Launched in 2011 by five partner organizations in Brazil and at Harvard, Núcleo Ciência Pela Infância (NCPI) is a collaborative initiative designed to advance early childhood investment in a rapidly growing Latin American nation facing significant socioeconomic inequalities. One of the most important features of the partnership is an Executive Leadership Program (ELP) designed to build the capacity of leaders in government and civil society to apply the science of early childhood development to some of their country’s most complex social problems.
Each year, cohorts of 40–45 senior-level Brazilian policymakers come to Harvard for an intensive week of instruction, skill-building, and project development. Participants then return home and continue to work in small groups to develop and refine action plans for implementation in their jurisdictions. Follow-on activities have included reconvening in São Paulo for a workshop on implementing policy change in Brazil, a day for program alumni to meet and learn about each other’s work, and the April 2015 launch of a complementary instructional and skill-building program in Brazil for municipal level leadership and state and federal mid-level technical staff.
Some of the action plans developed by course participants over the years include:
A comprehensive national “Legal Framework for Early Childhood” was developed by the 27 members of the Federal Congress who participated in ELP and it was adopted by the lower House of the Congress in early 2015.
A new early childhood development program in the city of São Paulo led by its First Lady.
A new home visiting program, designed by the coordinator for child health in the Federal Ministry of Health, and piloted by the First Ladies of São Paulo and Fortaleza.
As of 2017, the Center has welcomed more than 300 science-informed early childhood champions in Brazil, including senators, federal deputies, and heads of foundations.
For more information on the Executive Leadership Program, see the article “Developing leadership for young children in Brazil” in A good start: advances in early childhood development, the 2015 edition of Early Childhood Matters, published by the Bernard van Leer Foundation.