Our promise to young children is based on the vision of our founder, Bernard van Leer, and his son, Oscar van Leer. It was their fundamental belief that all children, regardless of geography, religion or economic status, should be able to realise their full potential.

‘Our mission is to improve opportunities for children up to age 8 who are growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. We see this both as a valuable end in itself and as a long-term means to promoting more cohesive, considerate, creative and peaceful communities with equal opportunities and rights for all.’

Over the last 64 years, our work has contributed to child-friendly national policies, increased public and private investment in young children, and the provision of direct community services that have benefited millions of families.

Progress made in 2014 to increase demand and investment in young children

As an independent, private foundation we try to achieve impact by fostering strategic partnerships that increase demand for and investments in what young children (aged 0–8) need to develop to their full potential. This section shares the progress made in 2014 to increase demand and investment in young children.

The power of many

In the last four years, we have supported 47 networks, coalitions or campaigns. Almost half of these are led by stakeholders who come from parts of society not traditionally associated with early childhood development. For example, business leaders such as Private Sector Foundation Uganda, tribal leaders such as Adivasi Manch in India, and religious leaders such as the Imams’ Forum in Israel. These are just a few of the ‘unexpected allies’ with whom we have found common cause.

In 15 cases, the Foundation was involved from the start – using our ability to take risks to help advocates to start new networks, campaigns or coalitions. These include national coalitions such as the Rede Nacional Primeira Infância (National Alliance for Early Childhood) in Brazil and Kies Nu Voor Kinderen (Choose for Children Now) in the Netherlands; international networks such as the Forum for Investing in Young Children Globally, which has convened top scientists from around the world; and campaigns led by children themselves such as the Humara Bachpan (Our Childhood) campaign, which is now active in 23 cities in India.

The following are some of the most notable successes of these efforts in 2014:

  • The Rede Nacional Primeira Infância in Brazil played a critical role in the introduction and design of Brasil Carinhoso, a national early childhood programme launched in 2012. This programme made a eur 464 million investment in child development during 2014. The Rede also won a national human rights award this year and is now working on the country’s biggest-ever early childhood legislation. Read more
  • The Grupo Impulsor Inversión en la Infancia (Steering Group for Investment in Children) – a group of Peruvian leaders from academic, scientific, business and cultural circles – created a ‘citizen pact for early childhood’ which has been signed by over 500 mayors and which contributed to the launch of the national early childhood programme Cuna Más in 2012 and the National Plan for Nutrition this year. Combined, these two programmes invested nearly eur 605 million in young children’s health, nutrition and education in 2014 alone. Read more 
  • Private Sector Foundation Uganda has partnered with UNICEF to launch the UN Children’s Rights and Business Principles and has initiated the Early Steps pledge to support investment in young children. In its first months, 43 Ugandan companies have already signed the Early Steps pledge. Read more 
  • In India, after only two years, the Humara Bachpan (Our Childhood) campaign has mobilised children in 23 cities to advocate for improvements in living conditions in their neighbourhoods. They have worked with the Government to establish facilities important for young children’s development, including playgrounds, water, sanitation and housing.
  • In the Netherlands, the Child Rights Collective has provided the Children’s Ombudsman and municipal governments with child abuse prevention guidelines, now being adopted across the country. Read more

Making sure kids count

Another lesson we have learned in our work to create demand for investment in young children is that metrics matter. International, national and local indicators and data collection systems and quantifiable goals play an important role in aligning the efforts of diverse actors concerned with the safety, health and learning of young children.

Currently, the Foundation is supporting six efforts – three global and three national – to include metrics tied to young children’s development in official data collection systems. These include advocating for early childhood targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals; the Monitor Aanpak Kindermishandeling (Monitor on the Approach to Child Abuse) municipal management tool in the Netherlands, which has now been adopted by 184 out of the 403 municipalities; and the research institute grade’s work in Peru to improve the tracking of violence in families with young children in national government surveys.

Supporting social entrepreneurs

While the examples above illustrate the power of supporting advocacy, we have also found that – as a private foundation – we are well positioned to take risks on social entrepreneurs who have big ideas still in a period of incubation. In this spirit, we try to provide early-stage funding that can help get an idea off the ground and put our partners on a level where they can more easily obtain additional investment from others.

Over the last four years, we have seen this strategy pay off in 33 cases, leading to additional investment of eur 50 million by 2013 and an additional eur 8.9 million in 2014. One example is the National Academy of Sciences Forum on Investing in Young Children Globally. The Forum used seed funding from the Foundation to engage 13 additional funders in helping it achieve truly global coverage. Similarly, our partner Promundo received seed funding for a global fatherhood campaign in 2011 that – by the end of 2014 – was active in 32 countries around the world.   

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