Lessons Map: An overview of five case studies in the field of early childhood development

Lessons Map: An overview of five case studies in the field of early childhood development

What the Lessons Map is for

This Lessons Map ⤵ is an aid to navigating five case studies on efforts to make changes at scale in early childhood development.

Produced by RAND Europe for the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF), these five case studies look at initiatives in Peru, Brazil, Israel and the Netherlands.

Each case study tells the story of how large-scale change was achieved, reflects on the critical conditions enabling impact, and captures relevant lessons for governments, practitioners, civil society organisations and foundations seeking to achieve similar results.

Each case study involved a review of documentation and interviews with a range of involved stakeholders.

The Lessons Map enables those working towards similar changes to identify the lessons most relevant to them and navigate to the corresponding case-study sections.

Structure of the Lessons Map

The Lessons Map ⤵ is a matrix describing common themes and elements across all five case studies for achieving impact at scale, despite different contexts. The Map comprises four parts:

Note that a matrix cell labelled as ‘Not observed’ was not captured as part of the case study, therefore we do not have evidence about whether it played a role or not.

Lessons Map

  Case studies to which lessons are applicable
Identified lessons on achieving change at scale Efforts to support the extension of birth leave in the Netherlands Working to support policy change in the field of childcare and education for young children through an advocacy coalition in Israel Ending the use of physical and emotional violence against children and adolescents in Peru Advocacy efforts in Brazil to extend the recognition of children’s rights in early childhood Supporting parental behavioural change: multichannel and cross-sector campaigns in Israel
Primary enablers of change—identified in all 5 case studies
Passionate team members driving the initiative: Having a team with members who share a passion for and conviction for the importance of the initiative contributes to the success of the initiative. Due to the partners’ genuine interest in their goals, they spent more time on alliance activities than was covered by their grant. (See section 6.2 of the report) The Lead Activist was seen as particularly important by Coalition members, policymakers and non‐Coalition members, dedicating vast amounts of time to public activity with a passion. (See Box 2 of the report) Unique to the work of the two civil society organisations was the involvement of children and adolescents throughout the entire process: this became a movement led and implemented by children, serving as a prime example of children’s leadership in changing matters that directly affect them. (See section 3.3 of the report) Through an Executive Leadership Programme, various political and governmental thought leaders were trained and actively supported the Legal Framework proposal. Leaders helped mobilise more supporters within the political sphere and civil society and engaged in dialogue with the international community. (See sections 2.4 and 2.5 of the report) The involvement and commitment of the team behind the campaigns contributed to the success of the campaigns. Their willingness to pursue an innovative idea may have encouraged partners to develop their own creative contributions to the campaign. (See section 4.1 of the report)
Support from diverse stakeholders: Support from and the involvement of diverse actors strengthens the initiative. The involvement of three different organisations strengthened the initiative because it brought together different perspectives and wider networks. In addition, the organisations collaborated with academics and other stakeholders. (See section 3.1 of the report) When the Coalition first sought to grow its membership, it purposefully aimed to engage the full spectrum of the population to be as diverse and representative as possible. (See section 3 of the report) Strategically chosen collaborations and alliances with artists, journalists, politicians, government officials, organisations with expertise on child and adolescent matters and other civil society organisations were identified by interviewees as an enabler of the work of the two civil society organisations. (See section 2.4 of the report) The National Network of Early Childhood (Rede Nacional Primeira Infância) is a cross-sector network of more than 200 member organisations, bringing together civil society organisations, government organisations, the private sector, community associations, universities, research institutes, other networks and multilateral organisations. (See Box 1 of the report) Both the Magic Moments and Beautiful Moments campaigns worked with a wide variety of partners, including private sector organisations and celebrities. Two Steering Committees considered which organisations could reach, work with and/or influence parents, and which had valuable media outreach. (See section 4.2 of the report)
Combining expertise from different individuals/sectors: Incorporating expertise from diverse perspectives has complementarity benefits. The complementarity of the three organisations’ thematic focus and networks facilitated reaching different audiences during the alliance’s work. (See section 6.1 of the report) Interviewees identified the value of complementing topic knowledge with academic support, organisational consulting and legal expertise. (See section 3 of the report) The two civil society organisations complemented each other: while one provided experience, the other provided creativity and legitimacy (i.e. children advocating for their own rights). (See section 2.4 of the report) Osmar Terra, a federal deputy and specialist on early childhood, and Vital Didonet, an expert in early childhood development, complemented each other by having different leadership styles and slightly different, though not opposing, political stances. (See section 4.5 of the report) Each campaign had its own Steering Committee. Both committees consisted of an interdisciplinary group of seven members, including experts in child development, health, education, and communications. The Steering Committees provided advice on the strategy behind and content of the campaigns. (See section 2.4 of the report)
