iLab Primeira Infância (Early Childhood iLab)
Who said innovation only takes place in the world of technology? When it comes to infant development strategies, other types of novelties and disruptions may enter the scene. Brazil’s iLab Primeira Infância (Early Childhood iLab) selects ECD projects according to its scalable and innovative potential and guides its implementers to complete rigorous design and testing processes. This lab is innovating because it brings together the experience of public and private sector researchers and technicians to design, promote, and accelerate evidence-based interventions that tackle the biggest challenges affecting Brazil’s children. Projects with scalability potential and targeting vulnerable families receive support so that their strategies and materials are tested and improved under a fast-cycle iteration process.
In recent decades, the number of early childhood development interventions has grown dramatically in Brazil and in the rest of LAC. But protecting and promoting children’s development is a matter of quality, not just quantity: it is necessary to support initiatives during their design and implementation stages to boost their scope and effectiveness. Accelerating these processes for innovative ECD interventions in vulnerable homes also requires joint action from researches and from the public and private sectors. One way that could effectively coordinate all these sectors is the creation of platforms that identify innovative projects with scalability potential and implement them in a rigorous manner. These platforms are still scarce or are disconnected from each other in the region.
Without a doubt, innovation demands experimentation, and experimentation requires coordination. That’s where iLab Primeira Infância steps in, as a lab committed to identifying and studying new strategies to tackle Brazil’s most pressing early childhood development challenges. The lab is part of the Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child’ Frontiers of Innovation platform. Its methodological approach is to provide support so project strategies can be tested and improved under a fast-cycle iteration process.
Evaluation and Impact
In 2015, the year iLab was launched, 13 solution proposals to meet the needs of children living in adverse conditions in Brazil were received. Of these, four were selected for development and evaluation under a fast-cycle iteration methodology: Formação de Vínculo na Adversidade (Forging Ties in Adversity), Mosaico FÁCIL, Fortalecendo Laços (Strengthening Ties), and Brincar Ensina a Mudar (Play Teaches Change). These programs constitute iLab’s phase one and all have in common the goal of strengthening parenting practices and children-caregivers ties, particularly in disadvantaged families. Phase two received 540 entries and picked four initiatives for development during 2020. These are: Programa Passarinho (Acre), BOT.DOM (Santa Catarina), Equidade na Infância (São Paulo, Equity in Infancy), and Adoção – início dos novos vínculos (Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo, Adoption – the beginning of new ties). Just the review of nearly 600 proposals since its inception speaks of the success of this initiative as a platform that promotes innovation.