Science-Based Innovation

Our approach to science-based innovation emphasizes the rapid design and testing of new intervention strategies grounded in the science of early childhood. This science helps us understand the factors that promote or derail healthy development, allowing us to develop interventions that use scientific concepts to address challenges facing young children. We embrace innovation as a “different way of working” that brings together researchers, practitioners, and community members in a fast-cycle process of co-creation in order to implement, test, and adapt these interventions.

Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., describes the mission of the Center on the Developing Child and its vision for using science to innovate in the early childhood field and fundamentally change the lives of children facing adversity.

For us, innovation means taking risks, sharing results early, and learning quickly from ideas that don’t work. While most leaders in the early childhood field focus on the delivery of best practices today, others need to invest in the creation and expansion of more effective best practices for tomorrow. We can and need to do better—and an innovation approach can point the way.

Innovation in Action
What does innovation look like in action? Learn more about featured projects that are part of Frontiers of Innovation.

An innovation-friendly environment allows people to work together, test new ideas, and engage in active learning. There are a few key ingredients that can support innovation in the early childhood field:

  • Ideas for taking action that are grounded in the latest science and informed by on-the-ground experience.
  • People and organizations who are willing to work across sectors to test promising ideas, learn from failure, promote fast-cycle sharing, and lead broader impact.
  • Policy, funding, and professional environments that support experimentation and entrepreneurial investment in new ideas.
Learn about the IDEAS Framework innovation approach and its guiding principles, as well as a set of three components that are created and revised within the model.

To that end, we are building a diverse network of practitioners, researchers, service recipients, and policymakers to accelerate progress through a disciplined process of fast-cycle design, testing, and sharing of new ideas in real-world contexts. In our fast-cycle innovation process, new ideas are tested through micro-trials with small numbers of children, parents, and practitioners in different settings to facilitate rapid sharing and modification based on who appears to be benefitting from specific interventions and who does not.

Learn more about our approach for advancing science-based innovation.

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