"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace."
~Kofi Annan

"There’s compelling evidence that early childhood experiences have a profound and lasting impact on brain development, affecting everything from learning, to health, to lifetime earning potential. Smart investments in young children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development are critical to adult productivity and the economic competitiveness of countries. But today, millions of young children are not receiving what they need to reach their full potential. Their development is stunted by malnutrition, lack of stimulation, and limited early learning – and by exposure to violence and neglect."
~Jim Yon Kim

Why is it important to invest in young children, especially those who are vulnerable?

What are some examples of programs and policies that have been proven to be effective in different context, geographies and cultures?

How can effective investments be achieved?

These questions are at the heart of the work being done by the Forum on Investing in Young Children Globally (iYCG).

Introduction to the Forum on Investing in Young Children Globally (iYCG)

We will begin with a brief overview of iYCG. iYCG was established in 2014 as:

The Forum focused on Early Child Development (ECD). ECD throughout the Forum and in this Module, can be defined as ‘a comprehensive approach to policies and programs for children from birth to eight years of age, their parents and caregivers’. (Unicef, 2001) In the light of recent powerful evidence for the importance of the prenatal period, in this module we consider ECD to encompass all development, from conception to age eight.

Listen to Kimber Bogard, iYCG Forum Director, describe the goals of the Forum:

View | Bogard Forum Goal
☰ Transcript

Bogard Forum Goal

So the goal was to actually just raise visibility of this cross disciplinary, cross-sectoral need in order to address children’s needs from birth to age eight while taking a life course approach. So we also look prenatally and influences on children’s development birth to age eight. Prenatal, and then we also look at adolescence as well. You can either look at that as pre-prenatal or after children are age eight, entering adolescence. So we take this life course approach. The, so the number one goal is first to raise this issue. The other goal is to make sure that we are creating cross-sectoral dialogues and making sure that the policy makers are in the room when the scientists are speaking, practitioners are coming in with their lived experiences and we’re raising visibility of the discussions; we’re highlighting issues and dialog. We also want to make sure that we’re advancing regional research and regional science in these regions so that we are not always coming with U.S. based or North American based researchers to international meetings talking about, you know, issues happening in East Africa or in South East Asia. And that we’re actually tapping into their resources and the deep intellectual expertise in those regions to highlight that and bring that forward as well. What’s happened now, it seems, is that we have now created this platform of science, of dialog of this-we’ve highlighted; I think we’ve been successful in highlighting the issues- where now other people can take off from there. And so now I’m having discussions with people who are actually creating new networks, new projects that are really launching off from what we’ve started and created three years ago which is very exciting.


The two co-chairs of iYCG were Anne Masten, University of Minnesota and Zulfiqar Bhutta, Aga Khan University and University of Toronto. Watch as Zulfiqar Bhutta introduces the forum at their first open meeting in April, 2014.

View | Bhutta
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The forum seeks to create and sustain over a period of three years an evidence-based community of stakeholders from both the North and the South in a dialogue to explore existing new and innovative science and research from around the world to translate this evidence into sound and strategic investments in policies and practice, which will make a difference to lives of children and their families. That is a tall order. That is essentially the entire agenda for the post-2015 landscape. We are moving from survival and a narrow focus on the millennium goals for maternal-child health and a few additional key global indicators to sustainable development goals where there is an additional dimension beyond health. This forum could not be more timely in terms of informing the dialogue as it takes place.

The forum activities are supposed to be very interactive and focused on bringing in a range of views, diverse views from across a diverse group of stakeholders. The activities will focus on highlighting both the science bases for much of what we are doing, bringing in economic perspectives on why in these investments should take place particularly in low resource countries where there is an envelope constraint.

And this needs to also span the landscape beyond health. It needs to cover the whole marquee of investments around health, education, social protection, nutrition, and addressing poverty alleviation strategies.

The hope is that the forum would come up over this next three-year period with a holistic view of children and families by integrative analyses and bringing together disciplines such as economics, such as social sciences, such as health, nutrition, and development to span not only Neurons to Neighborhoods, but microbiomes to culture. And this vision of an integrated concept of investing in young children in those key parts of the world would be fundamental to the strengthening of human capital over the next several decades.


In the next clip, at the Hong Kong 2015 Workshop, Anne Masten further explains the initiative.

View | Masten - Intro
☰ Transcript

Masten - Intro

We are a collaborative community, multisectoral, multidisciplinary and international, and we are working together along with all of you to ensure that investments in children around the world are a top priority and also informed by science.

We share a vision that decision makers around the world will use the best evidence, the best science for investing to optimize the wellbeing of children in their lifelong potential, which we also believe will optimize the wellbeing of societies and their futures.

There are a number of reasons that this forum is happening now. One is the growing consensus internationally that it is time to raise the bar for global child wellbeing. It is time to go beyond survival to promote thriving and child wellbeing around the world.

There is also exciting new evidence to inform what we do, the science of how early childhood is linked to lifelong health and wellbeing and future generations is rapidly expanding. We have more and more evidence on how child development is linked to the health and wellbeing of societies as a whole.

