Early childhood development is at the forefront of Minnesota’s current policy agenda. In 2011, Governor Mark Dayton issued an executive order identifying kindergarten readiness, affordable early childhood education, and state coordination as priorities of the administration. Later that same year, Minnesota was awarded a $45 million, three-year federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant to “improve early learning and development opportunities for Minnesota’s young children” (Minnesota Department of Education). Since the award was granted, Minnesota has made great strides to coordinate early childhood education across the state. However, experts note many areas where work remains; Minnesota still has one of the highest achievement gaps in the nation. As part of our Custom Research offering, we are partnering with Minnesota Philanthropy Partners to explore the nonprofits that work in Minnesota’s early childhood development sector.
In preparation for this research, the Philanthropedia team interviewed 14 experts working in early childhood development related fields in Minnesota. Their insights have helped define the scope of this research. (Thank you to those of you who offered your time and expertise!)
Scope of the Research
In this next phase of the research, we ask that sector experts recommend up to 4 high-impact nonprofits and up to 3 promising start-up nonprofits that are having a strong impact in the early childhood development sector.
Experts noted areas of need in terms of geography, demography and types of services:
Geography: Providers face different challenges in urban vs. rural areas. Challenges include accessibility of services and resources, concentration of poverty, and varying needs of different racial/ethnic groups (e.g. access to services for non-English speakers, or access to services on tribal reservations).
Demography: Minnesota is home to a variety of different racial and ethnic groups. Early childhood services must be adapted to the range of cultures, languages and socio-economic statuses of these groups. The achievement can may be particularly pronounced within the following communities:
- Urban and rural poor in general
- Native American reservations
- African American communities
- Immigrant communities: such as Hmong, Somali, Latino, Southeast African, Bhutanese, Nepalese and Karen
Types of Services: Organizations in Minnesota have adopted a holistic approach to early learning that includes a broad range of services. Services can target children, families, and early childhood education professionals:
- Children: Focus on learning environment, parent/guardian relationships, mental health, and nutrition
- Families: Focus on guidance and tools for early childhood learning, assistance with housing and education, support for mental health and/or substance abuse
- Child care professionals and teachers: Focus on training professionals to work with parents and diverse communities, setting standards for care, licensing, and advocacy for higher wages and policy change
Types of nonprofits – We ask that experts consider many types of nonprofits including:
childcare centers, direct service organizations, Head Start programs, preschools / primary schools , professional development organizations, policy and advocacy organizations, referral agencies, and research organizations
Participation in the Research
If you are a professional (foundation staff, researcher, nonprofit staff member, etc.) working in the field of early childhood development in Minnesota and have insight on nonprofit organizations working in this field, we’d love to hear from you. You may have received an email from us with a link to our survey. The survey will be open until mid-March 2015. We hope you will share your perspective and insights! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact Jasmine Marrow at firstname.lastname@example.org with information about your current position and background, and we would be happy to send the survey to you to include your recommendations.
Additionally, we invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might frame this type of work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, we hope you learned something new and will check in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!