The coronavirus pandemic has upended the early childhood sector, with many parents losing access to childcare and many childcare centers struggling from loss of income. According to a study from Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center, more than 90 percent of parents with young children are now navigating changes in their child care provider’s availability to provide care.
As government and public health officials transition toward plans to reopen economies, parents and childcare providers are worried about what operations will look like, how to provide care safely, and whether there will be sufficient supply of care to meet demand. Meanwhile, the pandemic has further laid bare the structural disparities and resulting inequities too many children and families across our country already faced. Even as we begin to reopen and rebuild, we must aim to produce more equitable and resilient early childhood systems to ensure that all young children have access to opportunities that lay the foundation for lifelong health and learning.
Based on the Arabella team’s past research, we know that developing leaders within early childhood systems, as well as designing professional and career development solutions responsive to those leaders’ needs and perspectives, will be critical to long-term success. We know that well-prepared early childhood leaders motivate and inspire their teams, lead more resilient and effective organizations, and mobilize their communities to create systemic change. Our most recent report, “Program Design Roadmap: Helping Leaders Prepare to Drive Change in Early Childhood Care and Learning,” provides insight for stakeholders interested in this work.
The report covers work conducted prior to the pandemic, but its findings are even more relevant today. Arabella Advisors and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation engaged in an inclusive research and design process to better understand how to prepare leaders in early childhood care to drive structural change. The research amplified these leaders’ voices and leveraged our 3Ps framework, which helps us identify and align the People, Partners, and Platforms needed to drive change.
Our research identified the need to empower the visionaries, managers, and makers who occupy unique and critical roles within the early childhood and education ecosystems. Programs that bring these leaders together can help participants cultivate the skills and networks needed to guide transformative change for their organizations and communities. As Jean Ries, a Packard Foundation Program Officer in Organizational Effectiveness, points out: “Investing in leaders is a critical strategy in helping organizations achieve greater impact. Cohort-based programs that build strong networks are especially powerful and create positive, lasting ripple effects in the field.”
The report dives deeper into how the Packard Foundation partnered with existing experts, used its platform to design a leadership development program for early childhood leaders, and more. Over the long haul, rebuilding a stronger early childhood sector in the wake of COVID-19 will require investing in fortifying the field’s leadership bench and helping to build leaders’ capacity to advocate for the solutions their communities need. We hope this report provides a useful roadmap for those looking to invest in such leaders going forward.