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Social Entrepreneurs Offer New Thinking on Old Challenges in Early Childhood

This story originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

For more than half a century, early childhood advocates have worked tirelessly to inform parents and policymakers about the importance of children's early years. This work appears to have paid off: enrollment in publicly-funded pre-k programming has nearly doubled since 2002, and a poll released last week indicates that approximately 9 of 10 likely voters in the United States agree that "the years from birth to 5 are extremely or very important to the learning and development of a child". For the first time, early childhood development and education have been incorporated as targets in the United Nation's international development agenda, with advocates citing young children as the "common basis for all dimensions of sustainable development."

Innovation and the Role of Social Entrepreneurs

Rather than declaring victory, some in the early childhood community have responded to this growing consensus with an increased focus on using innovation to drive more effective policies and programs. "We can and need to do better," says Jack Shonkoff, M.D., director of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. To achieve greater impact for children, says Dr. Shonkoff, "we must think beyond the status quo and provide greater support for the rapid-cycle sharing, iteration, and learning from failure that drive breakthrough change in other fields." A fledgling movement of early childhood scholars, policymakers, and practitioners is heeding this call, experimenting with novel, innovative approaches for funding early childhood services, building caregivers' skills, and identifying children at risk for adversity...

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