In the spring of 2015, The Early Learning Lab was formed to source new approaches to making rapid and significant progress in the early learning field and in the lives of our youngest children.

Prior to its launch, Catherine Atkin, who is now The Lab’s Executive Director, spent a year with the support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation exploring how the early learning field might move more quickly to advance impact and scale.  She consulted with leading thinkers across the country, conducted a scan of promising programs, and worked with researchers and program implementers to identify the most important skills and mindsets adults need to support children’s success. She also looked at the emergence of social innovation labs as a model for how to discover and scale effective teaching and family support strategies,  and took steps to test the idea.

Early Learning Social Innovation

Based on the results of the research and the enthusiastic response to the concept from both  inside and outside the sector, The Lab’s team concluded there was a gap that a social innovation lab focused on early learning could help address by catalyzing experimentation and using design thinking and network collaboration to identify and spread what works.

With the generous support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Early Learning Lab was launched and other foundations have since come on board to support our work.

Today, our small dynamic team is comprised of talent from the early childhood field and beyond and is focused on key initiatives that create high value and are designed for scale. We aim to identify the best ideas, whether they come from in or outside The Lab, and to share them broadly.


The Early Learning Lab uses social innovation to equip parents, caregivers and teachers with tools and strategies that help children 0-5 learn early in their lives, when it matters most.


We envision a world where all children are kindergarten-ready and on track to reach their full potential in school and in life.