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Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN)

A global go-to ECD network that catalyzes, supports and amplifies action to improve children's lives from conception to 5 years.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

The mentorship process was instrumental for bringing clarity to our proposal. It helped us clarify the following: 1. Our Developmental Stage: Change from Early Stage Innovator to New Innovator While "ECDAN" has existed since 2016 and has achieved significant global visibility and momentum, it is still in the very early stages of Scoping & Prototyping its Network Practices to build a successful Platform. This means, we are just beginning to scope how ECDAN will facilitate connections and impactful exchange amongst its diverse membership. This will require a series of small bets and experiments with our members both in-person and online, using strategies like surveys, interviews, user maps, persona-mapping and other tools. To facilitate this we need highly skilled human resources. This is what we are proposing for this challenge. 2. Clarify how to use IDEO grant money With mentor-support, we honed in on the most impactful way to use the challenge grant: Prototype Network Practices that will ensure the highest level of engagement and value-add to ECDAN members. This is at the core of realizing ECDAN's potential. While we have excellent partners on board, we still need to work out how to operationalize connections such that a rural start-up in Colorado can connect with the best scientist at the WHO headquarters in Geneva to maximize their local impact. Something that ECDAN can easily facilitate, but has to still sort out how it will do this systematically. In short, getting this right means we unlock the potential for massive impact at scale from Denver to Dodoma. 3. Breakthrough Idea: Propose a Collaboration with OpenIDEO Through the mentorship process, we had an aha! moment and realized that the aims of openIDEO & the ECD Action Network are completely aligned and the two should collaborate. With openIDEO, and its design prowess, aiming to develop a network with the challenge applicants and ECDAN offering a wider global platform that can enrich this community, we propose a joint collaboration to build a shared ECD platform that will leverage each other's strengths, and be of the most benefit to all members.

Name or Organization

ChildFund International


The platform will be a global hub for ECD efforts.

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD


  • Team

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

ECDAN has enormous potential as a field catalyst to lift up every single actor working to ensure equitable access to quality ECD services, both domestically and globally. However, to realize this potential, the network needs to intelligently design and build mechanisms for its members to make meaningful connections with each other. We have assembled a team of experienced Community Builders and Innovators to help ECDAN prototype Network Practices that will be most beneficial to its spectrum of users. In this process, we also see openIDEO as a powerful collaborator to shape this platform.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

ECDAN emerged out of a shared urgency to scale up evidence-based action for the world's most vulnerable children. Domestic and global partners came together in June 2016 and identified the need for a unifying global platform that would: 1. Be a Knowledge Hub: Give members access to the most cutting-edge research and resources on ECD in a user-friendly way across sectors, geographies, and language contexts; pay special attention to innovative Scale-up and Systems Change solutions. ECDAN will also find ways to significantly advance knowledge in the field of ECD. 2. Be a Collaborative Platform: where siloed sectors and professionals find ways to collaborate in ways that would not have been possible before; support set up of local ECD networks to catalyze change (ECDAN has helped establish 9 National multi-sectoral ECD Network-building processes around the world); facilitate learning and exchange among its members as they figure out how to improve young children’s development in their particular context. 3. Be a Movement: by helping shape the narrative of ECD for different stakeholders in the public and private sectors; mobilize political will and champions at the highest levels; provide opportunities for joint Advocacy at important global, regional, and national moments, and lend its weight to Network members in their Advocacy efforts. To build out each of these functions, we need support to experiment and identify innovative methods that are suited for this network.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Stove-piped sectors lacking a common language, financing mechanisms, personnel systems, and shared goals inhibit efficient and coordinated support and services for young children. Low investment and political will further disincentivize collaboration between stakeholders. ECDAN will bring key actors together to help them sort out how to coordinate programs, address key gaps and integrate action to accelerate progress for young children.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

