Collaborate and NPC have published a new report sharing key insights from Save the Children’s Early Learning Communities programme. It is designed to be a learning resource for systems change programmes, practitioners and funders.

Collaborate and NPC have been working as systems change learning and evaluation partner to Save the Children UK’s Early Learning Communities (ELC) programme over the past four years. The goal of the ELCs (based in Bettws, Newport; Feltham, London; Margate and Sheffield) is to convene and coordinate key partners from across the local early learning system, develop a shared vision for how those early learning systems need to change to enable better outcomes for children living in poverty, and work together to create this change.

When looking to enable system-wide as a route to improving outcomes, it can be hard to know where to start and what will make a difference. Our latest report looks across the four ELCs and their journeys so far to identify insights and practical examples relevant for others looking to take collective action to change local systems. 

In the early days I thought I’d have to deliver change through complex programmes and processes… but what I’ve needed the most to create impact is people who have confidence in each other and confidence in walking in the same direction towards the same goal.

Rebecca Thomas, Bettws ELC Lead

Given that systems change evaluation is an emerging field, our evaluation approach may also be of interest to other similar initiatives. Collaborate, working in partnership with NPC and the ELCs, developed a maturity model which sets out ten system conditions that are key to shifting early years systems to enable better outcomes. You can read more about the maturity model here, how we’ve used it here, and some earlier evaluation findings here.

Using the maturity model, we have found that while the starting point and progress against the conditions varies across each ELC, certain conditions have emerged as particularly foundational across all the ELCs.

This new learning resource explores three of these foundational conditions, how they have been developed within the ELCs, and how developing that condition has helped to shift certain aspects of their local early learning system.

The foundational conditions are:

  • Trusted collaborative relationships
  • Shared vision and purpose
  • Shifting power to families

The report also looks to the future of the ELCs to provide examples of what the next phase of maturity might involve, and sets out implications of systems change work for funding and support organisations like Save the Children.
To explore insights and practical examples from the ELC programme, read the learning resource here.

To find out more about this work, the maturity model, and how Collaborate can support local systems change initiatives, please contact Dawn Plimmer. If you want to find out more about the Early Learning Communities themselves, please contact Sarah Crosby.