Because we believe now is the time to catalyze innovation within the early childhood sector, Gary Community Investments is making a multi-year, multi-million dollar human and financial capital commitment to surfacing, piloting, supporting, and scaling new solutions to improving early learning and development.
While there has been significant progress made in understanding how to improve early childhood development and learning, one-third of U.S. children do not enter kindergarten ready to learn, with 80 percent of those children coming from low-income families. More momentum and different types of capital are needed to ensure the school readiness and long-term success of all children. Harnessing the power of science, technology and business practices, combined with access to capital, can help pave the way for early childhood solutions that are novel, or more effective, efficient or sustainable than current ones.
Our Approach to Catalyzing Early Childhood Innovation
As an organization that blends philanthropic and social impact investing, GCI is able to assume more risk, embrace experimentation and pursue new approaches to creating transformative change. Through our school readiness innovation strategies, we are placing a more deliberate focus on innovation in our portfolio by sourcing more varied solutions, deploying capital differently and better coordinating our investments around problems that need solving. As we work to catalyze new ideas, initiatives and investments that improve the school readiness of Colorado’s children, we will focus on the following strategies:
Early Childhood Prize: To build a pipeline of potentially transformative investment opportunities, we partnered with OpenIDEO on the Early Childhood Innovation Prize, which launched in fall 2017 and brought together hundreds of innovators and experts to collaboratively solve the question: How might we maximize every child’s potential during their first three years of life. At the close of the EC Prize’s submission phase on February 15, innovators from more than 100 countries submitted nearly 570 ideas, and more than 260 innovators received mentorship support and feedback from 135 experts in early childhood and a number of other fields. Learn more about our goals for the EC Prize.
Bridging Unusual Suspects: To introduce new actors and ideas from the private sector, finance and technology to the early childhood field, we curated the first-ever track of early childhood-focused sessions at SOCAP, the largest annual social entrepreneurship and impact investing conference in the world that attracts entrepreneurs, academics, investors and foundations focused on using private capital to create impact. Learn more about highlights and takeaways from the early childhood conversation that happened at SOCAP17.
Early Childhood Fund: We are committed to creating an early childhood investment fund strategy to spur investment opportunities and catalyze private sector activity that leads to more companies creating transformational outcomes for young, low-income children.
By approximately 2035, we intend to invest all of our assets into community and business vehicles that address the challenges facing low-income families. To help reach this goal, we are focused on developing our own innovation mindset, and we are committed to using a mix of innovation tools to catalyze entrepreneurial activity among nonprofits, for-profits, governments and academics. As part of our 20-year strategy, we seek to unearth new, sometimes risky and disruptive, ideas that have the potential to transform programs, organizations and sectors to meet the needs of low-income children and their families in game-changing ways.
While seeding innovation is an important tool in our school readiness investment strategy, we will also continue to invest in effective programs that have the potential to create transformative change while supporting policy efforts that are aligned with our mission.
We will be regularly sharing more insight into our school readiness innovation strategy on our Shared Knowledge blog, and we encourage you to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest on this work.