Roundtable with Jenny Bowen and OneSky: Lessons from a successful ECD model

by Yeo Qin-Liang

Early Childhood Development (ECD) interventions do matter.  Effective interventions could improve the future livelihoods of our most vulnerable young children and combat social inequality – at an estimated 13% return on investment according to Omidyar.  However, it is no easy feat for an ECD programme to achieve scale and generate impact.

Stemming from the ECD member interest group’s efforts to learn more about best practices in ECD programmes, APC convened a roundtable in Singapore featuring Jenny Bowen, Founder and CEO of OneSky.  Lorinet Foundation hosted the session as they are co-funding the OneSky Vietnam programme together with fellow member at Octava Foundation.

OneSky develops low-cost, replicable early childhood intervention models to enable marginalised young children to reach their developmental potential.  It trains and mentors caregivers and communities to take their models to scale.  Founded in 1998, the organisation has since reached 29 out of 31 of China’s provinces and expanded into Vietnam, Mongolia and Hong Kong.

Four key characteristics underlie the scale and sustainability of OneSky’s interventions: strong local ownership, enduring partnerships, robust impact measurement and a train-the-trainer model.  Beyond educating vulnerable young children, OneSky focuses more on teaching the grown-ups within the local community they serve – including caregivers, educators and parents – to provide nurturing care and early education for their children.  Upon achieving success in their pilot programmes, OneSky collaborates with private philanthropists and local governments to grow their footprint.  They enforce a stringent standard for ECD education in the Early Learning Centres that they have established by conducting quality control checks regularly and impact assessments with local partners periodically.

With so many different countries and members at varying stages of their ECD journey, APC members were keen to share about their foundations’ own ECD initiatives.  Tanoto Foundation’s SIGAP programme focuses on stunting prevention for school-ready children in Indonesia.  Laurence Lien also briefly spoke about Lien Foundation’s Circle-of-Care initiative which aims to provide disadvantaged young children with holistic childcare and preschool education.

Jenny Bowen extended an invitation for members to visit OneSky’s latest project, the Global Centre for Early Childhood Development in Hong Kong, which is expected to be completed later in 2019 and for which OneSky has launched a USD20 million capital campaign.  Morgan Lance, OneSky’s Director of Development, concluded by adding that Asia could be the leader in ECD and suggested that it would take collaboration amongst philanthropists in Asia to drive the movement.

After this event, APC also organised a second roundtable in Jakarta with our Indonesian members on 16 May, hosted by Reachout Foundation. With so much interest garnered from our members across the straits, we will be organising a site visit trip to OneSky’s Early Learning Centre in Danang, Vietnam in November, after venn2019. Contact natalie@asiaphilanthropycircle.org if you are interested to learn more about the trip.