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By Yasemin Sirali

Yesterday I held a Marketplace Session about how to “globalize” the Mother Child Education Foundation’s know-how. ACEV (www.acev.org), as we abbreviate in Turkish, is an Istanbul-based NGO that develops and implements face-to-face and distant-learning early childhood education and parent training programs for the socioeconomically disadvantaged, runs awareness raising campaigns and lobbies for stronger policies to enhance development opportunities in the early years of children. Albeit not being implied in the title, one of the important programs ACEV has developed is to support fathers, whose role as first educators of their children is just as important as that of mothers.

Why early childhood? Majority of brain development takes place in the first 60 months of an individual’s life making initial years the most formative ones. Proper stimulation in early years translates to better cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, higher academic aptitude and increased lifetime earnings. Therefore, investment in early years is a sound one for parents, philanthropists, development fund managers and governments: every dollar invested in this period returns to the economy as 7 dollars.  To make the most of this opportunity for providing fair chances and elimination of inequalities, James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics, recommends revising the MDGs to focus on early childhood: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/sep/23/early-child-development-mdgs

The aforementioned education programs of ACEV have been scientifically developed, evaluated for impact, and “exported” to 12 countries in Europe, Middle East and South America.  They have reached nearly 700.000 beneficiaries since 1993 and recognized through numerous awards by international development actors such as UNESCO and WISE Network of the Qatar Foundation. ACEV has also been contributing to research and advocacy on global platforms through partnerships forged with Harvard and Yale Universities.

As of the end of 2011, organizations from 18 additional countries had requested the programs and were in search of funding. Receiving requests is exciting but identifying the right partners who have the managerial, financial and training capacity to pilot and sustain the implementation of programs in countries other than Turkey is challenging. This leaves me with questions around whether to take a more proactive approach to expanding ACEV’s footprint, whom to transfer this knowledge to in different countries, and under what terms and conditions.

Joining the Marketplace were Isabel Costa, Omar Faruk, Yury Vybornov, Boris Hajos, Ulf Baecker, and Nicholas Hall who graciously offered their networks in the UK, Libya, Russia and Croatia for establishing sound partnerships and mobilizing funds. Ulf and Nick’s insights into the differencebetween globalization versus internationalization, need to develop organizational capacity to manage expansion, and a shift from reactive to proactive method of transferring know-how were also invaluable. Many thanks to all six of you!

Young Leaders interested in contributing to the cause or finding out more about ACEV are welcome to reach me at yasemin.sirali@acev.org.

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