How Regional Networks Catalyze Impact in Early Childhood Development

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Across over 100 countries in four regions, the past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the collective capacity for comprehensive cross-sector work advancing Early Childhood Development (ECD). Critical to this accomplishment have been four regional ECD networks (Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN)Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD)Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC), and International Step by Step Association (ISSA)).

These networks are rights-based, with core operating principles dedicated to quality, equity, diversity, inclusiveness, partnerships and accountability. All four are high-performing, with initiatives that have set the stage for advancing ECD work. This report takes a systematic look at how these networks have evolved and what uniquely and collectively positions them to make an impact.

This report builds on interviews with political leaders, senior civil servants, INGO’s, academics and heads of national networks. It identifies the unique advantages of regional networks in the ECD sector, examining how these can be leveraged for greater impact, especially in times of crisis and recovery.

The timing for this work could not be more critical. Migration, climate change, political instability, war and other disasters affect more and more young children. The United Nations has stated that, in order to accelerate progress toward SDG Goal 4, there is an urgent need to bolster local action and significantly improve engagement, coordination and alignment across levels of policy implementation, from local to national to regional and international1. Furthermore, projections for the ongoing impact of COVID-19 by Save the Children and UNICEF estimate that an additional 150 million children are living in multidimensional poverty as a consequence of the pandemic.2