ECD is a young and complex field. While advances in neurosciences and studies in economics have given momentum to the issue, there is still much to learn and share globally in terms of basic science of human development and policy and program innovations and impact. Therefore, a global network would be a powerful catalyst for ECD efforts everywhere - domestically and internationally. To have an impact, ECDAN must mature from an initiative to a full-fledged Network over the next two years. This means developing many fronts simultaneously, broadly including: governance, membership, fundraising, web platform, network infrastructure, especially defining Network Practices . The last piece, Network Practices, is the focus of this challenge proposal, and is foundational to the network's success. Establishing sustained and quality connectivity amongst network members is what drives a network's value, growth, and ultimately its impact. ECDAN has made great strides in attracting a wide range of stakeholders hungry for a platform to facilitate collective action for ECD. To serve their interests, and bring in even more members who can benefit from the Network, we approached two seasoned Community Builders with over 20 years of experience, ​Michel Bachmann, a leader in the Impact Hub Network, and Fabian Pfortmuller, co-author of the Community Canvas and a builder of well-reputed communities like the Sandbox with a global footprint in 47 cities. Together, they will help ECDAN map user profiles and facilitate experiments in innovative ways to build connection and trust between its members both on-line and in-person. The key questions that they will help ECDAN answer, include: - How can we get the organizations within ECDAN to work together in a meaningful way? - How can we shift from a loose network of organizations towards a more closely-knit community of humans driving action at scale? - What does a “Minimum Viable Community” for ECDAN look like and what does it mean to be part of it? - How can we let people within ECDAN experience the power of community and prototype effective ways to catalyze trust, learning and action at scale? To design experiments for ECDAN's Network Practices, we hold the following assumptions: - Scale depends on human relationships. We believe that trusted, human to human relationships are the foundation for people to open up, show vulnerability and learn from each other across organizations, hierarchies and geographies. And that a culture of learning and sharing is what enables action at scale on a global level. -The concept of community has to be experienced, it cannot be taught. Especially in a group with a lot of scientific minds, the power of community has to be experienced first-hand to convince potential cynics. - Communities are best built in a lean way. It is hard to predict in advance which community structures will resonate with what group. That’s why communities are ideally built in many small experiments rather than in one massive project. Some possibilities of experiments include: - Case Clinics: the case giver presents a real challenge they are currently struggling with. Peers from across ECDAN share their perspectives on the challenge and generate solutions together (5-7 people, 90min). - Best Practice Webinars: selected people present their insights on what works and what doesn’t in ECD, followed by a conversation in virtual breakout groups and synthesis at the end of the call (10-50 people, 90min). - Virtual Coffees: people who opt in are matched with one peer per month from the ECDA network to meet for a “virtual coffee” and get to know each other with the help of guiding questions (2 people, 45min). - Office hours held by experts who are not easily accessible to the community Some Interventions to create deeper alignment: - Community Gathering: convening the key people in ECDAN to build trust, learn from each other and define how they want to work together to catalyze action at scale based on the Community Canvas - Virtual Labs: hosting a virtual conference to explore opportunities for coordinated and collaborative action at scale These are initial ideas that would be further developed with the openIDEO challenge nationally and globally. And we also hope to leverage the experience of openIDEO with network-building to deepen our thinking and design process. We are passionately driven to unlock the potential of this rare opportunity where mammoth organizations have opened their doors to collaboration. We want to find a way to break through the bureaucracies that stifle such partnerships, and instead make it a thriving network that will be relevant to applicants to this challenge and to other actors around the world. Children living in poverty, regardless of nationality, often face similar barriers. And the coming together of all actors interested in their well-being can become a powerful tipping point in history for the field of ECD.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The network exists to ensure that all children from conception to 5 years are safe, healthy, happy, and learning. To do this, committed actors have asked for a platform that will empower them with timely resources, connections, and a collective voice! Therefore, ECDAN is working at the ecosystem level for ECD. Its direct beneficiaries are innovators (like the participants of the openIDEO challenge), policymakers, researchers, donors, UN agencies, and any actor interested in improving the lives of young children and their families. The goal is to design a network of movers and shakers who can deepen their work while also contributing to other like-minded change-makers in every corner of the world working to ensure that all children achieve their developmental potential. How they will engage with the network, is what we want to solve with this openIDEO challenge opportunity. ECDAN was launched by its beneficiaries. In April 2016, leadership of UNICEF and the World Bank Group announced the network, and in June 2016, more than 80 key partners representing UN agencies (ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF, and WHO), the World Bank, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), foundations, private sector, academics, think tanks and related domestic and global initiatives met to discuss and advance implementation plans for ECDAN. Therefore, ECDAN was founded by its beneficiaries and has been built based on their needs from day 1.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

If we design it well, the potential for ECDAN's impact is explosive and generative. It could lead to unforeseen innovations and action at scale that is hard to predict as it depends on the actions generated by the bringing together of ECDAN members. We are inspired by other field catalysts who have achieved incredible impact. The Roll-Back Malaria Partnership, for example, is credited with enabling breakthrough in the field without ever delivering a single can of insecticide or bed net, or treating a single patient. Instead, it was a clearinghouse for resources and ideas, connected actors, cheered their efforts, developed a framework for collective action, mobilized funding, built public awareness and worked across the field of Malaria. The result? In 10 years, the pandemic that claimed 1.8 million lives a year, dropped by 75%! While the ECD field does not have the same structural features of fields like Immunisation, HIV/AIDS and Malaria: short results chains, commodity-driven with a virtual equivalence of input and outcome (vaccines; ARVs; bednets), it does not mean that it cannot benefit from similar focused and coordinated action.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

