Our Innovation Approach

In order to achieve breakthrough outcomes that can be scaled for population-level impact, we need a structured but flexible approach that facilitates program development, implementation, testing, evaluation, and fast-cycle iteration. Frontiers of Innovation’s IDEAS Impact FrameworkTM provides that approach, drawing on existing research and development tools and applying them in new ways to set a higher bar for program development and evaluation.

One minute, one big idea: why we need science-based R&D (research and development) for young children who are facing serious adversity.

Decades of research have illuminated many of the causes and correlations of negative outcomes for children who grow up facing adversity. When it comes to solutions, however, the early childhood field has produced only modest impacts. The focus has been on proving that programs are effective on average—rather than understanding how they work and for whom.

How can we build better programs that achieve greater outcomes for more young children and their families?

Often, efforts to increase a program’s impact by adding new components tend to increase the complexity and cost while decreasing precision. In the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) community, we challenge the traditional approach. Our IDEAS Impact FrameworkTM is a rigorous design process for developing, testing, deploying, and iterating programs. IDEAS stands for:

  • Innovate to solve unmet challenges
  • Develop a usable program with a clear and precise theory of change
  • Evaluate the theory of change to determine what works for whom and why
  • Adapt in rapid-cycle iterations
  • Scale promising programs

Using the IDEAS Impact Framework allows us to go beyond the average and ask:

  • What about it works? If we understand the key ingredients, we can replicate them.
  • How does it work? Being specific about the underlying mechanisms can help us increase the impact.
  • For whom does it work, and for whom does it not work? When we know who is and isn’t responding, we can make targeted adaptations to improve the outcomes.
  • In what contexts does it work? By evaluating the context in which a program is implemented, we can adapt it for other settings.

Each of these inquiries points us toward the ultimate pursuit of the IDEAS Framework: Building better programs that achieve greater impact for more young children and their families.


Learn More

The IDEAS Impact Framework includes a set of guiding principles, which represent ways of working that are integral to the model, as well as a set of three components that are created and revised within the framework.


Get Involved

What are the next steps for someone who might be interested in getting involved in the work of science-based innovation?

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