Hilary Clinton’s ‘Too Small To Fail’ announcement is big news

I had the privilege of attending the Clinton Global Initiative America last week, related to my work in philanthropy. I also had the great honor of meeting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during this annual meeting which brings together more than 1,000 leaders from business, government, and non-governmental organizations.[1]

Hillary Clinton opened the two-day meeting on June 14th by outlining her priorities in her new role with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. They include working on issues such as improving early childhood education and development, promoting the rights of women and girls in the United States and around the globe and helping spur economic growth.

During one of the plenary sessions, Mrs. Clinton announced an exciting new national initiative called, Too Small to Fail. The initiative is a partnership between Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation, that aims to help parents, caregivers, communities, and businesses take meaningful actions to improve the health and well-being of children ages zero to five.

The Too Small to Fail initiative actually took root in work begun in November 2012 by Next Generation, a nonpartisan group that promotes scientific research about early childhood development.  The roots of Too Small To Fail are worth paying attention to. The Center for the Next Generation conducted a survey in November 2012 that resulted in the following key results:

  • 88% of Americans think America should make the same type of commitment to children as it does to seniors.
  • 81% agree that America’s kids are falling behind the rest of the world in education, and will struggle to compete in the global economy.[2]

The compelling need for stepped-up action has grown out of this research and other key findings. In her announcement of Too Small To Fail, Mrs. Clinton explained that she has been following the science of child development for decades and sees investments in early childhood learning as critical to keeping our nation strong. She cited the growing commitment by other nations focusing on early childhood learning as evidence that others have already gotten the message; for example, China has committed to providing 70% of its children with three years of preschool by 2020, and the United Kingdom has created universal preschool and encouraged businesses to create flexible work schedules for parents of young children. In the United States, by comparison, only half of children receive early childhood education and much of it unfortunately is of questionable quality.

So what kind of work will Too Small to Fail be taking on?

The good news is, there is already significant work underway. Too Small to Fail has been busily building followers and support through social media, public meetings, media partnerships, and direct partnerships with national, state, and local organizations. One partner is Parents magazine, engaged in a focus on the issues affecting children, including dedicated features in print and on the magazine’s website, <http://www.parents.com/toosmall>.  Other partners include several foundations (the TomKat Charitable Trust, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation), and a number national partner organizations such as Opportunity Nation, First Focus, Moms Rising, Children’s Defense Fund – California, Voices for America’s Children and the Families and Work Institute.

Although specific projects have not been explained yet, the range of work is expected to include:

  • promoting research about brain development and the importance of nutrition in early childhood health and development
  • launching campaigns to encourage parents and caregivers to take steps that improve learning and health and that urge the private sector to improve conditions for families and their children
  • convening stakeholders in national discussion to advance the science of early childhood development.

If the growing number of partners coming together around Too Small To Fail succeed in making children a long-term national priority, this indeed will be a game-changer for the nation.

“One of the best investments we can make as a nation,” Hillary Clinton notes, “is to give our kids the ingredients they need to develop in the first five years of life. We will help bring together the tools that will give children the chance to succeed by the time they’re five, so that when those kids get to school, they’re able to compete, they are more able to pursue their own dreams.”

As I check in at the To Small To Fail Facebook page tonight, the message that Hillary Clinton has posted just a few hours ago says it all: “There are resources to help and simple steps that parents, preschools, businesses, and communities can take to help our kids succeed, because we’re all in this together, and that’s what the Too Small to Fail Initiative is all about.” –Hillary Clinton www.toosmall.org

The launch of Too Small to Fail IS big news for child literacy.

[1] The mission of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is to turn ideas into action. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the CGI convenes global leaders (e.g., from government, business, philanthropy, non-governmental organizations, education) to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI members make commitments to turn ideas into action, and follow-through on these game-changing efforts to improve the lives of people throughout the world. When fully funded and implemented, the some 2,300 commitments made to date are expected to be valued at more than $73 billion. The CGI Annual Meeting is held each September. CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting devoted to economic recovery and job creation in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which hosts an annual meeting for undergraduate and graduate students who are developing commitments in their communities and around the world.

[2] Full poll results are available at <www.toosmall.com>