There is also a striking convergence we think among many different kinds of stakeholders in the wellbeing of children. There is great concern about addressing some of the challenges facing children around the world, ranging from the poverty and lack of resources to political violence and displacement that we are seeing at unprecedented levels around the world. That is coming together as we try to integrate evidence to make good investments in children.

The platform we work from is the US National Academies of Science, and in particular the Institute of Medicine.

This forum is sponsored by two boards at the Institute of Medicine, the Board on Children, Youth and Families - I am a member of that board; Kimber Bogard is the director of that board - Also, the Board on Global Health working together.

We have four primary objectives. These are always evolving, but this is how we would put them right now. We want to highlight and disseminate an integrated science of healthy child development through age 8, but also integrate how that science predicts the future.

We want to identify and share models of program implementation at scale and also with integrated financing across sectors, across health, education, nutrition and social protection. We like to highlight programs that are working in a region when we come to work on a workshop like we are today.

Another objective is to identify and catalyze opportunities for intersector coordination at local, national and global levels. You are going to hear some great examples of that here today during this workshop.

We want to promote a global dialogue on investing in young children. We are delighted that you are all participating in this dialogue today.

We like to think that we are a unique learning community. We aim to be evidence-driven and inclusive and international, to be collaborative and visionary, to be productive, but also practical. We are delighted that you can join us in this endeavor today and going forward.


Introducing the Module

iYCG aimed to identify and communicate best practices in the translation of science and evidence into programs and policies that improve the lives and potential of young children around the world. This module has been developed as one of several communication strategies to disseminate the work of the iYCG Forum to a broader audience.

The module is not a course in and of itself, but rather an open access, flexible, course-ready educational tool.

The forum consisted of a series of workshops, from 2014 to 2016, held in locations around the world. Although each workshop focused on a specific topic, several crosscutting themes emerged. This module identifies these themes and organizes them broadly as the Why, the What and the How of investing in young children globally.

Read | About the iYCG Module

Complete information about iYCG as well as the presentations from all the workshops from 2014 until 2016 can be found at the iYCG website.

Explore | Forum on Investing in Young Children Globally (iYCG)
☰ Want to know more?

Forum Members were some of the leading thinkers and funders in the ECD sector globally. Listen as some of the members explain the purpose of the Forum in their own words.

View | Heymann - Purpose of the Forum
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Heymann - Purpose of the Forum

The forum has provided us with an extraordinary opportunity to meet with families, communities, caregivers, leaders around the world about investing in young children globally and two things are striking: Are there regional differences? Certainly. And are there national differences? Without a doubt. If you’re a country where you’re emerging from conflict or have millions of refugees, those young children have additional needs that need to be met. At the same time, overwhelmingly, across all of these diverse settings, we have heard and seen the power of investing in young children and the extent to which similar investments in different settings can propel the same children to successful developments. I’ll just take one: Kangaroo Care. It’s an example from a recent forum. A simple but powerful approach of putting a newborn, premature infant against the skin of a parent, transforming health in Colombia, in Cameroon, in the United States, this works across settings. Working with parents, parents care deeply about their children. We spend an immense amount of time in each of our countries teaching people to drive, teaching people to write, teaching people math, it’s useful to also give a few skills on parenting. Again, we see when you hand these toolkits to committed parents, powerful impacts across settings, and of course the remarkable transformative power of quality early childhood care and education in every setting around the world.

View | Klaus - iYCG Contributions
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Klaus - iYCG Contributions

I think that the iYCG was established at a very important time actually in the development of the early childhood field and it was at a time when there was a bit of a gap. When there wasn’t an international; there was less international activity and partnership activity going on in the field in terms of gatherings and convenings. And so what the iYCG has contributed, and I think the kind of mark we’ll leave in the field is, it contributed a series of meetings bringing together people from different sectors who don’t often meet. So pulling in especially groups that we, from the foundation world, working from an education and let’s say social inclusion background, they’re pulling in people; economists, nutritionists and others from other fields as well. And I think they brought together a variety of people but also in a variety of geographies and brought a lot of expertise to different regions of the world. And I think that what it will leave is a body of knowledge that comes in a kind of; that brings the sectors together around the issues of investing in children and vulnerable children. I think that the forum has been very unique in identifying and giving space on the agenda to sometimes very hot topics, emerging issues like children in conflict but also issues like the effect of Zika or Ebola and things like this as well. I think those are maybe are unique aspects of it.

View | Masten - Smart Thing to Do
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Masten - Smart Thing to Do

We have experienced during this three year arc of our work that the feeling of growing momentum, that now is the time. That we have good models from many different cultures. That we in a more developed industrially or economically developed country, have a lot to learn from other countries in the world that have fewer economic resources but have done a much better job of investing in early childhood and they’re seeing these, you know, huge payoffs to that kind of investment. So I would say that a lot of my take-away is that this is a good time, the science is ripe for taking action. We have good models for taking action and we have to reach out and take the next step to mobilize the political, cultural will to make these investments. We know it’s the smart thing to do.