Call for businesses to lead the charge in early learning
It is the out-of-place sound that makes people stop and listen.
That is the behaviour a business-led advocacy group is using to encourage greater government funding into childhood early learning.
ReadyNation is an international business organisation of executives focussed on improving the global economy and workforces and believe that the key to that goal is investing in children in their early years.
The organisation’s Global Director Sara Watson is in Australia to help launch a branch here and says the success of the group in other countries has been because the businesses involved are not directly involved in early learning.
Dr Watson said ReadyNation’s business leaders successfully carried the strong evidence-based messaging around the benefits of early learning to government and policy makers.
“They get attention in a way that many children’s advocates can’t get attention, as people as expect them to be advocating for early childhood,’’ Dr Watson said.
It also helps the cause of early learning to have big business as an ally.
“Powerless children need powerful friends. Children can’t vote and it is often very hard for children advocates to win battles with other interests who have sharp elbows, a lot of power on their side,’’ Dr Watson said.
She acknowledges some questions about the involvement of big business in the sector.
“Sometime people are concerned that the involvement of business leaders will lead to increasing pressure on young children, or narrowing the curriculum to literacy and numeracy without attention to the whole spectrum of needs and development that children have.
“Our experience has been the opposite. Business leaders truly understand that in order to get the outcomes that we are all promising and expecting of early learning you need high quality services that have well trained staff and that address the whole spectrum of children’s needs.’’
Dr Watson said if you asked a business leader what were the most important characteristics of an effective successful employee, they would say they needed to be able to read and do basic maths, but equally important was that they were able to get along with others, follow directions, be creative, be persistent and be problem solvers.
“And when you explain to them that all of those skills start in the earliest ages they understand completely how what happens to children during that time period will effect whether or not they can be successful on the job in all types of ways.’’
She said businesses were eager to be involved because they had a vested interest in improving both the current and the future workforce and ReadyNation gave them an easy way to make a difference.
“When business leaders join ReadyNation we promise them that we won’t ask them for money and we don’t ask them to go to meetings, but we identify very specific opportunities where their particular voice will make a difference.
“We contact them at the crucial time when a decision is about to be made and their influence can help turn the tide of that decision. So they appreciate that their time is used very carefully and strategically.’’
Dr Watson said businesses were also given ideas on what they could do at the community level and in their company, so they could do something tangible in the short-term while fighting the longer-term battles with Government.
For more information on ReadyNation, visit www.readynation.org
Why did you start ReadyNation?
I saw how powerful business executives could be in convincing policy makers to increase public investment in early childhood.
The victories that ReadyNation has contributed to in terms of winning public funding for early childhood at both the state and national levels in the US. Over the last three years our members have participated in campaigns that have won more than $3billion in new money for early childhood education.
What has been done outside the United States?
ReadyNation started our international work in Uganda two years ago and we helped them develop a business network which is thriving and has contributed to increasing the ministry of education budget. We are now working in Romania to help them build a business network and are working cross nationally, developing two open letters to the UN calling on them to include early education in the sustainable development goals that was signed by 150 executives from across the world in four different continents.