Publication Date
May 1, 2014

This report document by the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) is an analysis of their working strategies toward their three goals, progress made in collaboration with partners for the period 2010-2013, and lessons learned about the indicators defined to enable monitoring of progress.


The goals of BVLF are:

  1. Taking quality early learning to scale
  2. Reducing violence in young children’s lives
  3. Improving young children’s living conditions


The overall strategy model is a five-phase maturity process, beginning with "a cycle of strategic planning with a testing and research phase, including information gathering, consultations, baseline research and testing." The Foundation then optimises "country strategies through funding various projects, initiatives and networks; monitor[s] and evaluat[es] our own and our partners’ work, ...making necessary adjustments; and creat[es] and shar[es] knowledge." The cycle's final phase out is preceded by optimisation to ensure that the work can continue without Foundation funding. Country goals are set with 5-10 year completion period in mind. A decisionmaking process is illustrated on page 12, including 6 steps: strategy development; partner selection; due diligence (verification of the accreditation, governance standards, and track record of influence of chosen partners); assessment and funding of proposals; monitoring; and evaluation. Page 13 graphs the amount of use of the following strategic tools: research, demonstration services, capacity building, behaviour change, policy influence/advocacy, and system change/infrastructure.

The report examines institutional-level progress and progress toward the three goals. It also collects country-level strategies. Some examples follow.


Institutional level:

  1. Supporting networks of child advocates
  2. Supporting campaigns, coalitions, and communities that create demand for services for young children, for example, the Men Care campaign to promote fatherhood or the Humara Bachpan (‘Childhood Matters’) campaign for better city services in slums in Bubaneshwar, India. (See Related Summaries below.)
  3. Supporting allied networks focused on issues that range from environmental stewardship to tribal and women’s rights, including networks advocating for child labour legislative change in India and Peru, and other common causes.
  4. Leveraging increased public and private investments in young children.


Progress toward the three goals:

Taking quality early learning to scale:

  • Indicator 1: Increase access for young children to early learning services, preferably integrated services
    Indicator 2: Change parent and professional behaviour to increase the amount of time spent engaging young children
    Indicator 3: Increase the number of competent professionals/para-professionals serving young children
    Indicator 4: Improve learning outcomes
  • Some markers of progress: Programme country partners in India, Israel, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru, and the Netherlands worked towards "policy change and the development of demonstration and training projects that can serve as models for scaling up." The monitoring found that 910,000 children were being reached in 5 countries, primarily by partnering with existing advocate coalitions to take up the cause of young children, "an example being the passing of a national law on mother tongue-based early education in India." Preliminary findings on capacity building for administrators, volunteers, professionals, and para-professionals suggest that: demand for children's books is up among Arab communities in Israel; parents are increasing their playtime with infants in Peru; more Tanzanian children are attending preschool; and trained preschool teachers in India are scoring higher on evaluations of their ability to create interactive classrooms. Improved learning outcomes are demonstrated in Indian children in mother-tongue-based, multilingual preschool centres in tribal districts. These children are "performing at a higher level in language development, math skills and school readiness, as well as showing lower levels of stunting, than children at centres where the teacher does not speak their native language."

Reducing violence in young children’s lives:

  • Indicator 1: Reduce family violence
    Indicator 2: Reduce community violence
    Indicator 3: Spread evidence-based policies to prevent violence
    Indicator 4: Increase provision of preventive and responsive services
    Indicator 5: Shift in norms towards less acceptance of violence
  • Some markers of progress: The focus is on "conducting baseline research, supporting partners to pilot demonstration projects, and building partnerships with policymakers and advocates to help them use evidence for the prevention of violence more effectively." There are five progress indicators, each with examples. 1) Reducing family violence is approached, for example, using multi-sectoral intervention strategies to set up plans for single parents to have their needs met and to be able to manage families without violence. Another example: the Responsive Fatherhood Clubs set up by the Early Steps programme in Uganda, in which men agree to talk to friends about family violence. 2) A strategy for reducing community violence is, for example, appealing to city mayors to address community violence. 3) To spread evidence-based policies to prevent violence, the Violence and Children Evaluation Challenge Fund has supported 17 studies of the impact of violence prevention strategies across 16 low- and middle-income countries. "The Foundation is working to rebrand violence from an inevitable fact of life to a solvable problem, by repeatedly communicating success stories." 4) Increasing provision of preventive and responsive services includes - citing two examples - at the local level, prevention of shaken-baby syndrome and, at the national level, codification of new codes of conduct for professionals in hospitals when they suspect cases of child abuse. 5) To leverage the shift in norms towards less acceptance of violence, BvLF supports a Fenton Foundation research project that has launched a website, Without Violence, that shares infographics, animations, and a guide for advocates about how to engage positively in communications with opinion leaders on violence against children. Another strategy is to work through peers and role models to discuss family life and parenting interventions other than corporal punishment.

Improving young children’s living conditions:

  • Indicator 1: Increase access to clean water, sanitation and adequate housing
    Indicator 2: Reduce childhood morbidity (among under-5s)
    Indicator 3: Expand access for young children to safe spaces to play
  • BvLF "works to influence the planning and design of homes and neighbourhoods so that they incorporate provisions to guarantee the safety and health of the youngest citizens." The Foundation is establishing direct contact with "stakeholders responsible for city and infrastructure development and [plans to] use research to articulate clearly the link between child development and these stakeholders’ core areas of business." The first stage of this new goal has focused on establishing demonstration projects and supporting advocacy so that, through community organising, access may be gained to government services. For example, Humara Bachpan brought children of Bhubaneswar, India, to talk with the mayor about issues in slums. In the Aide et Action project in Andhra Pradesh, India, BvLF "helped partners work with architects, engineers and solar energy specialists to improve housing" for young children. Anecdotal evidence from this project is available to begin to establish the link between children’s health outcomes and their living conditions, and more formal evaluative research is underway. Securing safer play spaces for children is a Foundation aim. For example, in Lima, Peru, using "lego bricks, the children designed how they would like their community to look. The event communicated the often under-appreciated ways in which urban design affects children, from opportunities for learning and play to implications for health and reducing violence." Also, in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, Humara Bachpan organised a "Safe Diwali" during this Hindu festival of lights in order to prevent burns and spread safety messages on addictive substances. And: "The Foundation worked with analyst firm De Argumentenfabriek to produce a map summarising information about the impact of living conditions on young children."

BvLF also works on its goals through its publications: Early Childhood Matters, Espacio para la Infancia, and Early Childhood in Focus (also Dutch and Spanish editions), and seminars and webinars.



Email from the Bernard van Leer Foundation to The Communication Initiative on May 6 and May 12 2014.