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Barbara Gebhard of the Build Initiative describes the initiative's interactive evaluation approach between the five states in the evaluation and their evaluation partners, who are all contributing toward a national report on the initiative.

The Build Initiative is a nine-state, multiyear initiative supported by a number of the foundations that participate in the Early Childhood Funders' Collaborative (see the box). The initiative supports teams of key stakeholders in selected states with planning and mobilization activities directed toward building comprehensive early learning systems. Build focuses on the first 5 years of life and has a broad conception of systems building, which includes health, family support, early intervention, and early care and education. Build's definition of the elements necessary for a comprehensive early learning system includes infrastructure development, quality improvement, evaluation, financing, and public engagement.

The overall Build Initiative is constructed as a learning partnership across all nine states, its technical assistance and peer-learning activities contoured to the evolving issues and opportunities identified by the states. The evaluation of the Build Initiative began with four states—Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio—in May 2002. In 2003 Build added a fifth state, Pennsylvania, as part of the national evaluation, and four learning partner states—Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington.

The Child and Family Policy Center (CFPC), the national evaluation partner for Build, consulted with each of the five states participating in the evaluation to select and support a state evaluation partner. The state evaluation partner observes and participates in Build planning activities at the state level and is responsible for producing a site case study, which is later incorporated into a larger national report.

In the first year, the state evaluation partner also was responsible for guiding the Build team in assembling baseline data on the status of young children and services in the state and on the extent of planning and mobilization around the state's early learning agenda. This data will be used for tracking progress in subsequent years. Build's interactive evaluation approach also has provided the teams direct access to evaluation expertise while they are engaged in their planning work.

The CFPC supports the states in developing outcome-based self-evaluation capacities for continuous learning and improvement; it constructed a common matrix for baseline data collection and a protocol for developing the state case studies. Staff from CFPC conducted site visits to each of the states to provide support for the evaluation process. The resulting cross-site insights contributed to the observations, lessons learned, and emerging issues cited in Build's national first-year evaluation report.

The Build Initiative's approach is to invest in state teams of committed leaders in early learning from both the public and private sectors, including state agencies, service providers, and advocacy organizations. It does not specify a specific organizational or governance structure, recognizing that each state often already has a number of different planning and governance structures around early learning. Instead, Build is designed to enable states to work through existing structures where appropriate, and to provide additional resources and information to strategically move the states' overall early learning agenda forward.

Build's national evaluation partner has characterized the initiative as a Margaret Mead approach to funding systems building, investing in “passionate individuals” working together to produce change, rather than prescribing a specific structure or set of activities.

For a summary of Build's first-year evaluation report, which includes brief case studies from the four original states, email Barbara Gebhard at the address below.

Related Resource

The Build Initiative represents one instance of a joint funding activity conducted by members of the Early Childhood Funders' Collaborative (ECFC). In this case, the group chose to pool funds to develop comprehensive early learning systems in selected states.

ECFC was established in 1995 to foster connections among those working in the field of early childhood care and education. Its approximately 35 members represent foundations or corporate giving offices known for making substantial investments in the field at national, regional, state, and local levels. The collaborative has come to serve a number of important functions:

  • Providing opportunities for networking among colleagues
  • Sharing information about strategic grantmaking in early childhood
  • Facilitating joint or coordinated grantmaking activities

Members take turns hosting up to four meetings a year, conducting business, and often bringing in outside experts to inform the group about select topics and opportunities in early childhood. In addition, ECFC conducts research to help inform grantmaking in early care and education by commissioning papers, convening small meetings, and conducting interviews with key stakeholders in the field.

Barbara Gebhard
Project Director
Build Initiative
5313 Pamela Circle
Cross Lanes, WV 25313
Tel: 304-776-2940

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