A shared goal: Different organisations from different sectors can be united if they have a goal they all agree on. At the start of the initiative, the three organisations defined a common goal and strategic workplan. (See section 3.2 of the report) When engaging potential members, the Coalition has often found that a shared passion draws new members together; this is a key feature of the Coalition. (See section 3.1 of the report) The two civil society organisations set themselves the goal of working towards 'true cultural change'. This objective guided their work between 2007 and 2015 and continues to be at the core of their efforts. (See section 2.1 of the report) Many actors supported the introduction of the Legal Framework. Active roles were played by the legislative, executive and other civil society organisations. After the adaptation of the Legal Framework, the judiciary was involved in the implementation of the Legal Framework (See section 6.2 of the report) Partners across the private sector, public sector and third sector indicated that they joined the campaign because they believed the campaign would be valuable to parents and their own organisation (See section 4.2 of the report)
A multi-faceted approach: Combining different activities or channels to spread a message contributes to organisational success. The alliance focussed on four interconnected areas: policy dialogue, public support and men/father's voices, research and media promotion. (See section 4.2 of the report) The Coalition's workplan focused on 'grass‐roots organising', 'media', 'advocacy' and 'academia'. This four‐pronged strategy aimed to make the issue known in the public domain so that people were aware and supportive of the desired change. (See section 2.4 of the report) The campaign work encompassed political advocacy, media advocacy and public engagement, and empowering society through educational activities. (See section 2.2 of the report) A National Network of Early Childhood organised seminars, engaged in activities to increase media attention for early childhood development. The Parliamentary Front organised public hearings and debates. (See sections 4.7 and 4.8 of the report) One campaign worked with different partners to reach parents online, offline and via fieldwork activities. In addition to increasing the number of parents reached, this combination also reinforced the campaign messaging in different aspects of parents’ daily lives. (See section 4.6 of the report)
Adapting to changing circumstances: Flexibility and self-reflection are important for long-term initiatives to deal with a changing environment. The core partnership was deliberately small, consisting of only three organisations. This ensured control over activities, increased impact and the ability to adapt the course of action if needed. (See section 3.3 of the report) The Coalition and its members have had to balance their focus on pre‐agreed specific objectives with the need for flexibility. They found that a key feature of effective working is being open to new opportunities. (See section 5.3 of the report) Self‐reflection and adaptivity to changing contexts were crucial, enabling the civil society organisations to adjust their strategy to emerging barriers. For example, when they were unable to secure television time, they involved famous artists and public figures instead. (See section 2.4 of the report) Due to time pressure, lack of awareness about early childhood issues and business concerns, some parts of the Legal Framework had to be adjusted. Moreover, when the Legal Framework was assigned to a Special Committee that opposed it, senators asked for the Legal Framework to be voted on in a plenary. (See chapter 6 of the report) One of the main issues for the campaigns was COVID-19. However, this also presented opportunities: the campaigns became timely and new possibilities for partnerships emerged. This points to the importance of flexibility when developing behavioural change campaigns. (See section 5.4 of the report)
Support from governmental actors: Initiatives focussed, among other things, on gaining support from governmental actors. The support from the government in these cases helped to increase the impact of the initiative. Despite differences in terms of ‘how much’ leave should be given, interviewees perceived general agreement among politicians that the current leave provision needed to change. (See section 7.3 of the report) A key aspect of the Coalition’s success has been its ability to form relationships with government—not only with Members of Knesset but also with clerks in different ministries. (See section 5.4 of the report) The campaigning civil-society organisations secured backing from influential political figures, which facilitated one organisation's appointment to the government committee revising the Code of Children and Adolescents. (See section 2.2 of the report) The Early Childhood Parliamentary Front is a supra-party institution in the Chamber of Deputies that actively promoted the adoption of the Legal Framework, perceived by consulted stakeholders to have played a crucial role in its adoption. (See section 2.5 of the report) The national government and some local authorities were involved as partners, including in the Magic Moments' Steering Committee. (See section 2.1 of the report)
Secondary enablers—identified in some, but not all, case studies
Identified need for the initiative: If the team explicitly identifies the societal need for the initiative, this can contribute to the initiative's success. In 2015, Promundo's State of the World's Fathers report showed that the Netherlands performed poorly regarding fathers’ involvement and leave-provision compared to other countries. The alliance actively disseminated the findings of the report. (See section 3.1 of the report) Although this was not identified as a key lesson by interviewees, the partners identified a need in Israel for an improved early years system for children aged 0–3. (See section 1 of the report) Although this is not a core lesson of the case study, the civil society organisations did recognise the need to transform Peruvian attitudes about using physical punishment to educate children. (See section 2.1 of the report) Not observed During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents felt a stronger need for ideas and activities to do with their children and for professional advice on parenting. The campaign team acknowledged this need and adapted the campaigns to fit the circumstances. (See section 5.4 of the report)
