Children are at the heart of a bright future for Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg Boldness Project is working alongside North End families to improve outcomes for kids in the Point Douglas neighbourhood.

“If we focus on wellness from the time a baby is conceived, through the support of the family, through getting ready for school, through the school system and on to graduation, and then create meaningful work or meaningful opportunities for postsecondary, this neighbourhood could change in a very short period of time. A very short period of time.”

—Darlene Klyne, CEDA Pathways to Education, a United Way agency partner.

Working together: the Business Council of Manitoba’s bold support for Early Childhood Development.

United Way is guided by the simple but profound belief that we are stronger and can have greater impact together than we ever could alone.

We’re committed to partnerships that work to find innovative solutions to the underlying causes of Winnipeg’s most pressing issues. It’s only in bringing everyone to the table that we can affect real change in our city.

That’s why we’re so excited to see the Business Council of Manitoba‘s 15 year strategic plan, with its focus on partnering to set and achieve early childhood development and school-readiness goals.

School readiness is an important factor in young people's success.Together with the Province of Manitoba, The JW McConnell Family Foundation, United Way and others, the Business Council is focusing on initiatives like the Early Childhood Development Innovation Fund that are the starting point on which to build future strategic and methodological breakthroughs in early childhood development.

The Council envisions at least 90% of Kindergarteners arriving with the basic skills that make them ready to learn by 2028. Today, 71% of children provincially, and only 55% of Aboriginal children and 49% of newcomer children are school-ready by age 5.

The Council’s vision and dedication is an important part of how together we can really move the needle on this vital issue. Our entire city and province stand to grow stronger and more prosperous when we address school readiness.

“(We can raise) the bar not just for Manitoba but for the entire country. Manitoba can be world-class in early childhood development.”

It’s exciting to be a part of Manitoba’s future, and to dream boldly of what that future might hold when we work together.

A new partnership to make sure all Manitoban kids are ready for school.

The need to be bold and work together to improve early childhood outcomes in our community.

For the past several months, United Way of Winnipeg has been working with the Province of Manitoba, the business community, the not-for-profit sector and elders and community leaders to establish an Early Childhood Development Innovation Fund.

This work culminated this past November with the announcement of a $500,000 investment from The J.W. McConnelly Family Foundation, with matching funds from the province.

“This fund will support innovative, community-led projects that have the potential to dramatically improve ECD outcomes for children in Manitoba. We have the research, knowledge and will to make children’s lives better, and we now have an innovation fund that has the potential to attract private investment and support innovative ECD projects.”
—Premier Greg Selinger

PremierSelinger-ECD-Announcement

Premier Greg Selinger, speaking at an ECD Summit Nov. 21 2013, with Healthy Child Minister Kevin Chief (left).

Those initial investments have been earmarked for the Point Douglas Boldness Project, which will focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal children in the Point Douglas community through innovative early childhood development.

“We are proud to be part of this bold initiative. One of our primary focuses as an organization is helping kids be all they can be – to ensuring they have access to the tools and opportunities to lead a full and productive life. This partnership has the potential to be one of the most important social endeavors of our time, and be truly transformative for our community.  We really are stronger together.”
—Connie Walker, Vice President, Community Investment,
United Way of Winnipeg

 

Why invest in ECD?

Well, the science and economic benefits of early childhood development are well documented. As Premier Selinger noted, “…investments in early development can be life-changing, with positive impacts on the long-term well being and success of children. We will continue to work with community and private sector partners to support ground-breaking, community-led innovations in early childhood development.”

Ready for school, ready for life.

Our children are not entering school ready to learn. In fact, up to 40% of children in some Winnipeg neighbourhoods will start school without the basic skills they need to succeed.

Readiness to Learn Graph

The economic costs of this are huge, the human costs incalculable, and the status-quo isn’t working. We’re excited to be part of an initiative that begins to change the early childhood development narrative in Manitoba—from challenges, to very real possibilities for improvement.

Why the focus on the Point Douglas community?

The numbers are somewhat daunting, with the outcomes for babies in Point Douglas among the worst in Canada.  For example, 87% of Aboriginal babies in the North End are born into toxic stress, and 40% of children in the neighbourhood aren’t ready to learn when they enter school.

Point Douglas community members have signalled their dissatisfaction with the status quo and their willingness to act boldly to advocate and innovate for their kids.

The consensus amongst economists, developmental psychologists, sociologists, statisticians and neuroscientists is that investing in high-quality early learning and child care can deliver substantial economic returns for children, their caregivers and the entire community.

Point Douglas can become a beacon of significant, positive change on behalf of all Winnipeg’s children.

 

How stronger early childhood development might solve many of Manitoba’s social problems.

Early childhood development matters.As we prepare for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Summit we’re co-hosting with the Government of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council (WPRC), we offer you this thoughtful backgrounder from the Winnipeg Free Press, Pay now… or really pay later: Recent breakthroughs in brain science may show how to solve many of Manitoba’s social problems.

“Some remarkable new brain science has begun to show just how critical the first few years of a baby’s life are. Now, policy-makers say putting that science into practice, in the form of a broad and co-ordinated early childhood system, could be the solution to almost every intractable social problem we have.”

“It’s pretty close,” said Rob Santos, associate secretary for cabinet’s healthy child committee and a University of Manitoba researcher. “If you take the science seriously, this is the best place to put our dollars, from all angles.”

Research suggests we take a new approach to dealing with poverty, crime and other challenges, one that helps stop them before they start. Investing today in a healthy beginning for our community’s children may pay significant returns, and save a lot of money, in the future.

As part of our focus on addressing the underlying causes of social issues in Winnipeg, United Way is working with the WPRC and the Province to start conversations about how we can shift our approach to early childhood care, development, and education.

The ECD Summit is a great beginning for those conversations.

“(It) involves business leaders in the discussion over what’s next for early childhood development. (We’ll) be looking at what the data say works, what innovations could be next and how to move ahead with a long-term plan.”

A focus on early childhood development give kids what they need to succeed.

Our friends at the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council recently shared this interesting opinion piece from the New York Times on the value of consistent, stimulating early childhood development programs.

Early childhood development programs are very important for future success.

“Children raised in disadvantaged environments are not only much less likely to succeed in school or in society, but they are also much less likely to be healthy adults. A variety of studies show that factors determined before the end of high school contribute to roughly half of lifetime earnings inequality. This is where our blind spot lies: success nominally attributed to the beneficial effects of education, especially graduating from college, is in truth largely a result of factors determined long before children even enter school.”

“The cognitive skills prized by the… educational establishment and measured by achievement tests are only part of what is required for success in life. Character skills are equally important determinants of wages, education, health and many other significant aspects of flourishing lives. Self-control, openness, the ability to engage with others, to plan and to persist — these are the attributes that get people in the door and on the job, and lead to productive lives. Cognitive and character skills work together as dynamic complements; they are inseparable. Skills beget skills. More motivated children learn more. Those who are more informed usually make wiser decisions.”

Read the whole story here.