Impact of the CG

Accomplishments and effects

Over the 27 years of its existence, the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and  Development (CG) has gained worldwide recognition for its efforts to improve the care and development of young children in the Majority World.  This has been the result of direct participation in the CG, at different periods, of almost 60  international organizations (UN agencies, foundations, bi-lateral organizations, international banks, international non-governmental organizations, regional organizations, research and evaluation organizations and others) as well as of many national NGOs working to improve the care and development of young children in the Majority World.

Each of these entities relates to an untold number of organizations and individuals, within governments and outside them, thereby extending indirect participation well beyond those who have been “at the table”.

The CG has gained this reputation by simultaneously applying, with different intensities at different times, several strategies:

  1. Generating, gathering, synthesizing and disseminating information
    • The CG has established an effective and continuing process for gathering, synthesizing and disseminating information relevant to planning and implementing ECCD programs.
      • Under the auspices of the CG, hundreds of documents have been produced, including 32 issues of the Coordinators’ Notebook including translations in Frenc, Spanish, Portuguese and lead articles in Arabic) as well as numerous concept papers, reviews, case studies, videos, digests, evaluations, summaries of meetings, manuals, booklets, articles and trip reports.
      • Three major book-length publications have been published and widely disseminated:
        • A Fair Start for Children (in 13 languages, various printings)
        • The Twelve Who Survive (in 3 languages, 2 editions)
        • Early Childhood Counts (augmented by a CD), including translated versions
      • A 3-part series for BBC television using the 4 Cornerstones as a guiding framework.
    • Our active Knowledge Network includes thousands of individuals or institutions in more than 194 countries, crossing disciplinary and sectoral lines.   The feedback obtained from participants in the network suggests that the information received and the chance to share experiences with others through the network is valued and that the sense of belonging to a larger enterprise provides motivation.
    • The CG operates www.ecdgroup.com.  This up-to-date resource is frequently visited helping to reach a variety of audiences that the CN mailings do not reach.  Visitors average approximately 50,000 per year with approximately 100,000 page views.
  2. Convening
    Participating organizations in the Consultative Group have met at least one time per year during the 25 years to discuss specific topics, to exchange information about programs and policies, and to coordinate activities of various kinds including work in the field on particular topics and for “training” and advocacy.  The relatively informal nature of the exchanges has allowed discussions to occur that are less encumbered by organizational formalities and restraints than in many other international groups and meetings.
  3. Advocacy
    Advocacy efforts by the CG Secretariat and by participants in the Group have helped to give ECCD a more prominent place on institutional and international agendas.  In this process, the CG has demonstrated an ability to identify new areas of concern and to take the lead in creating attention to early childhood within these areas.Of particular note is the work done to create an agreed-upon definition of  ECCD, build a rationale for investment in ECCD, establish a set of developmental as well as programmatic principles as well as guiding framework for advocacy (the 4 Cornerstones) and work with particular thematic areas including Education for All, General Comment 7,  HIV/AIDS, Children in Emergencies and Climate Change.
  4. Technical Assistance
    At various times the Coordinating Unit/Secretariat of the CG has been called upon by participating organizations to identify people who can provide particular kinds of program advice.  It has, as well, been asked to provide direct assistance to training, planning and evaluation exercises, provide contributions to the process of policy and program strategizing, including various kinds of support to regional networks and actors.

The Impact of the CG

Although, difficult to quantify impact, even without hard statistics we can, at a minimum, note the following:

  • Judging from the frequent citations of CG publications, the material made available through the CG has had an effect on the opinions and writings of people at many levels, in international and national communities.
  • Without the CG, ECCD would not have been included in Education For All.  Its inclusion and ongoing work to ensure Goal 1 is key to the EFA agenda has had a significant impact on the presence of early childhood in the field of education internationally.
  • Ideas worked out in the CG are present and cited in policy documents and program descriptions of many international organizations as well as in the design of a variety of national and sub-national programs
  • CG has contributed in important ways to conceptualizing work in the ECCD field.and advocating for increased investment in ECCD.  ECCD has become an official part of national and international agendas. Attention to young children and their families is now considered by many policymakers and donors to be the place to start in development work. When the CG was formed, only a few isolated individuals within donor organizations saw the importance of focusing on young children. ECCD is now included within the official mandate of many key donor organizations, international NGOs, and foundationsThere is increasing collaboration, partnering and sharing of resources among donor organizations and between funders and NGOs. The habit of “”sitting at the table together”” through the CG mechanism has created relationships between organizations that has spilled over into concrete collaborations on projects and initiatives. From these initiatives, valuable materials, expertise, and greater capacity for programming have emerged.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of impact to date comes from testimonials.  Our 25th anniversary suggests the breadth and depth of contributions by the CG to ECCD:

Some lessons learned

  • It is possible to have an influence on policies and programming.   However, creating policy and establishing programs, we have learned, are not particularly rational processes as much as we might like to think to the contrary.  Accordingly, one must look beyond simply providing access to knowledge and recognize that “incidence” can occur in many ways.  (Personal contacts, demonstrations, insights obtained through organized participation, dissemination of information, technical assistance, …).  Some combination of these is needed but the best combination in a given place and time is not always clear.  In addition to knowledge, we need translators and models and champions.
  • The incidence or effect obtained is not always the one most desired.  One needs to be attentive to “distortions” that can appear in application (coverage increases, quality declines; a standard program line is insensitive to diversity; particular groups get left out; an integral approach remains at the level of discourse; ends justify means that are inconsistent with ideals, etc,) These occur when resources are scarce (make-do solutions), when organizational mores and constraints misguide and when political ambition takes precedence over people’s needs.  It is important to be alert to these undesired effects.
  • There are many possible entry points to improving ECCD.  These change over time with changing conditions but also as fads appear and disappear, as governments come and go and as organizational personnel change.  Continuity is often a problem.  The turnover in international and national organizations has brought with it a measure of discontinuity in activities, loss of momentum and a need to “start over” on numerable occasions.  Thresholds that seem to be crossed dissipate and may even disappear.  We need to be persistent.
  • It is hard to be “principled”.  Despite apparent general agreement on principles and a relatively common discourse, the particular structures and forms of operation of participating organization have sometimes made it difficult for those involved to live up to these principles in their actions.  For instance, let us take the principle of respecting diversity.  A tendency still persists to think in terms of numbers and not in terms of the quality of programs, in terms of universal large-scale operations rather than in sets of available options that respect and build on diversity but which, taken together, add up.
  • Top down still predominates over bottom up.
  • It is difficult to take a truly integral view of child development and to be integrative across organizational, academic and sectoral lines.  Some of the best efforts to build bridges among health education and social welfare programs have not prospered.