New Partnership between Jacobs Foundation and ISSA

Following the successful implementation of the Primokiz approach in Switzerland and Germany, the Jacobs Foundation has recently granted the license on the Primokiz approach to the International Step by Step Association (ISSA).

The aim is to scale up the impact of Primokiz by leveraging the strengths of ISSA as a network and thus making the approach widely available. The partnership starts by using the approach in a pilot project with one of ISSA’s members in Romania, aiming to make it available soon to other countries.

Primokiz assists in developing comprehensive early childhood policies

Jacobs Foundation launched the Primokiz approach in Switzerland, with the aim to support municipalities, cities and cantons to develop comprehensive Early Childhood Strategies. The approach has two important features: it connects administrative entities with the political sphere and private actors in the field of early childhood (horizontal and vertical cooperation); and it highlights the fact that early childhood is a transversal issue for which the education, social services and health sectors are jointly responsible.

Program initiated in Switzerland

In 2012, three cantons and eighteen cities in Switzerland started the program, working closely with early childhood experts. Their first step was to conduct a situation analysis, the results of which were used for developing a comprehensive strategy aimed to connect projected or existing Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) programs. The ultimate goal was to meet the diversity of needs of the children and families from the municipality or canton.

The successes which were accomplished drew positive responses and growing demands to implement the program elsewhere. Therefore, the Jacobs Foundation extended it into Primokiz2 in 2016, partnering with the Roger Federer Foundation. RADIX Swiss Health Foundation was chosen for the implementation. Primokiz2 now runs in various phases of implementation in thirty Swiss sites and targets to engage another fifty. The key outcome is to help these sites create solid strategies for their early childhood services, to guide the development of structural conditions and tailored, sustainable programs.

Adaptation to the German context

In 2015 Primokiz was also launched in Germany, where the nationwide program was renamed ‘Quality at Local Level’ (Qualität vor Ort). Facilitators are active in twenty municipalities, assisting them to develop comprehensive early childhood strategies based on the Primokiz approach. ‘Quality at Local Level’ is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as well as the Jacobs Foundation. Implementation is led by the German Children and Youth Foundation (DKJS).

Primokiz License awarded to ISSA

In recent years ISSA has also increased its efforts to raise awareness on the importance of developing a coordinated early childhood policy, including through the recent INTESYS partnership project. Recognizing ISSA’s long-lasting experience in the early childhood field, at the end of 2018, the Jacobs Foundation and ISSA signed an agreement granting the Primokiz license free-of-charge to ISSA, with the aim to use its mechanisms and strengths as a network to make the approach available to more and more countries, scaling up the impact of the approach.

A first ‘know-how transfer’ workshop was organized for ISSA staff in Zurich in October 2018, followed in January 2019 by another in Romania to train country-level Primokiz facilitators.

Scaling up the program’s impact in Romania

Drawing on the tested knowledge brought by the Primokiz approach, ISSA  partnered in February 2019 with the Jacobs Foundation, the Step by Step Center for Education and Professional Development and UNICEF in Romania to implement a four-year initiative for piloting new ways of designing, planning and delivering services for the youngest children and their families through enhanced cooperation and coordination at community or municipality level. This initiative, called Romania Grows with You, aims to push the agenda forward in early years policies and practices in the country, while making the case for the importance of high-quality services.

Among other models and methodologies, the Primokiz approach will be used to help develop and frame a strong and integrated early childhood development system in two pilot counties in Romania. The initiative will start with implementation in close to 60 services for children from birth to 6 years of age, aspiring to reach, during the 4 years of implementation, up to 100 early years services, both traditional (e.g. kindergartens and creches) and complementary services in the two counties.

To Slovenia and beyond

In early 2020 the partners teamed up again to pilot the Primokiz approach in Slovenia. Just as the partnership in Romania, Slovenia Grows with You, aims to raise awareness about the importance of holistically addressing the needs of children and families in a coordinated manner. The three-year project will pilot new ways of designing, planning and delivering responsive and demand-driven services for the youngest children and their families through enhanced cooperation and coordination at local and national levels.

In addition to piloting in Romania and Slovenia, the partnership with Jacobs Foundation enables ISSA to identify the best approaches to scaling-up the Primokiz approach in other countries. ISSA will use the power of its large network to support such endeavors through a learning community of Primokiz implementers internationally.

Several activities to support the development of such a learning community are set to begin in 2020 including webinars, Joint Learning Labs, and ISSA’s Peer Learning Activities. In 2021, the first cross-country learning workshop is planned to bring together Primokiz implementers in Switzerland, Germany, Romania, and Slovenia to share experiences and learn together.