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COVID-19 Response & Beyond: Report Highlights Parents, Providers, and Field Perspectives to Inform Early Childhood Grantmaking

In collaboration with The Bridgespan Group and The Education Trust, we are pleased to share a report to inform conversations, decisions, and actions that early childhood funders might take in 2021 from the perspective of what parents, providers, and field leaders have named as most critical in working towards a more equitable early childhood system.

The report, “Redesigning for Equity: Guidance From the Field to Inform 2021 Early Childhood Grantmaking,” sets out to answer the following question: what can funders learn from those most impacted in these unprecedented times—the parents, early educators, and practitioners, and other voices from marginalized communities not often centered in philanthropic decision-making––as we consider our grantmaking and the highest and best use of precious risk capital moving forward?

First, the report lays out a few key context points for the remainder of 2020 and beyond: uneven experiences with virtual learning and services will widen achievement gaps, disproportionately affecting Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income children; fewer child care options and higher demand will continue to limit access for these populations; and continuous isolation, a deepening recession, and high unemployment will take an emotional toll on parents and caregivers.

As with any crisis response, there will be tensions between focusing on near-term solutions and laying the groundwork for longer-term reform. In the near-term, the report finds, “a significant public investment is needed just to respond to the ongoing crises nationwide before we can even begin to rebuild; philanthropy can provide critical bridge resources and encourage public funding for these efforts, while also making deep investments to lay the foundation for the future.”

“To do this,” the report states, “parents, providers, and field leaders we interviewed spoke of the need to deeply invest and build power in communities. We also heard calls to invest in and strengthen state and federal policy advocacy that in early childhood. Most of all, we heard a clear need for these efforts to be connected and deeply rooted in the experiences of those most proximate to the issues. This will take infrastructure and capacity — time, people, information, and relationships — across these efforts that may not currently exist.”

There are many more insights and considerations in the full report, which you can access here.

Much of what these voices are saying is not new. There is no magic elixir, no novel innovation born of hard times. Instead, funders need to change how we operate and the types of investments we fund, something that we as a foundation have started to do but will continue to take to heart as we evolve. The innovation is that perhaps in these most difficult of times, philanthropy will actually begin to follow this advice. Ironically, in a period of such vast uncertainty, it is these enduring values that may lead the way forward.