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Early Childhood Connector

An online community to share knowledge, scale expertise and fuel innovation in real time.

Colleen Murphy May 13, 2020
  • Professional Development
  • Blog

In 2019, Start Early, the Center for the Study of Social Policy and Early Opportunities hosted the Harnessing Community Momentum Convening, which brought together early childhood leaders from across the country to discuss the urgent need for better collaboration and real-time connection across the early childhood field. As a result of the convening, work began to co-create a suite of essential tools for the early childhood movement, including the development of an online community: Early Childhood Connector.

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To build the original version of Early Childhood Connector, state and national partners gathered to establish a shared vision for the design of this online community. More than 40 local, state and national partners gathered to establish a shared vision for the design of this online community. The goal was to create a public good — a space that promotes meaningful connections to peers and experts, access to knowledge and ways to capture, curate, and share knowledge in real time.

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, Start Early recognized that the need for real-time connection and collaboration across the field was even more urgent. Early childhood partners needed a place to navigate the implications of the global health crisis together. To support this, Start Early as the sponsoring organization for Early Childhood Connector led the launch of the initial platform months ahead of schedule.

Young woman at her laptop workingEarly Childhood Connector quickly brought together early childhood partners in a simple, judgement-free online community to connect with each other, share ideas, curate best practices and elevate work happening at the local, state, and national level in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The group provided a neutral location to host the most up-to-date COVID-19 resources and information including emerging community, state and national strategies.

Early Childhood Connector has given me a space for self-care: a place to share my thoughts, process my opinions and connect with peers across the nation. Through this community, we can elevate voices that need to be heard – now, more than ever. As a united community, we are a strong force.

Kresta Horn, Early Childhood Connector Member
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The value of and the need for this platform was immediately clear. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, a child development director from Arizona asked fellow members to share their strategies on how to best support child care workers adopt guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing protective face coverings while balancing concerns for how this might impact day-to-day interactions with children. Responses from members across the country poured in, offering ideas of the different types of masks she could investigate and giving the director a sense of validation and connectedness. Ultimately, the director learned of masks with clear mouth coverings that are now in use in her pre-K classroom to better support children in reading their lips when speaking.

This is just one of many connections that resulted in an improved practice on the ground across our country. As we continue to build on the success of Early Childhood Connector, we are excited about the potential this initiative has to accelerate knowledge sharing and spread promising practices across early childhood partner networks to improve outcomes for children and their families.

About the Author

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Colleen Murphy

Vice President, Community Early Childhood Systems Building

Colleen Murphy is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive community systems strategy for Start Early.

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