New sectors and partners: Working with new types of partners, such as private-sector organisations or those representing children and adolescents, can contribute to innovative solutions. Not observed Not observed Children and adolescents brought a fresh perspective to the campaign, contributing creative ideas. (See Box 3 of the report) Not observed A key benefit of private-sector partners, such as Hop! Media Group and some members of the inter-sectoral Magic Moments partner network, was that they could be more flexible than the public sector and able and willing to cover some of the costs of an initiative. (See section 3.1 of the report)
Involving parents: Providing parents with a service or involving them in developing the initiative can increase support for the initiative. Through a Fatherhood Platform, the alliance identified fathers willing to talk about fatherhood and paternity and mobilise followers. (See section 4.2.2 of the report) Beyond its membership, the Coalition had a wider network of supporters and followers, including parents and carers. (See section 2.6 of the report) The campaigners recognised the need for information and guidelines to ensure that (i) discussions would be well‐informed and constructive, and (ii) parents and caregivers felt supported and equipped with knowledge and skills on how best to foster children’s development. (See section 2.2 of the report) Not observed The organisers saw their target group—parents—as a key partner group for the campaigns. For instance, parents were involved in the development of the campaign, e.g. via focus groups. (See section 4.3 of the report)
A supportive context: Several societal changes, such as an improving economic situation, favourable political climate or growing international pressure, support the initiative's success. There was a gradual shift towards more positive societal views on extending paternity leave, which facilitated the change in the legislation. (See section 7.1 of the report) Although not identified as a key lesson by interviewees, the importance of public pressure and the ground being 'ripe' for support was mentioned (See section 5.1 of the report) Wider contextual factors likely also played a role in the approval: there was growing international pressure for Peru to update its Code of Children and Adolescents; the government was more progressive and receptive to social welfare matters in the 2011‐2016 period; and Congress representatives were keen to approve legislation that added to the repertoire of changes achieved during their term. (See section 3.4 of the report) Before the Legal Framework was drafted in 2013, social policies in general—and early childhood policies in particular—already had strong backing from the executive and the Chamber of Deputies. (See section 4.1 of the report) During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents felt a stronger need for ideas and activities to do with their children, and for professional parenting advice. The campaigns adapted to this need in several ways: they found new ways of disseminating information, brought the start date of one campaign forward and established new partnerships. (See section 5.4 of the report)
A focus on children and sensitivity towards the audience: Focussing on benefits and children's well-being can support the campaign's message, as can presenting a message sensitively to gain the target audience's support. The alliance emphasised the benefits of leave extension for child well-being. (See section 5.1 of the report) A common element across the Coalition’s strategy, objectives and goals has been ‘putting the child at the centre’. (See section 2.5 of the report) The campaigners aimed to collaborate with parents rather than leave them feeling judged. They focussed on positive parenting rather than punitive consequences, empowering parents with the tools, knowledge and techniques to educate and nurture their children. (See section 2.4 of the report) Not observed The campaigners wanted to show parenting in a positive light. Their use of encouragement and clear messages appealed to parents. Instead of telling parents what to do, the campaigns showcased how each parental challenge can be turned into an opportunity to bond with children and to encourage behavioural change positively and constructively. (See section 4.3 of the report)
Initiative-specific expertise: Involving experts with the knowledge required for particular projects is an important factor contributing to the success of an initiative. The alliance was driven by three organisations that had experience undertaking large-scale work, extensive networks and complementary thematic expertise covering motherhood, fatherhood and childhood. (See section 6.2 of the report) The partners worked with a marketing agency with expertise in online media campaigns. The media campaigner knew how to draft messages and communicate them to a wide audience of policymakers and the general public. (See Box 2 of the report) ONNAS is an umbrella term for Organisations for Children and Adolescents. ONNAS is led by children and supported by adults. INFANT is an organisation that helps achieve Peru's largest ONNAS' goal of recognising the rights of all children and adolescents in Peru. (See Box 1 of the report) The charismatic personalities, well-established networks and knowledge of the legal process of Osmar Terra, a federal deputy and specialist on early childhood, and Vital Didonet, an expert in early childhood development, were crucial to effectively advise on what steps to take and gather additional support. (See section 4.5 of the report) There were indications that the partner's established TV channels, experience with marketing and reputation as a stable company contributed to the campaign. (See section 3.1 of the report)
Financial support: An initiative's financial support is an essential factor contributing to its success. Interviewees saw funding as a crucial element of the alliance's work. (See section 6.3 of the report) Although interviewees did not identify this as a key lesson, BvLF provided three grants to a non-profit organisation between December 2015 and August 2020. These grants enabled the organisation to develop the Coalition. (See section 2.2 of the report) The campaigning civil-society organisations received both financial and logistical support. For example, some municipalities provided logistical support to organise events or covered costs for security personnel. (See section 2.2 of the report) The availability of financial support to enable key individuals to dedicate time and invest efforts in the cause was important. Similarly, funds for running an Executive Leadership Programme were important for strengthening the collection of evidence, knowledge and a strong network of leaders on early childhood development. (See section 4.6 of the report) Although interviewees did not identify this as a key lesson, financial support was crucial for developing the campaigns. The campaigns were funded by BvLF, with additional input from partners. (See section 2.4).
