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Taking a Practice-based Approach to Early Childhood Innovation in 2019

Lab News
Early Childhood-Family Support Systems Map

As we look ahead to 2019, I am excited to build on the Lab’s work and help move it forward as Interim Executive Director while Catherine Atkin is on leave. The new year will bring in new opportunities: a new governor in California and the promise of a strong early childhood agenda as well as a new vision for the Early Learning Lab’s continued work to drive practice-based innovation in the field.

Planning for 2019, we’ve been doing our research on where we should focus our efforts to improve child outcomes. We conducted an innovation listening tour with approximately 100 early childhood leaders and parents over the last year to better understand the biggest opportunities and barriers to impact in this work (workforce & compensation, disaggregated systems, and lack of diversity in leadership from the field’s perspective; stress & loneliness, financial insecurity, and lack of sleep from the parents’ perspective). The image at top of this post is from the systems map we created based on our user research.

As we head into our fourth year as an organization, we’ve also reflected on what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned – and woven it all together to inform our strategy for the next phase of the Early Learning Lab.  

We remain committed to the original vision of the Lab as an action research organization and are proud of key accomplishments, including:

  • Our work with districts and community partners in Fresno, Oakland and San Jose to support teacher professional development innovations
  • The Five Priority Practices, a simple framework for improving adult-child interactions that we developed with research experts
  • The Parent Innovation Institute, a year-long initiative to coach four family-serving organizations to co-create with parents and reimagine their programs
  • Reports and thinkpieces, such as our report, NextGen Technology, to guide the field in smart use of technology to support program efficiency, parents, and quality adult-child interactions

The task at hand is to go deeper and wider with this work, to pull out what we have learned and what could be applicable to more organizations and more people working to support children and families. In the coming year, we are excited to drive this work forward and will:

  • Build out our professional development tool, the Quick Check: It’s a simple online tool that uses the power of ‘small data’ to support teachers’ skill building. We’ll be making user interface and data reporting improvements as well as developing a plan to share the tool with early childhood educators across the country.
  • Take the Priority Practices framework to the next level: We will be further developing the framework and sharing it with organizations that might need a simple way to think about adult-child interactions.
  • Apply lessons from the Parent Innovation Institute to help districts design new solutions: We want to incorporate co-creation into districts’ family engagement work and will be taking on work with the early childhood communities in Oakland and Fresno to think about how technology and design could be leveraged to support their work.
  • Continue to support the smart use of technology in the field through research: Be on the lookout for a report mapping and analyzing public funding streams for early childhood technology that we are developing in partnership with the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Texans Care for Children, and Early Edge California and work to better understand the impact and potential of mobile messaging to support the parents and caregivers of children.

Oh, and we’ll be launching a new webinar series too!

Stay tuned as we do the work and keep you up-to-date on our progress.