solidifying the commitment of the selected scaling champions (i.e., the person who will drive the continuing development of the intervention and its implementation at scale); and (4) building the infrastructure necessary to support effective scaling, including the development of a business plan and training support structure, along with the successful navigation of intellectual property issues. We also envision working with our partners in large delivery systems to learn about their constraints and needs so we can help project teams design their work accordingly and anticipate the many challenges to scaling that exist in the broader landscape. Specifically, we will address the following questions: (1) How do systems leaders make decisions about which interventions to scale, or not?; (2) What amount and type of evidence would be compelling enough to consider scaling a new intervention strategy? ; (3) What additional barriers or incentives should we be preparing for or trying to influence during this transition to scalability phase?; (4) Are there particular challenges in adopting or adapting modular intervention strategies within larger systems, in contrast to implementing new programs in their entirety?; and (5) How can we learn more about what works best (and least) for whom in each system? Outcomes: After 12 months, the Center will: - Identify, engage with, and support at least three new, promising pilots in the FOI incubation process. - Support two, leading-edge projects from promising initial results to scalability, and in the process learn what it takes to build, test, and document a structured, systematized approach to greater impacts for larger numbers of children within an evolving R&D pipeline. Top candidates for this transition to scalability include a video coaching model designed to enhance serve and return interactions between young children and their caregivers, a short-term, computer-based strategy for reducing parental anxiety, and a light-touch, text based model for increasing parents motivation to participate in early childhood programs. - Be in a stronger position to reflect on our work and understand the kinds of resourceshuman and financialthat are needed to support future cohorts of projects as we move forward. - Produce a comprehensive business plan that outlines a multi-year strategy for creating a fully integrated, innovation ecosystem for the early childhood field.
Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) (2017-2017)
Tikun Olam Foundation
Over the past five years since the launch of Frontiers of Innovation (FOI), we have engaged highly motivated innovators from a diversity of sectors and created a hothouse environment to support the co-design, testing, and evaluation of new intervention strategies. During this same period, we have been developing and implementing a model for innovation in the early childhood arena that draws on knowledge from the biological, social, and behavioral sciences, combined with on-the-ground experience in community settings and practical insights from the field. This signature Translational Science Model (TSM) is characterized by precision in definition and measurement, a rapid-cycle iterative approach to improving programs, and a relentless focus on identifying what works best (and least or not at all) for whom and why. We view these principles as equally applicable at the program, system, and policy levels. The TSM provides a rigorous framework for strengthening the capacity of project teams to address unmet challenges facing young children and families. One of the unique aspects of the TSM, which sets us apart from others who have begun to articulate similar innovation agendas, is our structured approach to providing technical assistance and ongoing support for projects that receive FOI funding, as well as for those whose work with us is funded by other sources. This vital assistance helps community-based teams build their own internal capacity to develop intervention strategies and materials, specify hypotheses to be tested, conduct rigorous evaluations, participate in a shared data library that serves all FOI projects, and be well-positioned for scalability if their intervention is found to be effective. The Tikun Olam Foundation provides flexible funding to support Center costs and seed grants to facilitate the design, testing, iteration, and evaluation of a continuous stream of new ideas by teams of collaborating practitioners, researchers, parents, program developers, and/or policymakers. As part of an evolving R&D platform, this work is grounded in rigorous science, and embedded within a growing community of highly motivated change agents committed to shared learning, cumulative knowledge generation, and transformative child outcomes at the population level.
Communicating the Science of Adolescent and Adult Capabilities (2016-2017)
In March 2016, the Center on the Developing Child released a new paper, Building Core Capabilities for Life: The Science Behind the Skills Adults Need to Succeed in Parenting and in the Workplace. Related web content describes a) the basic concepts of what these skills are, how they develop, and how stress can derail their development; and b) how interventions can support the development and use of these skills. One of the fundamental concepts we describe is that, while the foundation for these skills is laid in early childhood, they continue to develop actively throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. Furthermore, these skills can be built through modeling, coaching, and opportunities to practice in context. However, serious, sustained stress affects both the development of these skills and our ability to use the skills we have. Therefore, based on the science, practitioners and organizations serving youth and young adult caregivers should both reduce the stressors in their service environment and help scaffold the development of these skills. In the past two years, the Center has increasingly emphasized practitioners as a key audience, for two reasons. First, we know that both system leaders and service providers are key for any meaningful change in how we engage with children and caregivers. Second, we know that practitioners comprise a large and growing segment of our web visitors, and they are looking for practical ways to apply the science of development. In September 2014, we released an activities guide for parents and practitioners to help children practice their executive function and self-regulation skills from infancy through adolescence. The guide quickly became one of our most-downloaded publications, and continues to experience great demand. As a result, we are now developing practitioner-focused guides to serve-and-return interaction and building the core capabilities of adult caregivers.
General Operating for the Center on the Developing Child (2016-2018)
Einhorn Family Charitable Trust
The goal of the Einhorn Family Charitable Trusts (EFCT's) partnership with the Center on the Developing Childs Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) is to support the translation of emotional connection and other key innovations in parenting and early childhood among stakeholders in research, program delivery, policy, and philanthropy. Through various FOI project activities, HCDC will: Share results of Family Nurture Intervention in the NICU studies with key stakeholders through inclusion in the FOI Innovation Inventory Broaden support for emotional connection theory/construct through inclusion in FOI reports, webinars, and testing new intervention strategies Elevate the profile and connections of the work of Dr. Martha Welch and the Nurture Science Program at Columbia University
Creating a Global Partnership to Advance Science-Based Innovation and Learning through Play (2016-2019)
Through deep engagement with the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (the Center), the LEGO Foundation can be at the forefront of the ECD field, supporting and learning from the Centers cutting edge approach, which uses science to improve practice, evaluation and outcomes for young children and their families. At the same time, the Foundation will support the Center in developing play as a new area of focus that will center on the impact of play, whole child development and skills that are important for lifelong learning. This new focus will likely have important implications for the Foundations advocacy efforts in the ECD sector. At its heart, this is about the development and application of a rigorous, science-based framework for designing, testing, and evaluating new play-based strategies to improve child outcomes and achieve impact at scale. The partnership will pursue two main goals: (1) To increase the presence of play in the ECD sector; and (2) To improve ECD outcomes by linking practice and science. The work will both advance each organisations Theory of Change, and it will produce a combined impact greater than either organisation could have achieved alone. There is a current need within the early childhood sector to understand and use science in order to develop, test, and measure new approaches to learning through play. This project is well suited to contribute to this need by not only sharing the latest science regarding child development and play but also building the capacity of selected programs to refine, systematize, and scale the TSM model for sector-level influence world-wide. Together, The LEGO Foundation and the Center will enable pilot organizations to develop innovative science-based projects that are shareable and can catalyze further practice that builds 21st Century skills. The partnership aims at expanding and deepening understanding the role of play in development, particularly by understanding the link between play, coping and resilience and has the potential to broadly influence other initiatives within The Foundation. In particular, initiatives that focus on children and families experiencing high levels of stress will benefit from knowledge about the relationship between play and coping that can directly influence their work on the ground. Additionally, the partnership will both build and share evidence to explain the value of play with the LEGO Foundation Center on Creativity, Play and Learning, the Play Futures Network and the broader community. In sharing knowledge either through the Center webpage, communication materials generated from the project, and speaking engagements with Jack Shonkoff and Center Staff, the partnership is also driving our advocacy message regarding the importance of play.
