Date: 14-12-2020

Successful Partnership to Support Comprehensive Early Childhood Services

We interviewed Christopher Goodman, Program Manager at Jacobs Foundation, about their partnership with ISSA and our member organization in Romania – the Step by Ste Center for Education and Professional Development. He reflected on the implementation of the Primokiz approach, now that the license for the program is granted to ISSA.

- Why did the Jacobs Foundation decide to grant the license on the Primokiz approach to ISSA?

- Having implemented Primokiz in Switzerland and the successful handover to an implementation partner for the second phase here, our aim is to scale up the impact of Primokiz by leveraging the strengths of ISSA as a network and thus making the approach widely available.

Of course, in recent years ISSA has also increased its efforts to raise awareness on the importance of developing a coordinated early childhood policy, including through the INTESYS partnership project. Recognizing ISSA’s long-lasting experience in the early childhood field, at the end of 2018, Jacobs Foundation and ISSA signed an agreement granting the Primokiz license free-of-charge to ISSA. The aim was to make the approach available to more and more countries, scaling up its impact.

- From your perspective, what does the Romania Grows with You initiative represent for the Early Childhood Development agenda and why did the Jacobs Foundation decide to support it?

- Our partnership with ISSA started by using the Primokiz approach in a pilot project. This pilot project is implemented with one of ISSA’s members in Romania – the Step by Step Center for Education and Professional Development. We were very confident that together with ISSA they were the right partners for this pilot and for implementing Romania Grows with You (RGwY), based on their track record and standing within the Early Childhood Development (ECD) landscape.

The complexity of the partnership both at international and national level is built to assure sustainable changes for early years in Romania – down to the municipal level, where the Center for Education and Professional Development has been working hard with local teams. These local teams, where all community stakeholders are represented, have recognized the Primokiz approach as a very innovative and relevant instrument. The approach offers a thorough, structured process of analysis, reflection and planning for local communities to develop a realistic image of early years services at community level, offering opportunities to revise and develop local development strategies with ECD as a priority and long-term investment plan to create child- and family-friendly communities.

Embedding this pilot of transferring the Primokiz approach to another country into RGwY offered the best context for the Center for Education and Professional Development. This way, they could use the Primokiz manual, access other resources provided by Jacobs Foundation and develop additional resources to best cater to the needs of each community. They do this in a way that encourages learning and sharing among local teams and professionals in 22 communities that have now joined a vibrant learning community. It is impressive how they mobilized various stakeholders including the business community. 

“In our broader partnership with ISSA, this pilot [with the Center for Education and Professional Development] helps us gain experience in how to scale the Primokiz approach.”

Thus, overall, this initiative represents a real network of international, national and local partners who agreed to come together not only due to the innovative proposal but also in recognition of the expertise available at the Center for Education and Professional Development and ISSA. In our broader partnership with ISSA, this pilot helps us gain experience in how to scale the Primokiz approach. Building on this experience and the learnings from the collaboration in Romania, Jacobs Foundation decided to support a similar initiative on a smaller scale, with another ISSA member – the Step by Step Center for Quality Education in Slovenia. The initiative Slovenia Grows with You is built around similar focus areas and approaches to implement Primokiz.

- 2020 has been an unusual year. What can you say about how the Center for Education and Professional Development responded to the challenges on the ground and how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced implementation?

Representatives of ISSA, Jacobs Foundation and Center for Education and Professional Development attended the meeting of the Local Project Team in Onesti, Bacau County, Romania in September 2019 – one of the 22 communities where Primokiz is used in the country- Just like before the pandemic, we continued to receive regular updates and reports on the challenges and progress made in implementation. Of course, there were some delays once the pandemic started. We have been happy to provide the Center for Education and Professional Development and ISSA with the necessary support. Especially, since the partner in Romania was very proactive, flexible and innovative in addressing the needs and offering individualized support to local teams to continue even in the midst of the strictest mitigation measures – when preschools were closed, and communities were in lock-down.

They maintained a transparent and continuous communication, transferring knowledge for both local teams and ECD professionals through the creative use of online tools. For example, ECD professionals were invited to join a learning community on social media, and they were provided with training sessions, various practical resources, and individualized mentoring in order for them to continue to support children’s learning. 

The Center for Education and Professional Development demonstrated once more that they have a very strong and professional team dedicated to the program. Their highly proactive approach allowed them to adjust very fast under the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to achieve the objectives of the initiative. We were really impressed by that feat!

 - And looking to the future..?

- Through this partnership we have already now learned many valuable lessons in Romania. The expertise gained will be undoubtfully shared with their peers in Slovenia and further among other ISSA members, and scaled for advancing ECD in this part of the world. 

RGwY is an example of joining efforts and energies in support of ECD and can be a model of public, private and civil society organizations coming together to build a better future for children. The initiative in Romania, with the work in 22 communities, shows that this is possible.

Group photo: Representatives of ISSA, Jacobs Foundation and Center for Education and Professional Development attended the meeting of the Local Project Team in Onesti, Bacau County, Romania in September 2019 – one of the 22 communities where Primokiz is used in the country