Center for the Study of Social Policy - 40 Years of Innovation
Ideas Into Action

EC-LINC Network

Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC)

The Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) is developed by and for communities. EC-LINC’s mission is to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country, with a focus on accelerating the development of effective, integrated, local early childhood systems. 

What is an Early Childhood System?

A comprehensive early childhood system helps children grow up healthy, thriving and ready to learn by addressing their physical, emotional and social-emotional health through a coordinated system of aligned services and supports. A comprehensive early childhood system brings together the health, education and family support sectors with other community supports to promote well-being for children and families across a community. 

How Does EC-LINC Work?

EC-LINC is dedicated to supporting families and improving results for young children by bringing communities together to accelerate the development and impact of community-based, integrated early childhood systems.

EC-LINC includes three main bodies of work:

  • Creating a "community of communities" that fuels learning and innovation to jointly tackle the toughest shared challenges facing early childhood systems and demonstrate results.
  • Building and disseminating knowledge about the range of community-based efforts across the country.
  • Developing opportunities for local leaders and state and federal policymakers to work together to accelerate strategies that improve results for children and families.
Joint Learning

Learning Labs

Learning Labs are a process by which leaders from EC-LINC communities share expertise and local experiences and develop recommendations for action. Over a period of 6-8 months, leaders talk regularly, pool ideas and refine their recommendations about how to improve services, supports and community strategies to assist young children and their families. Their recommendations are then shared with the full EC-LINC network and the broader early childhood field.

Current Learning Labs

Current Learning Labs are focused on aligning service and supports for young children and their families, and on parent leadership in shaping family, service sector and community environments to help young children thrive. 

Previous Learning Labs
Four previous Learning Labs have been convened since late 2014. They focused on:

    • Measuring the impact of early childhood systems
    • Community responses to toxic stress
    • What it takes to be an early learning community
    • Outcomes and metrics of early childhood systems
EC-LINC Research to Action Projects

With support from an anonymous donor, small groups of EC-LINC member communities worked together in 2016 on four “Research to Action” projects designed to advance the field of early childhood systems through actionable research. EC-LINC member communities worked collaboratively to develop proposals that would allow them to address a topic of interest to both the EC-LINC network and a wider audience of early childhood systems builders. Grantees then undertook research that provides new insight into a question or potential strategy of interest, implement or test their findings within their local context and communicate and share lessons learned from the overall experience to both the EC-LINC network and other relevant stakeholders. View a summary report about each project, as well as the materials developed for each, here.

Who are the EC-LINC Communities?

Ten exemplary communities with long histories of building effective early childhood systems are members of Early Childhood-LINC. Their perspectives and experiences are invaluable to guiding the work and solving common challenges faced by communities together. Member communities and their leading organizations include:


Resources & Publications

Manifesto for Race Equity & Parent Leadership in Early Childhood Systems

Working Toward Well-Being: Community Approaches to Toxic Stress
Early Learning Communities and Early Learning Nation
  • The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and the National League of Cities (NLC) have developed an Early Learning Community Action Guide designed to help communities focus their efforts around four key building blocks. The Early Learning Community Action Guide and Progress Rating Tool for communities will be released in late 2018. Contact Cailin O’Connor for more information.
  • This one-page handout summarizes the building blocks for early learning communities.
Exploring the Impact of Early Childhood Systems
Engaging Families for Systems Change in Early Childhood
Strengths-based Approaches to Screening Families for Health-related Social Needs in the Healthcare Setting
Additional Resources
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