General operating support for the Center on the Developing Child (2016-2017)
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
The Center on the Developing Childs mission is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. The Centers work is conducted through carefully curated networks of collaborating practitioners, researchers, policymakers, parents, and philanthropists who are leveraging science to catalyze the development of new strategies to produce greater impacts at scale. Central to this work is the Centers ability to synthesize, translate, and communicate the science of early childhood development and its underlying neurobiology for the policy, practice, and philanthropic communities. The Center has developed a three-stage knowledge transfer process: (1) Knowledge Synthesis (2) Knowledge Translation and (3) Knowledge Communication. Building on our work to date, the Centers overarching objective for the next year is to maximize our reach and impact by: Convening groups of scientists and communications experts 2-3 times to continue synthesizing the knowledge base, distilling key principles, and fueling the Centers knowledge translation enterprise. Developing new multimedia and interactive products that translate this cutting-edge science into simple concepts to inform decision-making in policy and practice. Continuing to enhance the Centers redesigned website by conducting usability testing and improving navigation and functionality, as well as exploring new platforms to connect and support a growing community of innovators interested in using science to catalyze new thinking and action. Developing new multimedia content that showcases examples of innovators turning science into action, highlights innovative ideas in practice, and depicts the stages of the science-based innovation process.
General operating support for the Center on the Developing Child (2016-2017)
Early childhood is a time of both great promise and considerable risk. Assuring the availability of responsive relationships, growth-promoting experiences, and healthy environments for all young children helps build sturdy brain architecture and the foundations of resilience. Significant disadvantages can disrupt the developmental process and lead to limited economic and social mobility that threatens the vitality, productivity, and sustainability of society. The frontiers of 21st-century science are a relatively untapped source of fresh thinking that could be used to address the challenges of dealing with such threats by catalyzing more effective policies and services in the early years of life. To that end, the mission of the Center on the Developing Child is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. The most striking missing piece in the fields of early childhood intervention and poverty reduction is the absence of a dynamic R&D (research and development) dimension to support the design and testing of new strategies to produce substantially larger impacts. While most leaders in the field focus on the delivery of best practices today, others need to invest in the development and scaling of more effective solutions for tomorrow. Many seek improvements. We seek breakthroughs. The vision that drives our Center demands that we embrace new ways of thinking, working, and leading. Science as a different way of thinking. Instead of basing decisions solely on evaluations of programs developed in the past, we view advances in science as a remarkable resource for generating and testing new ideas Innovation as a different way of working. To counter the slow-changing nature of policy and service delivery, we need to embrace risk-taking, catalyze creative thinking, promote short-cycle sharing, learn quickly from failure, support continuous adaptation, and reject uncritical loyalty to existing programs or strategies. Distributed leadership as a way of creating change. Leadership for a successful movement can be best achieved through the collective action of people and organizations that are aligned around a common vision and able to work creatively across disciplines and sectors. We define these change agents practitioners, policymakers, civic leaders, researchers, and investors by their constructive dissatisfaction with the magnitude of the impacts of current best practices, their positioning within their field, and their determination to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Our value proposition is to create a platform that makes significant change happen and a landscape that demands it. Over the last three years, we have engaged an eager community of thinkers and doers across sectors and disciplines who are ready to build an R&D dimension for the field, and our Center is well-positioned and prepared to be the backbone organization to lead this collective effort.
Creating Materials for Early Childhood Practitioners to Strengthen the Executive Function Skills of the Adults Who Care for Young Children (2016-2017)
Bezos Family Foundation
The work of HCDCs Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) community is guided by a core theory of change that the achievement of breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity requires transforming the lives of the adults who care for them. Extensive research in neurobiology and the developmental sciences indicates that adult caregivers hold the key to improving child outcomes, especially in the early years when the foundations of self-regulation and executive function skills are strengthened through responsive, serve and return interactions between children and their parents (as well as with other adults). The development of these capacities in young children depends on the capabilities of their caregivers to engage in age-appropriate interactions, model and support the early development of self-regulation and executive functioning skills, and provide a stable, secure environment. These adult capabilities are essential for buffering children from sources of toxic stress, as well as for scaffolding the development of their own coping skills, which promote early learning in the face of adversity. This project would enable HCDC to co-develop and test new materials designed to support practitioners in a variety of fields that affect young children and their families to strengthen the capacities of caregivers in a variety of ways. Specifically to: 1) collaborate with Crittenton Womens Union (CWU) to create video resources that demonstrate its family skill-building model as a means of building adult capabilities to improve child outcomes; 2) create an initial set of materials for practitioners and leaders of family service-provision systems to be used with caregivers to improve serve-and-return interaction as well as self-regulation and executive function skills; and 3) test these materials as part of a qualitative needs assessment of practitioners who wish to build the capabilities of adults who care for children birth-to-five, with an emphasis on birth-to-three.
Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) (2016-2017)
Tikun Olam Foundation
The Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative was launched in 2011 to accelerate the development and adoption of a diverse portfolio of science-based innovations to achieve greater impacts than usual practice. Over the past year, the leadership team has advanced this agenda by developing a rigorous but flexible translational science model that supports teams of researchers, practitioners, community members, and parents in identifying unmet needs and co-developing creative, new strategies to address them. The FOI target population includes young children and families whose life prospects are compromised by adversity related to economic hardship and limited parent education, with or without a variety of additional sources of excessive stress such as child maltreatment, maternal depression, parental substance abuse, family violence, and racial and ethnic discrimination. The FOI network extends across the United States and Canada, with a recent expansion that includes new partners in Mexico and Brazil. The need we are addressing is the absence of an active R&D platform in the early childhood field (particularly in the first three years after birth) to confront the longstanding over-reliance on evidence-based programs that produce statistically significant but small magnitude impacts rather than a balanced agenda that includes the design and testing of innovative strategies that are aiming for substantially larger impacts at scale. The ultimate goal is to create a replicable and scalable model for building the capacity of a growing number of change agents (both at Harvard and in the field) to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity. The grant from the Tikun Olam Foundation will support our ability to build on lessons learned over the past four years and launch a new FOI project team to design, test, and evaluate another innovative intervention strategy.
Support for fostering the development of breakthrough innovations for poverty alleviation (2016-2016)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Fostering the development of breakthrough innovations for poverty alleviation (2016-2016)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Creating an R&D platform within a landscape that supports new ideas adds a critical dimension to the early childhood field that no peer-reviewed journals, government reports, websites, organizations, or professional meetings have ever provideda continuously available safe place in which innovators can take risks and learn from each other through rapid-cycle sharing of both successes and failures. We are creating a model to do just that through our Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative by embracing three core principles: science as a different way of thinking, innovation as a different way of working, and distributed leadership as prerequisite to collective change. Building on previous grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we will continue to develop the Centers capacity to create this dynamic landscape, and actively support the development of new approaches within it.
Alliance for Early Success (2015-2017)
Alliance for Early Success
It is our goal to continue to broaden understanding and application of the scientific knowledge base by practitioners and policymakers to help inform decision-making and new interventions grounded in science.