Raising social awareness: To support legislative or policy changes, some cases developed activities to raise wider awareness for the issue on which they sought change, rather than focussing only on political change. Increasing the general public's interest in the topic of birth leave was one of the alliance’s goals. The alliance sought to promote an informed debate via greater media coverage on the subject. (See section 5.5 of the report) The Coalition understood that the ground had to be 'ripe' before the legislative change could take place. Following a tragic death in a day-care centre, which reiterated the urgency to improve supervision in day-cares, the Coalition employed tactics to influence public opinion. (See section 5 of the report) Media advocacy and public engagement work were undertaken to disseminate information and publicly demonstrate the need for legislative change. (See section 2.2 of the report) Although interviewees did not identify this as a key lesson and some felt the media did not play a significant role in fostering the adoption of the Legal Framework, they did note that members of the network for early childhood helped to put the issue in the media, e.g. by creating The Beginning of Life movie. (See section 4.7 of the report) Not applicable (this case study did not focus on legislative or policy change but on behavioural change).
Providing services to parents: The initiatives in Israel provided services to parents and/or actively involved parents. Not observed The Coalition has a wide network of supporters and followers, such as parents and carers. The Coordinator’s willingness to make herself available to listen to and respond to individual requests for information and support ensured that the network remained interested. (See section 2.6 of the report) Although not identified as a key lesson and not the main focus of the campaign, the delivery partners ran workshops with parents to provide alternative ways to raise and educate children as part of their work. (See section 2.2 of the report) Not observed The campaigns aimed to give parents practical, evidence-based ideas for simple activities to do with their children during daily routines, advancing child development and strengthening their bond. (See chapter 2 of the report)
Using scientific evidence: Scientific evidence and research activities were used to develop the initiative or to convince the intended audience. The alliance engaged in research activities designed to help better meet the information needs of parents, politicians and employers. (See section 4.2.3 of the report) Although interviewees did not identify the use of scientific evidence as a key lesson, the Coalition did benefit from academic support. (See section 3 of the report) Although not a salient part of the campaign, the two civil society groups used Peruvian and UN statistics to support their arguments that violence against children is a pressing issue with severe consequences. (See section 2.2 of the report) Interviewees also highlighted the role of an Executive Leadership Programme in providing the necessary scientific evidence that would ultimately show key decision makers the necessity of legally protecting children and their development in their early years. (See section 4.2 of the report) From the outset, those developing the campaigns drew on evidence about successful behaviour change and behavioural science. A behavioural economics consultant was part of the team advising on campaign design. (See section 2.5 of the report)
Increasing political awareness of the topic: The initiatives use various approaches to increase political awareness, including through dialogue with political parties, advocacy with politicians or educational activities for policymakers. The alliance focussed on opening dialogue and providing scientific evidence to political parties on the benefits of fathers' involvement in children's upbringing, as well as encouraging political debates in parliament on the topic of work and parenting. (See section 4.2.1 of the report) Although interviewees did not identify this as a key lesson, the Coalition worked through advocacy and engaging politicians in meetings and conferences. (See section 5.1 of the report) The advocacy efforts included political advocacy to build political support to ban physical and humiliating punishment against children and adolescents and secure political allies to back the cause. (See section 2.2 of the report) An Executive Leadership Programme strengthened the idea of the Legal Framework and fostered the use of scientific evidence to increase political buy-in (For more information, see section 4.2 of the report). Furthermore, a Parliamentary Front was key to consolidating a critical mass of parliamentarians favouring the Legal Framework. (See section 4.4 of the report) Not applicable (this case study did not focus on raising political awareness but on behavioural change).
Persistence and sustainability: Achieving sustainable change at scale takes time and, as such, initiatives planned ongoing activities over a long period. Although not identified as a key lesson in the case study, the alliance spent several years advocating for policy change, and its work is ongoing. (See section 8 of the report) The Coalition’s persistent presence at governmental committee meetings has been instrumental to its being seen as representative of society and its ability to continuously keep pressure on policymakers. (See section 5.2 of the report) From 2007 onwards, two civil society organisations aimed to introduce a new law prohibiting physical and psychological violence towards children. The legislative proposal was passed in 2015. Their members agree that further work is needed to embed a new mentality rejecting the use of violence. (See section 4.2 of the report) The Legal Framework was proposed to parliament in 2013 and passed into law in 2016. Following the adoption of the Legal Framework, civil-society organisations' work has continued to ensure its effective implementation. (See Figure 1 and Chapter 6 of the report) At the time of writing, the campaign leaders were considering different options to ensure the campaign's future sustainability. (See Chapter 6)

