Lessons about place: #2

Science became a major catalyst for change in the second era. We can see this in the myriad of efforts to improve early childhood development. Let us take one example. The Community Fund’s A Better Start programme. £215 million invested in five local authorities around England.

Scientists led the way. The Center for the Developing Child, greatly aided by its strategic communications partner Frameworks, explained the evidence. The prevention of toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences or ACE’s provided an opportunity for innovation. It was from this work that the Community Fund and its advisors decided to focus on the diet and nutrition, social and emotional skills and language of babies and infants, in places. Economically disadvantaged communities.

These outcomes matter to public system leaders but in a different way. A chief executive or a commissioner of services will translate better nutrition, emotional skills and communication into lessening demand on local resources, and via era 2 economic models that calculate costs and benefits into a return on investment.

Then there are the mums. As I travelled around the 15 local authorities that applied for A Better Start funds, I found that the mums looked at the matter differently. Apart from being pissed off about being constantly told to breast feed (including those who wanted to breast feed), they all cared about their baby’s food, emotions and language, but they also asked about transport -because they felt isolated- and housing -because its hard to be the best mum when you live in a second floor bedsit- and jobs -because money helps to raise a child.

The health and development of babies doesn’t start in Harvard, or in a chief executives office. It starts at home. What happens at home can greatly benefit from Harvard, and the ideas and energy that surround a chief executive. It's a matter of direction, and connection.