Frontiers of Innovation Initiative (2015-2015)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
We believe that unprecedented reductions in school failure, economic insecurity, criminal behavior, and chronic disease can be produced through a new way of thinking fueled by 21st century science; a new way of working that embraces creative risk-taking; and a new type of leadership across multiple fields that is driven by constructive dissatisfaction with modest, incremental change. The Center on the Developing Child is particularly concerned about the needs of children who face the cumulative burdens of poverty, maltreatment, violence, racial and ethnic discrimination, and family mental illness. This grant supports core operating support to advance the work of the Frontiers of Innovation initiative, specifically focused on the following core areas of work to be undertaken during the grant period: FOI is building significant capacity to develop a model and infrastructure to support intervention development and evaluation that allows FOI partners with hypotheses about how to improve outcomes for young children, to develop and test these ideas through scientific methods to help us understand better what's working, how it's working, and for whom. A critical foundation of our R&D Platform, this translational science process builds the capacity of on-the-ground project teams made up of practitioners, researchers and model developers to ensure high-quality implementation and evaluation of science-based strategies. This team is creating the centralized capacity for facilitating and supporting the development of (a) new interventions strategies and materials, (b) highly precise theories of change associated with these interventions, and (c) measurement and evaluation of both child and caregiver outcomes that is closely tied to the theories within individual pilots and across the entire portfolio. The team provides technical assistance to FOI partners to ensure the consistent development, implementation and evaluation of science-based strategies to promote cumulative learning across the FOI network.
Science-based Innovation to Improve Child Outcomes in a Global Context (2015-2018)
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard (HCDC) has developed an evolving theory of change which proposes that in order to achieve significantly greater impacts on the learning capacity, health, and economic and social mobility of disadvantaged, young children we must transform the lives of the adults who care for them. With this objective in mind, growing evidence indicates that both effective parenting and economic self-sufficiency depend on the critical importance of executive function and self-regulation skills. These capabilities are often referred to as life skills as they enable adults across the socioeconomic spectrum to care for themselves and their children, manage households, seek and maintain employment or other economic activities, achieve financial self-sufficiency and social stability, and participate as contributing members of a mutually supportive and sustainable community. The foundational nature of these capabilities and their prolonged period of development provide a promising focus for creative thinking about new, intergenerational strategies. Our theory of change hypothesizes that building caregivers capacities in these domains will lead to breakthrough improvements in their childrens development and ultimately reduce the cycles of poverty, disease, violence, and trauma that have such profound consequences for societies across the globe. Over the past three years, the Center has been pursuing this mission by creating an R&D platform in North America under the auspices of the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative. This effort is spawning a network of incubators that are driving the design and testing of new intervention strategies and building a learning community that is connecting highly motivated people and organizations to accelerate the pace of science-informed innovation. This movement has engaged a diverse group of leaders across sectors, communities, and professions who are eager to work together in the pursuit of transformative change. Drawing on our experience in North America, HCDC is eager to help build a broader movement to achieve breakthrough outcomes for children around the world. Together with partner organizations on the ground, the Center proposes to create innovation incubators in Brazil and Mexico.
Core Support for the Center on the Developing Child (2015-2017)
Buffett Early Childhood Fund
Our mission for the next decade is to leverage the power of rapidly advancing knowledge to drive science-based innovation that achieves substantially better outcomes than the best of what the field has been able to accomplish to date. In order to pursue that mission, The Center on the Developing Child, in response to the Buffett Early Childhood Foundations invitation to request continuing core support over the next two years, will focus on the following list of six selected examples of work that will be done in as a result of core support: 1.Producing a core story of innovation that provides a clear and compelling description of the process and goals that drive our science-based innovation agenda. 2.Expanding the Centers capacity to help motivated programs and innovation clusters to design, implement, and evaluate new, science-based, intervention strategies. 3.Launching 3-5 new Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) clusters over the next three years. 4.Hiring a new Director of Leadership Initiatives and Programs. 5.Producing a core document (and associated products for broad distribution) about the essential capabilities needed by adults to succeed as parents and wage-earners. 6.Continued Rapid Response for the Alliance for Early Success.
Research Network on Toxic Stress and Health (2015-2017)
A growing body of evidence indicates that children who experience significant adversity are at increased risk for lifelong programs in learning, behavior, and health. This compelling knowledge base underscores three significant, unmet needs: (1) valid and reliable biological and bio-behavioral measures (or biomarkers) of toxic stress to identify children who are at higher risk of chronic disease in adulthood; (2) more effective intervention strategies to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the long-term health consequences of significant adversity in early childhood; and (3) biomarkers that are sensitive to change and can thus be used to assess the short-term and medium-term effects of intervention strategies whose ultimate impacts on physical and mental health may not be apparent until decades later. The proposed Research Network is committed to reducing the prevalence of lifelong health impairments caused by toxic stress in early childhood. Our approach to achieving this goal focuses on three objectives: (1) to develop a reliable, predictive panel of biomarkers (including both biological and bio-behavioral measures) that can identify children, youth, and parents showing evidence of toxic stress, and that can be collected in pediatric primary care settings; (2) to conduct basic, animal and human research on critical periods in development and individual differences in stress susceptibility, thereby informing the timing and design of a suite of new interventions that address the roots of stress-related diseases early in the life cycle; and (3) to build a strong, community-based infrastructure through which scientists, practitioners, parents, and community leaders can apply new scientific insights and innovative measures to the development of more effective interventions in the first three postnatal years.
Saving Brains Platform (2015-2016)
Grand Challenges Canada
The Saving Brains Platform developed under auspices of Grand Challenges Canada has four functions: 1. To Create a learning community centered on a shared theory of change and a common metrics and evaluation framework, which together will help ensure shared understanding of causal pathways and shared measurement of progress. 2. To Provide leadership development for key actors within the Saving Brains community to support their ability to lead large-scale systems change necessary to create and sustain innovation at scale. 3. To Foster private sector engagement as a critical aspect to achieve the desired level of scale and impact for Saving Brains 4. To Develop technology systems that are aligned with shared metrics and can support system change within large institutions. As part of the Saving Brains Platform Team, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC) is carrying out a scope of work in relation to the Grand Challenges Canadas main goals for the Saving Brains Platform to engage with, accelerate and track the impact of the Saving Brains community of innovators. 1. Enabling individual projects within Saving Brains to achieve maximum impact 2. Collecting lessons and best practices arising from the Saving Brains Community to improve success of the SB innovations and to inform the wider community of learning 3. Tracking and disseminating the individual and collective impact of Saving Brains innovations within the community and to relevant external stakeholders
Planning Grant Proposal to the LEGO Foundation (2015-2015)
The purpose of this grant from the LEGO Foundation is to initiate planning and concept development in two areas of mutually agreed interest forming a working group on playful learning and developing more effective measures of plays impact on developmental outcomes as the two organizations continue to shape a longer term collaborative agreement. Activities include 1. Synthesizing and apply cutting-edge, scientific knowledge about how play catalyzes early learning, creative thinking, and the building blocks of resilience in young children. 2. Creating a core battery of developmental, behavioral, and biological measures of play and its impacts that can be used across domains and contexts.
Frontiers of Innovation (2015-2016)
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Our core theory of change is that significantly improved outcomes for children facing adversity require transforming the lives of their parents and the environments in which they live. To achieve this goal, FOI practitioners and researchers are co-designing and testing new intervention strategies in collaboration with families receiving services. In addition to this cocreation model, we are eager to better understand how to work with and improve the contexts in which families live. The extensive expertise of RWJF in building community capacity to promote health provides a rich opportunity to inform the thinking and work of the FOI community as it grows. We see immense potential for reciprocal learning between the Center and Foundation as we embark on these efforts with similar goals and complementary methods.