The impact of quality ECD services is especially amplified for the most vulnerable children. An estimated 250 million under-five children are at risk of failing to achieve their potential because of adversity during their early, formative years. This affects their brain development, causing lasting damage and contributing to the inter-generational cycle of poverty and lasting inequity. To reach the SDG targets for young children, it is urgent to scale up equitable and high-quality programs for them and to better support their parents and other caregivers. To do so, political commitment, financial investment, coordinated work across stakeholders, and broader public understanding of the importance of the earliest years of a child’s life are crucial. Therefore, ECDAN hopes to specifically target and support actors whose efforts increase access to affordable and quality services for the most vulnerable children.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

At this time, there is no single global platform that connects the ECD community together from around the world. The ECD Action Network is singular in its mission to be a field catalyst on behalf of all actors that work for the most vulnerable children. From Nov 2016 - Mar 2017, over a hundred members across ECDAN's partners formed five Task Forces to develop a blueprint for ECDAN's role. They identified the key dimensions of scaling ECD and generated recommendations based on current gaps in the field for each of the five dimensions: 1)Interventions, 2)Workforce, 3)Data, 4)Financing, & 5)Advocacy. A synopsis of their recommendations follow: 1. Scale up essential multi-sectoral interventions across development and humanitarian contexts. There is sound evidence that multi-sectoral packages of interventions and policies affecting young children are effective; solutions exist. Nevertheless, significant global advocacy will be needed to raise awareness of ECD among professionals, parents and caregivers; realign incentives for collaboration; and change norms of practice in light of evidence. Support for and evaluation of innovative approaches to improve system efficiencies and multi-sectoral intervention effectiveness will be critical move countries to action at scale. 2. Build the capacity of the ECD workforce to deliver quality services for young children and families. As noted above, educators, health workers, social protection workers, home visitors, parent educators, preschool teachers, etc. urgently need better training on cognitive and psychosocial child development and better strategies, support and incentives to apply what they learn. Improved professionalism and informed parental demand are counterweights to labor market inefficiencies. 3. Strengthen national data and evidence on early childhood. ECDAN will strengthen monitoring and evaluation; improve validity, reliability, consistency and comparability of global and local data; and support countries to measure and track data necessary to report rigorously and efficiently on SDGs that have direct impacts on young children. ECDAN’s focus on system change will emphasize data collection and handling that is accurate, efficient and institutionalized for sustainability. Public awareness will be shaped into demand for reliable information and reporting about the status of young children and the services they rely on. 4. Leverage sustainable financing for equitable and affordable services for young children. ECDAN is completing a common framework for costing policies and services for young children. Accurate costing is the first step towards innovative financing and increased public and private support for ECD – a critical advocacy target. 5. Advocate, globally & locally, to strengthen awareness about the importance of ECD. By shaping shared messages and strengthening global and national voices for young children ECDAN advocacy will accelerate awareness of ECD, sharpen political will, and increase investment in young children and families. To ensure that action follows awareness, knowledge, and commitment, communications and technology will be used to inform and support parents and other caregivers on how to develop the full potential of young children. With this as our foundation, ECDAN will work with our Community Builders, Michel and Fabian, and hopefully openIDEO and other partners interested in community design, to find innovative pathways for facilitating development and action around this 5 priority actions that ECDAN partners have identified. The network approach will allow us to systematically engage a diverse range of members with unique combination of expertise to tackle each of these five dimensions of scale to build the platform, enabling a "Small World" Reach, which would be impossible to achieve with a single organization. Further, a network is particularly useful in a complex field like ECD which spans across sectors of Education, Nutrition, Child Protection, Social Protection, Health, and others, because Networks can quickly facilitate relationships and bridges to other networks enabling rapid growth. Through these relationships and bridges, we can have a more rapid diffusion of ideas and joint action.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

ECDAN is interested in achieving population-level change and not building a very large organization. To do this, it is studying successful practices across other networks, and collaborating with innovative Network and Community Builders to design a scalable network. While Scale is inherent in a network, where the addition of each new member brings their networks along as well, resulting in exponential growth and therefore increasing the value of the network. However, being deliberate about designing strategies for engagement and growth and measuring their impact on member activities will be a critical next step for us in building the network. Our members already have far-reaching arms and we have already experienced the "Small World Reach" facilitated by the Network's activities in the past year with unique collaborations spawned between unlikely members. We would, however, like to create systematic and intentional opportunities for exactly this type of connection and collaboration to happen with members.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

