Notes from the Field: Early Childhood in Philadelphia and Jewish Federation General Assembly, a Glob

Given our role in the sector, our team members often participate in conversations where we see opportunities to support donors and nonprofits alike. In this blog post, we share a few takeaways from two recent gatherings, one with a local group interested in Greater Philadelphia, and the other a major gathering with a decidedly global perspective.

Invest in a Strong Start for Children, a local conversation

This spring, we released our early childhood donor toolkit that outlines high impact strategies to address this critically important phase in children’s development. Since then, we have been having conversations with funders and nonprofits throughout the country. Yesterday, in partnership with our regional United Way, The William Penn Foundation, and Public Health Management Corporation, we had an intimate conversation with 25 local foundations, individual donors, board members and advisors to understand current, local efforts and how donors can help. Some new insights:

In Philadelphia, supply is not the problem. . .

With more and more parents working outside of the home, childcare slots are needed more than ever before.  However analysts shared that in Philadelphia, there are almost enough slots for every child who needs one – 100,000 slots as compared to about 106,000 children who need slots. The numbers suggest that, at least in our own backyard, the supply of childcare slots is not the problem it may be in other cities or regions. The problem is one of quality.

…But quality is

The good news is that the state of Pennsylvania – unlike our neighbors just across the river in New Jersey – has a rating system to assess the quality of childcare centers.The rating system is called STARS and it has been in place for 10 years. However, less than 25% of the agencies who have voluntarily submitted to be rated, have high ratings of 4 or 5 stars. It’s also unclear whether the ratings standards link to the growing evidence of what needs to be in place in early childhood to support successful long-term outcomes for children, like health, school attainment, and employment. For donors focused on impact, ensuring that young children have access to quality early childcare environments is key.

Jewish Federation of North America General Assembly, a global perspective

While our conversation at the William Penn Foundation involved 25 people around the same table, the conversations at The Jewish Federation of North America‘s General Assembly, the annual leadership meeting of this philanthropic community, involved hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals exploring various aspects of Jewish values, community, and philanthropy. Two plenary talks stood out for their potentially broad implications for giving:

Collaborative Economy
Rachel Botsman, author and TED speaker, provided a good reminder on the importance of connecting individuals to each other, the essence of community. Botsman describes how building community – not markets – is the more emotional, compelling, and important opportunity in her work. In her talk, which you can view here, she illustrates the point by telling the same story, first by emphasizing the numbers and the market opportunity involved, and the second time by emphasizing the shared connection between two individuals.

A Global Family
AJ Jacobs, journalist and self-described human guinea pig, brought home the point that we are more than one global community – genetically, we are one global family. Through advances in technology and data access, it is now possible to understand the genetic links between and among two individuals around the world, a point AJ illustrate though hilarious photos of him with ‘cousins’ Dr. Oz, Ricky Gervais, and Christy Teigen. You can watch AJ’s talk here as well as join the global family reunion he is hosting next summer.