Center on the Developing Child: Frontiers of Innovation (2015-2017)
Bezos Family Foundation
Our ultimate goal is meaningful change in policy and practice that produces substantially larger impacts than current best practices on the learning capacity, health, and future economic and social mobility of vulnerable young children. We aim to catalyze a new era in early childhood investment that mobilizes science to stimulate fresh thinking. We are particularly concerned about the needs of children who face the cumulative burdens of poverty, maltreatment, violence, racial and ethnic discrimination, and family mental illness. The signature feature of Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) is its commitment to the ongoing construction and testing of enhanced theories of change that are grounded in science and drive the design of new, explicit strategies focused on specific causal mechanisms to produce breakthrough gains on important outcomes. These new theories of change are informed by advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics, with a particular focus on the science of adversity and resilience. New ideas and testable hypotheses that are generated from these theories are combined with the experiences and ideas of those working directly with children and families in the field, thereby leading to the co-design of new intervention strategies. Mining the most current science to continuously search for ideas that can inform advances in policy and practice is critical to this work, and is a foundational piece of our knowledge pipeline. In collaboration with a broad network of people and organizations across North America, FOI is catalyzing the co-design, testing, and targeted scaling of a growing portfolio of science-based intervention strategies to produce breakthrough outcomes for young children facing adversity. This initiative is driven by two core elements that are essential to achieving our vision of significantly larger impacts than current best practice: (1) a core knowledge base that combines insights from advances in science, sophisticated program evaluation, and on-the-ground experience; and (2) a culture of innovation that adapts proven methods from the private sector to promote entrepreneurial thinking, responsible risk-taking, and fast-cycle learning. To build upon the accomplishments made possible by our previous grant from the Bezos Family Foundation, we are seeking continued funding to seed and expand additional, promising new ideas as well as provide core support for the Center on the Developing Child that can be earmarked for key personnel expenses and essential infrastructure costs to sustain operations.
Brain Architecture Game Development (2015-2016)
The Center on the Developing Child is pleased to participate in the collaborative effort to refine, test, and produce professionally crafted sets of the Brain Architecture game, ready to be played in large- or small-group settings. Our role will be to advise on the games scientific accuracy, the alignment of its messages with the Centers model of connecting well-framed science to policy and practice, its overall quality, and to ensure that use of the Harvard and Center brands conforms to standards.
Support to design and test combined early childhood and adult economic mobility programs (2015-2015)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Current efforts to improve quality, enhance access, and build stronger systems of services for vulnerable children are important; but they alone are unlikely to fully close the gaps in learning and health that are caused by significant adversity in early childhood. These efforts must be supplemented by a dynamic research and development dimension that supports the design and testing of new ideas. In addition to the need for an innovation approach to this work, we believe that traditional programs have been limited in achieving desired outcomes due to their focus on one generation: either the child or the parent. Representatives from Nurtury (formerly Associated Early Care and Education), Crittenton Womens Union (CWU), and the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) an initiative within the Center on Developing Child at Harvard University are working together to create a seamless, scalable, intergenerational strategy to generate much greater impacts than either could produce alone. Our approach to designing and testing this new strategy is thoughtful and intentional. The early education expertise of Nurtury will build on CWUs model for adult goal setting and coaching to develop a hybridized strategy that supports the family as a unit to set and attain personalized educational, financial and career-related goals intended to lead them out of poverty. This strategy will be explored through small pilots early on, incorporating feedback from families and front line staff before larger scale testing. Using this rapid cycle of design-test-iterate, an idea is developed by a group of experts and key stakeholders, piloted in a real world setting, refined, and tested again with a larger group, thereby creating an accelerated method to prepare for scale up at a population level.
The Awareness of the Impact of Toxic Stress on Healthy Development (2015-2015)
Agency of Healthcare Administration
The purpose of the Agency for Health Care Administration contract to Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention (FSU Center) is to transition the infant and early childhood mental health knowledge, especially the impact of trauma on children, gained over the past decade into Floridas Medicaid managed care system. This contract gives FSU Center an opportunity to work with health care experts to develop technical assistance materials to promote early social and emotional development in young children and to address the impact of trauma on vulnerable children. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC) has the unique and varied expertise in the areas toxic stress, trauma, and infant and early childhood mental health that is needed to develop technical assistance materials for the Florida MMA health plans and their network of providers. As such, HCDC is modifying the Washington Interagency Initiative Modules it has created based on the FSU Center specification and creating an approximately five-minute Video In Brief: Early Childhood Mental Health related to infant and early childhood mental health.
Center on the Developing Child: Frontiers of Innovation Initiative in Washington State (2014-2017)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Persistent disparities in educational achievement and lifelong health as a result of significant adversity early in life impose enormous burdens on individuals, communities, and societies. The costs of these gaps (most commonly associated with low income, limited education, and minority group status) are reflected in higher school dropout rates, lower economic productivity, decreased social mobility, increased need for medical services, and higher rates of incarceration. The Center on the Developing Childs Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative hypothesizes that significantly improved outcomes for children facing adversity requires transforming the lives of their parents and the environments in which they live. To achieve this goal FOI practitioners and researchers are co-designing and testing new intervention strategies in collaboration with families receiving services, particularly focused on improving the caregiving environment by strengthening the executive functioning, self-regulation skills and mental health of parents and providers. Complementing the expansion of access to programs that have been shown to improve outcomes, we are deeply invested in learning from interventions that fail to produce significant impacts and providing a platform for designing, testing, and scaling a suite of new strategies that achieve substantially larger population-level impacts by addressing distinctive strengths and needs of different subgroups. Building upon the strong infrastructure, favorable climate for innovation, and FOI work-to-date in Washington state, it is clear that among the initial cohort of emerging FOI innovation clusters, Washington state represents the leading edge and is poised to accelerate innovation across sectors as we begin this next phase of work. This grant supports two complementary streams of work that contribute to achieving the mission described above. First, it supports creating a policy climate in Washington where decision makers understand and apply the science of early childhood development, specifically around adversity and resilience, to allocate resources and implement policies in a way that optimally supports healthy child development. Second, the grant supports the continued growth and development of a dynamic innovation cluster in Washington that is creating and testing new strategies to improve outcomes for young children and families. The clusters work will produce strategies that have been tested, refined, shared, and taken up by other programs and state agencies. Investing in these two interrelated efforts simultaneously provides a mutually reinforcing context that encourages science-based innovation while feeding the results and lessons learned from pilot tests to the systems level for scale and replication.
An Investment Opportunity at the Scientific Frontiers of Early Childhood Health and Development (2014-2017)
Support for fostering the development and deployment of breakthrough innovations and strategies for poverty alleviation through the Frontiers of Innovation initiative (2014-2015)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Scope of this project is to: - Provide seed funding and support pilot implementation of ideas resulting from the June 2014 design workshop on improving outcomes for babies in foster care; - Launch pilots of co-designed strategies for working collaboratively with parents in creating daily, regularized family routines in four sites and evaluate executive function skills, child development, child literacy and parental stress levels of participants pre-, during, and post-intervention; - Build a core group of leaders to help set the strategic direction for Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) and take on leadership for parts of the portfolio; - With Phil Fisher at the University of Oregon and Holly Schindler at the University of Washington develop a measurement and data collection framework and infrastructure in order to collect data from FOI-sponsored pilots and increase cross-site and cross-strategy learning; Organize Building Adult Capabilities Working Group to identify, measure and develop strategies related to executive function and emotional regulation for adults facing high levels of adversity and produce summary report in the fall of 2014 that reviews the knowledge base in this area and implications for intervention, including approaches that impact two generations.
