Looking back to look forward: ensuring longer-term change in early years

Sharing what Eurochild has achieved for children’s early childhood development in partnership with the Open Society Foundations between 2019 and 2024. Blog by Agata D’Addato Eurochild Head of Programmes.

The First Years, First Priority (FYFP) campaign, launched in November 2020, highlights the need for more policy attention and public investment in early childhood, as the foundation for children's healthy development, wellbeing, education and lifelong opportunities.  

Eurochild and the International Step by Step Association, the campaign co-leaders, in partnership with the European Public Health Alliance and the Roma Education Fund, worked with civil society partners in 11 countries across Europe (Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain) to:

  • build a critical mass of actors advocating to prioritise investment in early childhood development (ECD);
  • leverage the political and economic power of the EU by engaging with relevant policy coordination mechanisms and monitoring the use of EU funds;
  • collate and compile research and evidence to inform policy development both at national and European levels.

We believe that investing in children needs to start in infancy and early childhood, with specific measures to support the most marginalised young children and their families and caregivers. We would like to see a strong social Europe that recognises the importance of investing in early childhood, so that all children can receive the nurturing care they need.

An external evaluation of the FYFP campaign was commissioned in December 2023 to support us and campaign partners to look back on these past years and look forward in the most effective way.

  • The evaluation findings point to FYFP campaign’s significant levels of effectiveness, to the achievements of the campaign objectives, and signs of strong foundations for future early years and evidence-based advocacy.
  • The FYFP campaign was found to achieve sustained outcomes, to harness the use of ECD research, and to increase capacities for strong national coalitions to influence public policies on early years.
  • These coalitions have the potential for much greater cross-national peer-to-peer learning on the European Child Guarantee implementation in particular, and the monitoring and accountability of National Action Plans implementation.
  • Integral within the FYFP campaign model is that it has replicability and scalability at its heart and, importantly, partners have been able to effectively build on good practice from previous trans-national European campaigns.
  • The campaign evaluation was able to draw concrete recommendations to help partners reflect on how to take this change-oriented campaign forward and ensure longer-term change in early years.

The First Years, First Priority campaign also focuses on the forthcoming European elections. We have released our manifesto and are working with other civil society organisations to push the EU to maintain and increase the focus on child poverty, on children’s rights and on early childhood in the new Parliament and the new European Commission that will follow.

Eurochild is also developing a paper with lessons learned and recommendations for ECD reform systems in Europe. Stay tuned and join the ECD community!

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