Seeds Planted, Flowers Blooming: The Growing Movement on Behalf of Young Children and Families—A book review and commentary by Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.

Occasionally, a book or report comes out that signals a change, a step forward in a field or in a movement. Dr.  Patrick Makokoro’s new book,Letting a Thousand Flowers Bloom: Early Childhood Development Networks in Africa, marks the growing chorus of support for young children and families around the world. The contributors chronicle ten national networks across the Africa region which have emerged, championing the cause of early childhood with growing determination to make it a better world to raise a child. Today there are 23 national networks across the region all at different stages of development; most working at national level and collaborating closely with the African Early Childhood Network to support advocacy at continental and regional level.

I have watched this movement emerge over the decades.   The seeds were planted years ago; the movement was propelled by pioneering advocates who raised concerns about the conditions faced by families with young children and reinforced the concept that “learning begins at birth”.  Along the way, dedicated researchers documented the risks to healthy development faced by millions of young children and the evidence that supporting caregivers and providing nurturing care can serve as a protective factor against adversity.

More than 30 years ago, the Open Society Foundations supported a network of civil society organizations across Europe and Central Asia, brought together by the International Step by Step Association into an expanding movement for inclusive high quality early years systems and services.  Early in the 21st Century, the Asia- Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood was born. National networks grew, with an explosion of program and policy activity, including a regional focus on raising awareness about the impact of climate change on young children. A few years later, the African Early Childhood Network emerged, built on the earlier efforts of many, encouraging new leaders along the way, and working closely with the African Union and other regional groups.

 More recently, an annual report of the Arab Network for Early Childhood highlighted the emergence of multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary national networks that are launching new research methods and raising awareness about the alarming impact of conflict on the developing child. And across the Latin American and Caribbean countries, national groups have worked over the years to integrate early childhood into the health, education and social protection and promote greater coordination.  Created in 2023, Somos Crianza is a Latin American Coalition of Early Childhood Networks whose purpose is to make early childhood a priority in the region through better policies for child well-being in all countries.

So why is this book a signal of change? First, it reflects the voices of early childhood leaders from the global south who are taking the future of children into their own hands.  It underscores the importance of networks, where people come together across organizations and across sectors to share and learn and to collectively work for change.  It reminds us that we must always stand up for children and those who care for them.  And finally, during these difficult days, it is one among many efforts to find a different way, a caring way, a way towards a healthy and peaceful future world where all young children can thrive.

Joan Lombardi
Joan Lombardi

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D. chairs the Global Policy and Advocacy Advisory Group for The Early Childhood Development Action Network. (ECDAN)

For further information on ECDAN’s strategic plan, global networking activities and resources see