Enhancing the Centers Communications Capacity, Products, and Platforms for Science-Based Knowledge Dissemination (2014-2017)
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will provide core anchor funding for the Center to bring its communications capacity to the next level. By combining an uncompromising focus on scientific credibility and empirically validated communications with a new drive toward innovation, the Centers aim is to create a dynamic platform for shaping a climate that demands new ideas that achieve breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. The Center will build on the well-established track record of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, the immediate groundswell of excitement and participation in our three-year-old Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative, the exponential growth in demand for our communications products and presentations, and successful experimentation with new media and technology through the following strategies: Convene scientists and scholars to synthesize cutting-edge science and mine it for new insights that could catalyze fresh thinking about policies and programs. Conduct and apply communications research to effectively translate science into language and stories that lead to changes in policy and practice. Produce and disseminate translated content about both science and innovation in multiple forms to spark new ideas and help build a climate in which innovators and early adopters will find support for their work and for constructive dissatisfaction with the status quo. Engage with media and public audiences focused on relevant policy, practice, and community issues to build greater understanding and support for science-based innovation that achieve breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.
Frontiers of Innovation, Detroit (2014-2014)
The Skillman Foundation
The Harvard Center on the Developing Child (Harvard Center) will work as a partner with Center for Social Science Policy (CSSP) in helping the Skillman Foundation and other Detroit organizations develop a plan for the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) Leadership initiative. Specifically, the Harvard Center will, with CSSP: Help prepare materials to share with potential funders for this initiative, and participate in meetings with funders; Help plan a design day to be held with local leaders in Detroit to further develop the desired results, format and content of the Fellowship initiative; Set forth a longer range plan for the Fellowship program and a financing strategy to accompany the plan; and Specify the roles that the Harvard Center and CSSP will play and how these will be staffed.
Planning Grant to Establish a Research Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health (2013-2014)
A growing body of empirical evidence indicates that significant adversity during childhood (e.g., from abuse or neglect, exposure to violence, deep and persistent poverty, and/or the cumulative burdens of racial or ethnic discrimination) can contribute to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and chronic health impairments such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes cancer, and depression, among many others. Science also tells us that the later we wait to address the needs of vulnerable children the more challenging it will be to improve their life outcomes, particularly for those who experience physiological disruptions from the wear and tear effects of over-activated stress response systems (toxic stress). The ultimate goal of the project is to lower barriers to opportunity by improving the health of children who are experiencing excessive adversity. The beneficiaries include both the children whose lives are enhanced and the society that will reap the fruits of a healthier and more productive adult population. The project entails two parallel, exploratory meetings of scientists and practitioners separately, followed by a third convening of a selected subset of each constituency that would serve as an initial core for the envisioned consortium. Recognizing that priorities for both laboratory-based investigation and community-based action are determined by the meeting participants, a preliminary menu of potential topics includes the following: 1) Advancing the frontiers of scientific research: construct a developmental framework to study the differential effects of biological embedding of significant adversity related to age, beginning in the prenatal period and extending into adulthood. investigate the wear and tear impacts of cumulative stress activation over time in contrast to the distinctive effects of specific adversities during sensitive or critical periods in the development of different biological structures and functions. push the boundaries of research on neuroplasticity and explore hypotheses about the possibilities of reopening critical periods that are currently viewed as immutable. explore multiple biological responses to chronic stress (e.g. elevated inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and increased insulin resistance) to elucidate causal mechanisms of adult diseases that are associated with adverse childhood experiences. seek greater insights in the domains of gene- environment interaction to advance our understanding of individual differences in vulnerability and resilience. 2) Advancing the frontiers of preventive intervention: create a network of community-based settings that are well positioned to serve as laboratories for translating insights from basic science into innovative approaches to the provision of primary health care for children experiencing significant adversity. formulate new theories of change to catalyze more effective intervention strategies to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the adverse consequences of toxic stress in children. design and test promising new approaches in a diversity of community settings. 3) Mastering the complex challenges of measuring toxic stress by capitalizing on the intellectual strengths and practical experiences of a collaborating network of scientists and practitioners: generate a rigorous battery of metrics that reflects both cutting-edge scientific thinking and pragmatic implementation considerations. leverage both animal and human studies, while paying careful attention to the benefits of what can be studied in animals only and the caveats against unwarranted generalizations and inappropriate applications to human health and development.
Frontiers of Innovation Initiative (2013-2013)
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Proposal for "A Better Start" Program (2013-2014)
Big Lottery Fund UK
General Operating Support for Expanding the Center's Capacity to Communicate the Science of Early Childhood Education (2013-2014)
Child Welfare Fund
A remarkable explosion of new knowledge about the developing brain and human genome, linked to advances in the behavioral and social sciences, tells us that early experiences are built into our bodies and that early childhood is a time of both great promise and considerable risk. What is it about poverty, maltreatment, and discrimination that gets under the skin and affects a lifetime of learning, behavior, and health? What can breakthroughs in neuroscience and molecular biology teach practitioners and policy makers about how to promote the early foundations of academic achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, and successful parenting of the next generation? These are the kinds of questions that drive the work of the Center on the Developing Child (CDC) at Harvard. Science does not speak for itself in the worlds of policy and practice. If we wish to promote sound investments in young children and their families based on the best available knowledge, then current advances in the biological and social sciences must be translated into accessible language that overcomes existing misconceptions and other barriers to understanding. To inform both constructive public discourse and effective intervention strategies, these translated findings must then be communicated through a variety of media and formats that provide a wide range of entrance points for multiple audiences. With these concepts in mind, the Center employs the following three-stage process: Knowledge Synthesis a critical analysis of cutting-edge science and program evaluation research to identify core concepts and evidence-based findings that are broadly accepted by the scientific community. Knowledge Translation the identification of gaps in understanding between scientists and the public, and the development of effective language to communicate accurate scientific information in a way that can inform constructive discourse and sound decision making. Knowledge Communication the production and dissemination of a wide variety of publications and educational media via print, the Web, and in-person presentations to policy makers, civic leaders, and practitioners in our role as knowledge brokers (in contrast to partisan advocates). This substantial investment in knowledge translation as well as public engagement is a signature characteristic that distinguishes the Center on the Developing Child. In keeping with our rapidly growing innovation agenda, the Center must continue to explore new ways of using a variety of media and advanced technologies to catalyze creative thinking across disciplines and sectors, to support the design and testing of more effective interventions, and to disseminate our findings in a way that transforms the policy and practice climate, both in the United States and globally. Support from the Child Welfare Fund is used to accelerate the production of web, multimedia, and print content that explain: (1) the science of early childhood development; (2) the impact of that science on current best practices in policy and practice; and (3) the work of our Frontiers of Innovation community to produce significantly greater outcomes for vulnerable, young children. CDC employs multiple media to address the following four inter-related objectives: (1) tell the story of innovation in policy and practice; (2) support creative strategies to facilitate virtual collaboration among learning communities across the nation; (3) achieve broader dissemination via social media; and (4) explore options to contract with freelance content producers and creators.
