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

EC-LINC is excited to announce the launch of four research-to-action projects, funded by an anonymous donor. Small groups of EC-LINC member communities are working together on 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 will undertake 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. By working jointly with other EC-LINC communities on these projects, grantees will benefit from a learning collaborative, drawing from varied geographic and demographic contexts and knowledge bases.

The Research to Action Projects currently underway are focused on:

  • 0-3 Best Practices – Playgroups: The goal of this project is to establish the effectiveness of playgroups in the continuum of care for serving young children (birth to three) and their families.  The intent is maximize the benefits of playgroups for participating children and families and their communities, as well as to demonstrate the impact of playgroups on long-term outcomes in order to build sustainable sources of funding.
  • Two-Generation Programming: Connecting Families to Economic Opportunity: The goal of this project is to examine how better alignment between workforce development policies/programs and public support policies/programs could better assist families in improving their financial status, while also improving child development outcomes.
  • Family and Community Engagement: The goal of this project is to define the continuum of family and community engagement opportunities in early childhood, develop a tool kit with concrete tools designed to engage families across the continuum.
  • Measuring the Impact of Early Childhood Systems: The goal of this project is to build upon the work of the Learning Lab that was convened to examine outcomes and metrics, and to test implementation of the proposed outcome measures and metrics developed in the Learning Lab on the same topic.

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

Working Toward Well-Being: Community Approaches to Toxic Stress
Early Learning Communities and Early Learning Nation
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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