GCI-logo.gifGlobal Children's Initiative

In an explicit effort to build an integrated international approach to child survival, health, and development in the earliest years of life, the Center on the Developing Child has launched the Global Children’s Initiative as the centerpiece of its global child health and development agenda.

The Center’s commitment to global work represents both an acknowledgement of moral responsibility to meet the needs of all children and a critical investment in the roots of economic productivity, positive health outcomes, and strong civil society in all nations, from the poorest to the most affluent. One essential, cross-cutting aspect of the Center’s approach is its commitment to work collaboratively across disciplines and institutions, drawing together the best and most creative expertise available to achieve the Initiative’s goals.

Drawing on lessons from our work in the United States, the Global Children’s Initiative seeks to advance the Center's core mission globally by implementing a compelling research, public engagement and leadership development agenda in child health and development that is grounded in science and engages researchers, public leaders, practitioners, and students from a wide range of institutions around the world. Specifically, the global program will focus on three strategic areas:

  • reframing the discourse around child health and development in the global policy arena by educating high-level decision-makers about the underlying science of learning, behavior, and health, beginning in the earliest years of life;
  • supporting innovative, multi-disciplinary research and demonstration projects to expand global understanding of how healthy development happens, how it can be derailed, and how to get it back on track; and
  • building leadership capacity in child development research and policy—focused on both individuals and institutions—in low- and middle-income countries to increase the number and influence of diverse voices and perspectives that are contributing to the growing global movement on behalf of young children.

Guided by these strategic objectives, the Global Children’s Initiative has begun to build a portfolio of activities in three domains:

  • early childhood development;
  • child mental health; and
  • children in crisis and conflict situations.

Each of these domains is being guided by a designated faculty working group that will facilitate continuing cross-disciplinary collaboration; design and implement new projects; and engage additional faculty, students, and collaborators beyond the Harvard community.

The Center acknowledges the important contributions made to the development of the Global Children's Initiative by the Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) of Turkey, which served as Founding Partner for the initial planning of the Center's global agenda. The Center and AÇEV continue to share a strong belief in the power of science to inform global early childhood development and appreciate the complementary experiences each organization offers to support children and families around the world.

We also acknowledge the generous support of The Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which enabled the initial implementation of the Center’s global agenda.

Read more about the Global Children's Initiative's activities >>


Applying the Science of Early Childhood in Brazil

NCPIAs part of its Global Children’s Initiative, the Center is launching Núcleo Ciência Pela Infância, its first major programmatic effort outside the United States. In collaboration with local experts, the project aims to use the science of child health and development to guide stronger policies and larger investments to benefit young children and their families in Brazil.



Zambian Early Childhood Development Project

Zambian Early Childhood Development Project

While a large number of studies have investigated the impact of early childhood experiences on children’s developmental, health, and educational outcomes in developed countries, relatively little evidence is available on early childhood development in sub-Saharan Africa. To address this knowledge gap, the Zambian Ministry of Education, the Examination Council of Zambia, UNICEF, the University of Zambia, and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University launched the Zambian Early Childhood Development Project (ZECDP) in 2009, a collaborative effort to measure the effects of an ongoing anti-malaria initiative on children’s development in Zambia.



Un Buen Comienzo

Un Buen Comienzo (UBC), "A Good Start," is a collaborative project in Santiago, Chile, to improve the quality of early childhood education through teacher professional development.


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Theresa Betancourt Faculty Spotlight

Faculty Spotlight: Theresa Betancourt

Studying the Effects of Global Adversity, Two Generations at
a Time

When humanitarian crises hit around the world, nongovernmental organizations rush into the fray, intensively focused on urgent survival needs, not necessarily on longer-term impacts that may take an even greater toll on the country and its citizens. Theresa Betancourt, a Center-affiliated faculty member who studies children in adversity and has worked alongside NGOs, wants to help them see that farther horizon: Combining short-term survival efforts with attention to children’s developmental needs only magnifies the long-range benefits for individuals and societies.

Read more >> 


New Scientific Knowledge Can Inform Innovative Global Strategies

PediatricsInternational discussions of child-related policies and practices often fail to make the vital connection between child survival, one of the developing world’s most pressing issues, and child development, an equally important prerequisite for productive and harmonious societies. However, an article in the February 2012 issue of Pediatrics co-authored by Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff posits that new knowledge in the biological and social sciences offers a unifying framework that can inform innovative strategies to improve both child survival and early development as well as adult outcomes in health, learning, and behavior. The article calls for greater synergy across policy sectors related to child health and well-being, schooling, and economic development. The co-authors are Linda Richter of the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa; Jacques van der Gaag of the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution, and the Amsterdam Institute for International Development, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta of the Division of Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.

Read or download the full article on the Pediatrics
web site >>

Major support for the Global Children’s Initiative is currently being provided by:
The Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Fund, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation;  The Özyegin Family - AÇEV Global Early Childhood Research Fund; Grand Challenges Canada; the Bernard van Leer Foundation; and An Anonymous Donor.



Videos in Spanish and Portuguese

Several of the Center's videos have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. The translations of the Spanish videos were made possible with major support from the World Bank, while the videos available in Portuguese where translated and adapted for a Brazilian audience as part of the Global Children's Initiative's major programmatic effort in BrazilView all videos available in Spanish and Portuguese >>