Collaborative Research Agenda: Center on the Developing Child and University of WA I-LABS (2013-2015)
Bezos Family Foundation
Previous research typically compares bilingual to monolingual individuals and often in one of the two languages spoken by bilinguals. It is likely that bilingual samples are inherently more heterogeneous, compared to monolingual samples, particularly in language performance. Recognizing the diversity in bilingual populations, beyond English proficiency, is imperative for gaining a comprehensive understanding of language and cognition in emerging or fluent bilinguals. Furthermore, previous research generally focused on documenting bilingual childrens language or cognitive abilities, but rarely both. Often, most of the language assessments are administered in English, usually a second or non-native language of bilingual children. Particularly for emerging bilinguals, language assessments alone may not reflect meaningful information about a childs learning potential. In education settings that are linguistically diverse, it is challenging to assess language competency in all represented heritage languages. One possibility is to assess cognitive ability with measures that rely on minimal language processing beyond comprehension of the instructions in childrens preferred home, or heritage, language. The present study was designed (1) to evaluate the relationship between home language environment, executive functions, and pre-literacy skills in Spanish-English bilingual preschoolers; (2) to test the feasibility of the language and background questionnaires for parents.
Building Community Partnerships to Address the Roots of Racial and Ethnic Disparities (2013-2014)
William K. Kellogg Foundation
Buffett Early Childhood Fund (2013-2015)
Buffett Early Childhood Fund
The Buffett Early Childhood Fund supports the Forum, Council, and general operations of the Center of the Developing Child.
Drawing on the Advances in Science to Drive Innovation in Early Childhood Policy and Practice (2013-2014)
Early education and care (EEC) providers play an essential role in facilitating young childrens development. As a result, early childhood quality improvement efforts often include attention to educator competencies such as instruction and relationship quality. Yet, these efforts have placed little emphasis on an essential set of skills EEC providers capacities for social, emotional, and cognitive regulation. These skills, including stress management, coping and emotional regulation, and relationship-building, influence educators instructional and classroom practices and therefore childrens outcomes. Self-regulatory skills are needed by everyone who works with young children, and early childhood educators have stressful jobs under the best of conditions. But this stress is magnified in vulnerable communities, because young children living with the adversities of poverty exhibit more behavior problems, on average, than their peers (Evans et al.,2004; Gunnar, 2000). In these same settings, early childhood educators often face significant personal stresses. For example, research has found moderate to high rates of depression among Head Start staff (HHS/ACF/OPRE, 2006) and 61% of full-time early childhood staff earn roughly the equivalent of the poverty level income for a family of four (U.S. GAO, 2012). It is not surprising, then, that high rates of off-task behavior and cycles of negative interactions among adults and children are common in EEC settings in disadvantaged communities (Raver, 2004). In such circumstances, a negative feedback loop can emerge in which stressed, dysregulated children and chaotic environments strain EEC providers, interrupting their interactions with children and hindering their ability to manage behavior, cope with challenges, and provide high quality instruction. This cycle may help to explain alarmingly high rates of behavior problems and even expulsions among preschoolers and kindergarteners (Gilliam, 2005; Gilliam & Shahar, 2006). To break this cycle, this project aims to build EEC providers self-regulatory skills, including emotional regulation, stress management, executive functioning, and ability to communicate calmly and warmly with children, in order to support the high quality interactions and skill modeling that support childrens self-regulation. An intervention in which project staff work with EEC providers at one Boston site to help them understand and work toward strong self-regulation will be developed and implemented. The intervention will include reflective exercises, discussion, case studies, video, and other interactive strategies that have been shown to be effective. An intervention focused on providers self-regulation could improve the learning environment through a two-fold process: first, by increasing providers' awareness of their own reactions to stressors, and second, by strengthening their abilities to manage their classrooms and develop students own self-regulatory capacities. The expected result is that EEC providers improved self-regulation will affect individual students and also the overall classroom climate, or the dynamic relationships among students, teachers, and peers (Pianta & Hamre, 2009), such that an entire classroom of students could be shifted toward cycles of greater self-regulation. To build EEC providers self-regulatory capacity, several opportunities within the EEC setting will be harnessed. These include providers deep knowledge from the field, the chance to get ongoing feedback and input from providers, and the chance to develop and test new strategies in real time.
Leveraging the FOI Community to Build an Innovation System in Washington (2012-2014)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) Initiative is the leading edge of the Centers commitment to stimulate new thinking in early childhood policy and practice. The FOI community now includes more than 400 active members from across North America. Its purpose is to galvanize the field by stimulating creativity, supporting experimentation, and learning from failure. To this end, FOI views current best practices as a promising starting point, not a final destination. Its aim is to catalyze substantially greater impacts on the lives of young children whose needs are not being addressed adequately by existing programs. Its strategy draws on advances in the biological, behavioral, and social sciences to: (1) identify causal mechanisms that influence developmental trajectories; (2) formulate theories of change about how to produce better outcomes; and (3) design and test new intervention approaches and measure their effectiveness in reducing barriers to learning and strengthening the foundations of lifelong physical and mental health. Over the course of this grant, FOI: (1) is producing professional development materials to help staff representing multiple state agencies better understand the basic science of child development generally and the promotion of executive function and self-regulation skills more specifically; (2) is supporting the creation of small learning communities, building on existing relationships at the site and policy level and connecting to other learning communities across North America; (3) is supporting the Washington cross-agency working group to sustain its current gains and momentum during the upcoming executive branch transition in January and to share lessons learned with the broader national FOI community of states and Canadian provinces; and (4) is beginning conversations with stakeholders at the community level to explore mutual interests and is beginning to chart a path toward enhanced collaboration within the state. The FOI community is driven by constructive dissatisfaction with the status quo combined with the conviction that we can and must do better. Although quality improvements in existing programs and system-building efforts to coordinate services and enhance access are clearly important, they are unlikely to be enough to produce breakthrough impacts for children who face the cumulative burdens of low family income, limited parent education, and social exclusion. Those efforts must be supplemented by strategies linked to knowledge-based theories of change and a new generation of programs, communities, and states that are willing to co-design and test new approaches that will play a critical role in creating the future of early childhood policy and practice. The signature feature of FOI is its commitment to the ongoing construction of theories of change that are grounded in science and drive the design of explicit strategies focused on specific causal mechanisms to produce breakthrough gains on important outcomes. The intervention models that have been generated in the past year and are currently in various stages of development, implementation, and testing are based on approaches that have been heavily influenced by the biology of adversity. This reflects growing interest in the extent to which excessive activation of stress response systems can lead to disruptions in developing brain architecture that create barriers to learning, as well as impairments in other maturing organs and metabolic regulatory functions that lead to lifelong problems in health.
Translating the Science of Child Development in Brazil (2012-2014)
Bernard van Leer Foundation
Healthy child development is the foundation of strong communities, economic prosperity, and a just society. Núcleo Ciência Pela Infância (NCPI) seeks to leverage scientific knowledge to inform new strategies that will improve well-being and life outcomes for vulnerable children and support sustainable social and economic development in Brazil. As a collaborative initiative, NCPI draws on the full breadth and depth of intellectual and institutional resources at five leading partner organizations: Fundação Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal (FMCSV), the Medical School at the University of São Paulo, INSPER, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC), and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. One strategic component of the NCPI program essential to achieving these goals is to conduct systematic and empirical communications research to determine the most effective ways to translate and communicate the science of child development to non-scientific audiences in a Brazilian cultural context. As part of the initial three-year program strategy for NCPI, FWI has worked with FMCSV and HCDC to develop a research plan with two overarching goals: (1) to build the best possible approach to communicating the science of child development in a Brazilian context, and (2) to create local capacity to lead this research effort over the long term in Brazil.
