Center for Business Champions

Business leaders can play a significant role in supporting the current and future workforce through effective early childhood development programs and policies.

Group of young children standing close together outdoors. They have dark skin, brown eyes, and shaved heads and are wearing brightly colored clothing. They are smiling and look happy.The Center for Business Champions (CBC) supports business leaders and early childhood development (ECD) leaders around the world in building effective and lasting partnerships with each other.

These partnerships will contribute to a productive current and future workforce and economy, through investments in ECD that give children a strong foundation for success, support working parents’ productivity on the job, and make communities and nations attractive places to live, work, and invest.

Creating Win-Win Partnerships Between Business and ECD Leaders

The period of early childhood is a time of unparalleled brain development, when positive support and experiences can profoundly influence a child’s success in school, work, and life.  During this time, the child’s brain builds the foundation for the academic, social, and emotional skills necessary for productive adulthood. Giving children a good start benefits business, the local economy, and the nation.

As compelling – and often unexpected – champions, business leaders can dramatically increase attention to and resources for giving young children a strong start in life. For this reason, business leaders around the globe are considering how they can use their wide range of assets to promote the well-being of their future community members, employees, and workforce.

This can be a vital part of their growing attention to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts.  While many companies are recognizing that attending to ESG is good for their bottom line, children often get less attention than other issues.  However, succeeding at any issue – climate change, health care, innovation – requires a skilled citizenry.  Including children in ESG programs will result in positive short- and long-term impacts on employees, companies, communities, and nations.

ECD and business leaders often face challenges in building lasting and effective partnerships.  However, demonstrated success shows that with the right support, both groups can work together to build networks of business champions who will use their array of resources – political, reputational, organizational, financial – to support current workforce productivity and put their country’s children on the path to success in school and in life.

What We Offer

The CBC aims to become the leading authority and resource for creating and strengthening ECD-business linkages, networks, and partnerships. We accomplish this by working with both business leaders and ECD leaders to bridge gaps and build communication and collaboration to achieve mutual goals.

Support to Business Leadership

To support business leaders in achieving their goals, we provide the following advisory services:

  • Advising on a CSR/ESG strategy in support of early childhood development and education, and incorporating ECD into your existing CSR/ESG strategy
  • Providing information to employees and colleagues on the alignment of early childhood investments with company goals
  • Understanding the ECD sector and opportunities to become engaged consistent with their company culture and philanthropy
  • Presentations to private sector executives about the business case for investing in early childhood development to strengthen the current and future workforce.
  • Ongoing support as needed to assess opportunities for collaboration and build productive working relationships with local leaders

Training Institute

To support ECD leaders achieve their goals for understanding how to connect with, communicate with, and advocate their needs to business leaders, we provide the following services:

  • Training: Online workshop series for early childhood leaders to provide foundational information and skills to build their own networks of business champions
  • Networking: A community of ECD leaders for sharing ideas, experiences, and resources.
  • Resources: Curated library of materials from organizations around the world on engaging business to support ECD Materials capturing experiences, challenges, victories, and adaptations.

Country-Specific Technical Assistance for ECD Leaders

For countries whose leaders wish to move ahead with developing their own network of business champions, we provide the following services:

  • Tailored consulting, advising, and mentorship to ECD leaders in individual countries on strategy development, message development, business network design, business outreach and engagement, action plan creation, and other services.
  • Support for developing community-based or national Business Councils on ECD as foundational to a productive current and future workforce.

The Importance of Business Champions

By building partnerships with business to advance early childhood development worldwide, we’re building a brighter future for everyone.

“Private Sector Foundation Uganda — including our late CEO — and I worked closely with Dr. Watson to create Early Steps Program – Phase II – Mobilizing Business Champions for Children to engage our business members and policymakers in supporting early childhood.

She was a tremendous collaborator in helping shape our message to convey the business case for investing in young children. We appreciated her visits to plan with us and speak to our business members.  She respected our expertise while also bringing us information and ideas from around the world.

Early Steps had a big impact, helping to put early childhood into our national plan for the first time and getting businesses to be more family-friendly, culminating into propositions to improve early childhood through private sector solutions. I hope other countries will work with Dr. Watson to create their own business champions!”

– Godwin Othieno, former Deputy Program Manager, Private Sector Foundation Uganda

“We were delighted to work with Dr. Sara Watson in launching ReadyNation Ro, a partner organization to ReadyNation International. Our mission is “the promotion of coherent and adequate  public policies and innovative solutions, addressed to the community of business people and decision-makers, which will generate effective investments in the development of quality, inclusive early education services in Romania.

Working  closely with  Romanian Business Leaders and  Romanian-American Chamber of Commerce, the most active business organizations in Romania, and other partners, from public and private sector as well,  we carried out a number of successful activities to communicate the business case for early childhood and build business support. This type of collaboration between the business and early childhood sectors had never been attempted in Romania, and based on our experience, we are sure other countries can do this as well.

While our initial plans were derailed by the COVID pandemic, this work can have a big impact and we are eager to re-start.”

– Carmen Lica, Executive Director Centrul Step by Step; Board of Directors, International Step-by-Step Association; Board of Directors, ReadyNation Ro

About Sara Watson

A headshot of Sara Watson, smiling

Dr. Sara Watson is Director of the Center for Business Champions. She is the only expert in the world who has worked in many U.S. states and cities, at the U.S. national level, and with partners in several countries to create networks of business champions for early childhood.

Sara founded and was the National and then Global Director of ReadyNation/ ReadyNation International, designing, fundraising for and leading the joint organization for 14 years.  Her hands-on work included personally persuading more than a thousand executives to join campaigns for early childhood investments, and supporting them to take action. She worked with local partners in Brazil, Australia, Romania and Uganda to create their own networks of business champions for early childhood.

Sara has spoken at more than 15 international meetings of ECD and business leaders on how to build partnerships between the sectors.  She led the organization of more than a dozen national (U.S.) and two Global Business Summits on Early Childhood and the first European Business Forum on Early Childhood for audiences of business executives.

Sara also co-chaired ECDAN’s Advocacy Task Force in 2016-2018.  Before creating ReadyNation, she led The Pew Charitable Trusts’ national advocacy campaign for pre-K.  Dr. Watson is now an independent consultant and the founder and principal of Watson Strategies, LLC. She serves in a consulting capacity with CE International.

Sara holds Master of Public Policy and Ph.D. degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School.  More information, including a complete list of presentations and publications, is at www.watson-strategies.com.

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