At this stage, ECDAN is well-positioned with eager partners and champions. Even still, networks are a new concept within the ECD community and funders are cautious. Through this challenge, if we are able to prototype successful Network Practices that galvanize the community, and shows potential for powerful impact and demonstrate the value of a network, then we have partners signed up who would champion and fund the platform. To date, the network has been entirely operated by 1 full-time coordinator, a part time senior consultant, and thousands of volunteers hours from over a hundred organizations. This is proof that not only is the network desired, but members are eager to engage and join forces for young children. This is what makes a network such a powerful actor, if it is executed well. This is what makes the design and prototyping of Network Practices such a foundational feature of our Network development process. As the research shows, impactful Networks are built, not born, and require intentional design and management - with the connectivity amongst its members being the essential building block. We have also fundraised for 2018 and secured funds for the hiring of an Executive Director, development of a web platform, and network activities across countries. This would be a timely moment to engage experienced Community Builders like Michel and Fabian to help build out our Network Practices. At the moment, ECDAN has an Interim Executive Group (IEG) comprised of representatives of different ECDAN constituencies (multi-laterals, CSOs, ECD regional networks, researchers, policy analysts, emergency responders, and foundations) who have guided the development of ECDAN to date. Going forward, ECDAN’s goal is to have a lean secretariat who will be charged with managing a coordinated and cost-effective effort to advance action for young children as outlined by ECDAN partners; hosting the knowledge hub for program and technical tools, information, and country and partner exchanges; coordinating and reporting on ECDAN advocacy, financial innovation, data analysis and reporting.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

We are still working out the business model of the network. At the moment, the network has operated through small financial contributions by a number of members, and an enormous amount of volunteer time. However, this will not be sustainable in the long-term. ECDAN will need to develop a Business Model to ensure that it is sufficiently resourced so that its Secretariat staff are engaged in network-building work and value-generation instead of constant fundraising, which research has shown to be the downfall of many networks. Demonstrating strong, early wins of what the potential of the Network could be will be greatly beneficial to making the case for ECDAN's value to a wide range of stakeholders, especially private sector and foundations to invest in ECDAN.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

To date, ECDAN's development has been driven by its users - its members. Moving forward, we want to more intentionally employ HCD principles, methodologies, and process to develop prototypes of our Network Practices.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

The idea was launched by the highest levels of leadership at UNICEF and the World Bank in 2016. Since then over a hundred organizations from academia, foundations, civil society, multi-lateral agencies and social innovators have joined the movement for ECD. As such, the ECDAN platform has tremendous potential for activating great impact, if it is built right. Therefore, we are partnering with two innovative community builders to help us experiment and identify the right set of practices that will power the exchanges between our members and help grow the platform so that it can be useful to as many diverse actors as possible. Michel has extensive experience with building community across global networks: Led the transition of the Impact Hub Network from a centralized model to a distributed community with 100+ interdependent spaces across the world Facilitated the co-creation of an open innovation community within the WWF network and introduced practices to embody their new slogan “Together Possible” Stewarded the evolution of the League of Intrapreneurs from a loose network to a tightly-knit community of people that drive change from within large institutions Fabian has been building and studying communities for 10+ years: Co-authored the Community Canvas framework. Started and led the entrepreneurial community Sandbox with a global footprint in 47 cities. Helped develop communities as part of his work at COMMUNITY for organizations such as the Kauffman Foundation, Unilever, Hyper Island, Stockholm Resilience Center. ECDAN itself is led by an interim executive group with the top experts and leaders in the ECD field from UN agencies, foundations, universities, multi-lateral agencies, and civil society networks, including the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for ECD (2009-2011) in the Obama Administration! We have a dynamic team of movers and shakers in ECD!

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

Yes. ECDAN is a growing network, and to-date we have over a 110 organizations that have signed on as members of ECDAN and to develop the resources it needs. We will also partner with two innovative community builders, Michel Bachmann and Fabian Pfortmüller, who both have extensive experience with building community across global networks.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

For the next steps, we would like support Network Design for maximum impact, both domestically and internationally and support with thinking about how to achieve scale sustainably.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

We would like support with deepening our practices around how to develop and sustain an innovative platform and also, how to use the platform to spur ongoing innovations across diverse communities, states, and countries. We are inspired by the OpenIDEO platform, and seek to develop a similarly thriving and high-impact platform for all actors working in the ECD space - in fact, we welcome collaboration with openIDEO.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc). Examples of work by Michel & Fabian:

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

The network has an explicit aim to


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