Translating the Science of Child Development in Brazil (2012-2014)
Bernard van Leer Foundation
Healthy child development is the foundation of strong communities, economic prosperity, and a just society. Núcleo Ciência Pela Infância (NCPI) seeks to leverage scientific knowledge to inform new strategies that will improve well-being and life outcomes for vulnerable children and support sustainable social and economic development in Brazil. A body of scientific evidence shows that early experiences affect biological systems that can influence learning, behavior, and health. This revolution in new knowledge about the developing brain and human genome, linked to advances in the behavioral and social sciences, offers new opportunities for more effective strategies to improve outcomes in education, economic development, health, and social welfare. NCPI draws on the full breadth and depth of intellectual and institutional resources at five leading partner organizations: Fundação Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal (FMCSV), the Medical School at the University of São Paulo, INSPER, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (HCDC), and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. NCPI is committed to building a unified science of child development to explain the early roots of lifelong health, learning, and behavior in Brazil;translating and communicating science effectively to inform the public discourse around issues that affect children and families; and preparing leaders to leverage the science of healthy development in the design and implementation of innovative policies and programs that reduce preventable disparities and promote well-being for all Brazilian children. One component of the NCPI program essential to achieving these goals is to conduct systematic and empirical communications research to determine the most effective ways to translate and communicate the science of child development to non-scientific audiences in a Brazil. FMCSV and HCDC are leading the communications research effort on behalf of the NCPI partners. They are working with the FrameWorks Institute (FWI), which has been a long-time strategic partner of HCDC in translating developmental science for non-scientific audiences. FWI is an independent nonprofit research organization that advances the nonprofit sectors communications capacity by identifying, translating and modeling relevant scholarly research for framing the public discourse about social problems. The approach being taken in Brazil is based on the experience that FWI and HCDC have had in translating science for public leaders in the United States. This task of translating the science of early childhood development begins by determining what needs translating, then identifies obstacles to public understanding, and concludes by developing and verifying the impact of simplifying models or metaphors that improve public thinking (e.g. brain architecture, serve and return, and toxic stress). This partnership between FWI and HCDC illustrates how the challenge of science translation can be addressed within a mutually respectful, ongoing, collaborative process in which scientists, communications researchers, and other key stakeholders can become co-producers of a broadly understood yet sophisticated scientific message. When conveyed in a clear and concise story, this can increase the probability that the science will be well understood, repeated accurately, and applied in an informed way to the formulation and implementation of policies and practices that will make a measureable difference in the lives of young children and their families. As part of the initial three-year program strategy for NCPI, FWI has worked with FMCSV and HCDC to develop a research plan with two overarching goals: (1) to build the best possible approach to communicating the science of child development in a Brazilian context, and (2) to create local capacity to lead this research effort over the long term in Brazil.
Early Design and Development Phase of Saving Brains Platform (2012-2014)
Grand Challenges Canada's Saving Brains program has an ambitious goal: to protect the brains of more than 200 million young children worldwide. The strategy pursued to achieve this goal tackles three primary roadblocks: 1. The inability to compare competing approaches to enhance cognitive development in the first thousand days 2. The lack of understanding of the return on investment from interventions to promote human capital formation 3. The lack of technologies and service delivery models that can overcome social, cultural and market barriers, preventing promising interventions from being brought to scale where most needed. In November 2012, Grand Challenges Canada launched an RFP that sought to develop multiple sites in developing countries that are capable of innovating at scale to protect the brain development. However, to really have impact against the problem of 200 million children not achieving their full developmental potential, these sites cannot operate in isolation and Grand Challenges Canada cannot operate alone. Instead, the Saving Brains grantees need to be enabled to share learnings to accelerate progress, and Grand Challenges Canada needs to work with partners who bring distinctive resources and strategies to the child development arena. Even in a single jurisdiction - a state, province or country - no one institution can bring together the scientific, social, technical, behavioral and organizational tools to provide a comprehensive solution at scale to this challenge. And even a coalition of actors cannot be expected to come up with a "silver bullet" solution that will eliminate the need for adaptation and innovation. Rather, to achieve transformative impact requires continuous learning among diverse innovators, both within and across jurisdictions. Grand Challenges Canada has invited the True Point Center in collaboration with the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University to develop the proposed Saving Brains Platform (the "Platform") as a mechanism to enable grantees to share learnings, and for like-minded organizations to work together on scalable and sustainable solutions, in order to transform the future for young children. The Platform needs to be a responsive resource to enable the success of the Saving Brains projects by sharing learning, linking partners and ultimately leveraging resources from multiple partners. Therefore, its design and development needs to be accomplished through engagement with Grand Challenges Canada, its partners and their grantees. The Saving Brains Platform is envisioned to perform four functions: 1. Create a learning community centered on a shared theory of change and a common metrics and evaluation framework, which together help ensure shared understanding of causal pathways and shared measurement of progress. 2. Provide leadership development for key actors within the Saving Brains community to support their ability to lead large-scale systems change necessary to create and sustain innovation at scale. 3. Foster private sector engagement as a critical aspect to achieve the desired level of scale and impact for Saving Brains. 4. Develop technology systems that are aligned with shared metrics and can support system change within large institutions.
Leveraging Science to Advance Early Childhood Policy and Practice (2012-2015)
Alliance for Early Success
The Center on the Developing Child (CDC) is committed to catalyzing a new, science-driven era in early childhood policy and practice to dramatically improve the life prospects of all children, particularly those who face significant adversity. By building, synthesizing, and translating the science of early childhood development and its implications for policy and practice, and by strategically engaging with policymakers and others around the translated knowledge, the Center helps to create a climate of receptivity to new policies, programs, and practices that will further enhance the healthy development of young children. This three-year commitment from the Alliance for Success supports four interrelated streams of work: 1. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council) and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum) as drivers of the content for Center communications products/tools that translate science and research for policy audiences; 2. Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) work with state policymakers, particularly in Washington state, and the synthesis and communication of that works results to other states; 3.Targeted dissemination to state policymakers of Center communications products and materials through CDC's Early Childhood Innovation Partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA); 4. Rapid response to Alliance members requests for presentations, materials, and consultation on applying and communicating the science of early childhood development.
