This Funder is Serious About Understanding Early Childhood Development

Over the past 25 years, the Jacobs Foundation’s outlook on the early years of life “changed radically.” The foundation speaks of neurobiology, the brain structure of babies, and the science behind the influence of early learning on the future success of babies and young children. All of that science is a bit out of our depth, but what isn’t is the fact that promoting education and improving livelihoods are a big deal at the Jacobs Foundation. And its work is very much global in scope. 

Last year, the Jacobs Foundation dedicated over 60 percent of its annual grantmaking to its Research Funding program. This money isn’t necessarily dedicated to big data, but is rather based on the notion that “to be able to effectively and sustainably support children and young people, we must understand how they develop.”

To help further the society’s deeper understanding on childhood development, the Jacobs Foundation teamed up with the Campbell Collaboration to launch the Better Evidence for Children and Youth program, which just announced its first set of grants totaling $200,000.

Three of the five teams chosen will conduct a deep dive into existing programs and interventions related to socio-emotional learning, executive function, early promotion of literacy skills and combatting anti-social behavior. One project will focus on updating an existing review of school-based, anti-bullying programs.

The two remaining teams will focus on improving global early childhood development and the relationship between day care attendance and early common infections. Simon Sommer, head of research at the Jacobs Foundation, noted, “Children and youth grow up in ever more complex environments,” and just about everyone could use “reliable information on policies, interventions and programs that work.”

Until recently, we at IP hadn’t heard of the Jacobs Foundation. Mainly because it’s based in Switzerland. But this quiet funder came to our attention when it made a $52 million pledge to launch the Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC) initiative.

Related: Sweet, But Bitter: A Foundation Puts Up a Fortune to Help Poor Cocoa Farmers

TRECCs goal is to improve the living conditions of coca farmers living in Ivory Coast, focusing on research, local capacity building, educational projects, and the use of innovative financial tools. Launched in June 2015, the TRECC program will run for seven years.

On the surface, it may not seem as though TRECC has the early childhood development bent that is so important to Jacobs, but it does. In Ivory Coast, 45 percent of children ages six to 12 and over 60 percent of young people ages 15 to 24 have failed to complete elementary school. 

Although we’re still getting to know the Jacobs Foundation, it’s actually been around for 25 years, and has awarded over $565 million grants during that time. We’re interested to see where its $38 million in annual funding will go in the coming years