Origins of the Consultative Group on ECCD

The process of forming an inter-agency group concerned with child care and development began in May 1982 with informal discussions among staff from the Ford Foundation, the Bernard van Leer Foundation and UNICEF. These discussions culminated in a meeting in May 1983, co-hosted by the Ford Foundation and the Bernard van Leer Foundation and involving UNESCO, UNICEF, USAID and IDRC “to compare notes and experiences on how projects in these areas were developing and to consider whether and how it might be possible to coordinate and enrich the responses and agencies”.

The concept that evolved into the Consultative Group was documented prior to the May 1983 meeting in a discussion document “Seeking Sounder Strategies to Improve the Survival and Development of Young Children in the Third World” written by Robert G.Myers. The document was not tabled for discussion at that meeting, but became the basis for a proposal for an “Inter-Agency Service” that was formally presented to the Ford Foundation for funding as a follow-up to the meeting. Ford approved partial funding, and together with support and subsidies from UNICEF, USAID and High/Scope Foundation, provided the initial resource base for collaborative activities between these agencies.

The key concepts introduced in that document were:


  • To extract lessons from pooled knowledge;
  • To improve dissemination of information about child survival and child development projects; and
  • To strengthen project evaluations and evaluation methods.


  • Assemble and synthesize data from projects;
  • Write and commission papers for discussion and publication;
  • Organize seminars and workshops;
  • Assist participant/users with project evaluations; and
  • Provide information about new developments in the field.


  • Core staff;
  • Field-based associates; and
  • An Advisory Group made up of a representative from each participating institution.


The suggested strategy was to draw collectively upon the wisdom and experience of individuals and organisations working in the field by engaging them in a set of activities tied together through an on-going Inter-Agency Seminar. The seminar would provide a forum within which to assess the changing state-of-the-art, discuss topics of mutual interest, report on the progress of particular projects, clarify concepts and methodologies, and suggest and discuss new actions. Dissemination of ideas would occur regularly through interaction in the seminar, and as participants communicate results through their own networks. An interdisciplinary approach would be taken, with an emphasis on implementation, including costs. Results of the several activities linked to the Seminar would be drawn together in a major statement about tested ways to improve the effectiveness and reduce the costs of programs.

A number of collaborative activities were engaged in during the period June 1983 – October 1984, and at a meeting in October 1984, at which the topic “Going to Scale” was discussed, the decision to form the CG was taken. That meeting was attended by representatives from ten (10) institutions – the original six (6) and The Carnegie Corporation, the World Bank, the Aga Khan Foundation and WHO. Initial funding was provided by Ford, UNICEF through USAID and the High/Scope Foundation. Both UNICEF and then High/Scope was used as the administrative base for administering and receiving funds.

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