Proposal for Continuing Support of the Innovation Portfolio of the Center on the Developing Child (2012-2012)
Casey Family Programs
To Support and Enhance the Center's Knowledge Translation and Communication Capacity (2011-2014)
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Science does not speak for itself. For policymakers and practitioners to make sound decisions based on the best knowledge available, the implications of recent advances in the biological and social sciences must be translated into accessible language and communicated in a variety of formats to accommodate a wide range of learning styles and preferences for accessing information. To this end, the Center has developed a three-stage knowledge transfer process: (1) Knowledge Synthesis a critical analysis of cutting-edge science and program evaluation research to identify core concepts and evidence-based findings that are broadly accepted by the scientific community; (2) Knowledge Translation the identification of gaps in understanding between scientists and the public, and the development of effective language to communicate accurate scientific information in a way that can inform sound public discourse; and (3) Knowledge Communication the production and dissemination of a wide variety of publications and educational media via print, the Web, and in-person presentations. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation supports the Center as it expands this multidimensional process of knowledge synthesis, translation, and communication. An intensified focus of this endeavor resides in the developmental significance and underlying neurobiology of two critical issues chronic neglect and resilience in the face of adversity. Requested funds will be used to enhance all three phases of the process by supporting the staff infrastructure and associated expenses required for high-quality execution and high-impact products. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council) and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum) work collaboratively in this effort to build a strong foundation of scientific knowledge to inform all aspects of the work. This process begins with the production of an initial draft of a working paper about the developmental impacts of chronic neglect, including a neurobiological perspective on what happens to the brain when it receives limited or inappropriate stimulation, and a discussion of the relevance of this scientific knowledge for rethinking both policy and practice in child protective services. The production of this paper will also be informed by extensive communications research already conducted by the FrameWorks Institute on this topic. In keeping with the Centers mission to provide multiple ways for audiences to access this kind of information, funding support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation underwrites the resources needed not only to support the writing, editing, designing, and printing of a working paper, but also to extend its reach with a 2-page InBrief version of the content, a 3-5 minute video featuring interviews with the authors that is suitable for use on the web or in presentations, and an interactive web feature.
Proposal to Advance the Frontiers of Innovation in Early Childhood Policy and Practice (2011-2014)
Bezos Family Foundation
The overarching goal of this initiative is to improve life outcomes for vulnerable, young children. Our core strategy is to mobilize advances in scientific knowledge to inform the design and implementation of a dynamic framework for a new era in early childhood policy and practice that embraces creativity, invites experimentation, and learns from failure. We view existing best practices as a promising starting point and we are committed to helping the field move above and beyond the current focus on increased quality improvement, enhanced staff development, appropriate measures of accountability, and expanded funding to serve more children and families. Our ultimate aim is to catalyze substantially greater impacts on the lives of young children whose needs are not addressed adequately by existing programs, with a strong emphasis on those who face the cumulative burdens of economic hardship, limited parent education, racial or ethnic discrimination, and other sources of structural inequity. Our signature approach draws on advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and the behavioral and social sciences to inform both the design of testable, new interventions and the measurement of their effectiveness over time. This strategy requires the continuous refinement of new theories of change that are grounded in a growing scientific understanding of the causal mechanisms that explain how early experiences are built into the body and influence lifelong outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health. To this end, our current work plan is focused on three core objectives: (1) To build a dynamic Frontiers of Innovation community composed of scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative individuals who are motivated to engage in the kind of transformational thinking that is needed to break down disciplinary barriers and catalyze significant change in early childhood policy and practice. (2) To create and support an initial network of selected states and community-based sites that are both motivated and prepared to engage in an interactive process of Innovation by Design through piloting creative, new policies and practices, as well as contributing to active, cross-site learning that will be supported by the Early Childhood Innovation Partnership (ECIP) based at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (3) To build and sustain a sophisticated communications infrastructure with the capacity to promote knowledge-based collaboration across the domains of education, health, and a broad range of human services in order to help build more effective systems that are guided by an integrated science of early childhood health and development.
Proposal for Continuing Support of the Innovation Portfolio of the Center on the Developing Child (2011-2011)
Casey Family Foundation
In follow-up to a successful first year of investment by Casey Family Programs (CFP), the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (Center) continues to drive significant innovation in early childhood policy and practice. The overarching goal of this effort is to leverage new knowledge in the service of generating and testing innovative intervention models to produce substantially greater impacts on learning, behavior, and health outcomes than existing programs and policies, particularly for the most disadvantaged children and families. After an intensive one-year strategic planning process, the Center on the Developing Child focuses its efforts on three core areas of greatest potential for impact: (1) reducing developmental barriers to learning; (2) strengthening the early childhood foundations of lifelong physical and mental health; and (3) enhancing the economic and social stability of the environment of relationships in which young children develop. Each of these areas requires different kinds of work in order to effect needed changes along different timelines. In support of this work, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council), the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum), and the FrameWorks Institute (which the Center commissions to execute communications research), each play critically important roles. Working collaboratively, the Council and Forum are building a foundation of current knowledge upon which the ECIP can build its work to catalyze, develop, and test innovative interventions. Both groups play important roles in the critical task of educating policymakers, civic leaders, and the general public about the rapidly growing science of early childhood development and research on the effectiveness factors of interventions. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child is a multi-disciplinary collaboration of 17 scientists and scholars from universities across the U.S. and Canada, which aims to bring the science of early childhood and early brain development to bear on public policy decision-making by synthesizing and communicating science concepts in a meaningful, accessible way. Established in 2003, the Council is committed to an evidence-based approach to building broad-based public will that transcends political partisanship and recognizes the complementary responsibilities of family, community, workplace, and government to promote the well-being of all young children. The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs was established to complement the Councils work by attempting to answer questions about the impacts of investments in early childhood services. This interdisciplinary group of 10 researchers from several universities assesses, interprets, and translates program evaluation research for policymakers, primarily at the state level. Complementing the work of the Council and Forum, and essential to the impact of both in the policy arena, is the Centers longstanding partnership with the FrameWorks Institute to conduct research on effective communication strategies for explaining the science of child development to non-scientists. CFP funding contributes to the initiation of an approximately 18-month investigation focused on how to communicate with policymakers about building resilience, including the concept of buffering experiences and relationships, epigenetics as a process underlying resilience, the cultural and biological components of resilience, and interventions related to both building resilience and addressing the apparent lack of resilience in young children. In addition, the FrameWorks team consults with the ECIP, using previously conducted research as a baseline for discussion on how to effectively communicate the initiatives focus on reducing developmental barriers to learning.
Early Childhood Innovation Partnership (2010-2013)
William K. Kellogg Foundation
The Early Childhood Innovation Project (ECIP) is designed to provide policymakers and service providers guidance on how to augment the impacts of early childhood interventions for children who experience significant adversity related to economic hardship with or without other risk factors, as well as to address the compelling need to redefine the health dimension of this dynamic area of public policy. Building on more than four decades of scientific advances and program experience, the goal of the ECIP is to catalyze transformational thinking in the service of developing and testing new theories of change to guide innovations in policy and programs designed to enhance healthy development and improve the life prospects of vulnerable, young children. To this end, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University is drawing on its existing partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices as well as collaborating with selected scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative thinkers who are motivated to drive significant innovation in the early childhood field. Three thematic areas have emerged as leading candidates for initial attention: (1) re-conceptualizing the health dimension of early childhood policy; (2) formulating and testing more effective strategies to reduce toxic stress in young children through innovative approaches to transforming the lives of their parents; and (3) developing and testing more effective strategies to reduce barriers to early learning, particularly those related to emotional difficulties and behavior problems. The primary beneficiaries of this initiative will be a national population of vulnerable young children whose future life prospects are currently compromised by adversity related to economic hardship and limited parent education, as well as a variety of associated sources of excessive stress such as child maltreatment, maternal depression, parental substance abuse, and family violence, among others.We expect that children who participate in the innovative interventions developed through this project will achieve better long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health in comparison to graduates of existing programs.