In early November, some of the world’s leading philanthropic foundations gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, to share ideas, experiences and expertise on Early Childhood Education (ECE).
It was a privilege for me to have represented the Novak Djokovic Foundation at this gathering. As many readers know, the Novak Djokovic Foundation is incredibly active in building schools, training teachers and always keeping in mind those who are disadvantaged and marginalised. In addition to these ‘on-the-ground’ projects and activities, we are very much engaged in promoting and advancing the agenda of Early Childhood Education globally.
In The Hague, we explored how best to align our efforts to ensure governments, policymakers, foundations and supranational organisations bring early childhood education (ECE) front and centre when assessing their investment and funding priorities. The event was generously hosted and led by Michael Feigelson of the Bernard van Leer Foundation and his wonderful team, with much organisational effort also coming from the Sarah Klaus and Maniza Ntekim of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and Peter Colenso and Sally Faiz of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).
It was heartening to engage with such a distinguished group of experts and philanthropists, each representing considerable resources and global reach. Interestingly, among those also present were the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the LEGO Foundation, the Hilton Foundation, the IKEA Foundation, the UBS Optimus Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, the World Bank, UNICEF, the WHO and UNESCO. Such stakeholder diversity ensured the topic of global advocacy for ECE was tackled from every possible angle.
Our diversity was enhanced by a range of workshops, presentations and free-flowing debate, which made for a thoroughly enjoyable and extremely fruitful conference. While we had all bonded over dinner the night before, it was at the conference itself that truly useful insights came to the fore.
We all know there is a robust body of evidence – derived from leading-edge scientific research and studies by the likes of Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman – that firmly underscores the value to society of investment in ECE, with high returns on investment that are well quantified and hard to match. The challenge is in articulating these realities clearly and effectively on the global stage so that policymakers always keep ECE in mind as a top funding priority.
Fortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 specifically target early childhood development (ECD) and pre-primary education, which make our efforts in transforming the world a bit easier. The journey is long and the hurdles not insignificant, but with the right approach we can achieve great things. Overall, it was a wonderful conference. Those who attended were not simply experts in their field but also extremely passionate, and it is precisely this passion that makes all the difference!