How the Lessons Map was developed

Step 1: Develop a framework for cross-cutting analysis of the five case studies

The RAND team conducted a light-touch review of recent literature, searching for academic papers on ‘at-scale’ change and advocacy in five academic databases. The aim was to find sources that could guide and structure the cross-cutting analysis.

This review identified the World Health Organisation’s Base-Energy-Technical (BET) conceptual framework (Zhong & Fouque, 2020), which presents the essential elements of a successful, multi-sectoral approach for the prevention and control of vector-borne diseases.

Though based on a very different topic, the BET conceptual framework is relevant to the five case studies because they involved a variety of sectors and stakeholders – an element that the BET framework accommodated particularly well.

The RAND team modified the BET framework to produce a bespoke framework for analysing the case studies. The framework consisted of the four parts of the Lessons Map described above: primary enablers, secondary enablers, resources and activities. The RAND team iteratively developed sub-headings under each based on the lessons uncovered in the case studies.

Step 2: Conduct a cross-cutting analysis of the case studies

Each case study was reviewed to identify lessons concerning each part of the framework.

Step 3: Validation

The analysis was validated with members of the research teams involved in the case studies and with BvLF.


  • Zhong, Q., & Fouque, F. 2020. ‘Break Down the Silos: A Conceptual Framework on Multisectoral Approaches to the Prevention and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases’. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 222(8): 732-737. DOI:10.1093/infdis/jiaa344. Accessed in April 2022.