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Mission, Context, and Impact

Mission:

In collaboration with our strategic partners, the Center aims to improve the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies to promote children’s holistic development in low-income countries and conflict-affected countries around the world.

Context:

Promoting children’s development is key to ensuring global economic prosperity and sustainability. 
Yet all too often, poverty and violence systematically undermine children and youths’ ability to thrive. The statistics on how such adversities are currently affecting children of all ages is staggering:

  • Missed Opportunities in Early Childhood: Over 200 million children under the age of 5 living in low- and middle-income countries are currently failing to reach their developmental potential, due to inadequate healthcare services, persistent malnutrition, poor health and sanitation, and lack of early childhood education pervasive in many parts of the world.
  • The Double Failure of Education in Conflict-Affected Countries: Over 23 million school-age children in CA countries lack access to basic education, depriving children of a key support that can mitigate some of the most severe consequences of conflict for children – and potentially help break the intergenerational transmission of poverty and violence.
  • Beyond Access – Ensuring Quality of Education: The Millennium Development Goals contributed to great advances in primary school enrollment rates globally. However, the quality of primary and pre-primary education in most low-income countries remains poor, preventing children from acquiring the skills and competencies needed to live a healthy and productive life. Easy-to-use, culturally relevant quality measures and curricular tools are critical to improving the capacity of the teaching workforce and student learning. Yet such tools are not readily available and rarely integrated into professional development and monitoring systems.
  • Improving Youth Development and Livelihoods Today: In the coming year, an additional 73 million youth and young adults will face increasing challenges in the labor market, experience high levels of un- and underemployment, and economic and social marginalization. Aside from this being a significant underutilization of productive resources, most of these young people will become the parents and providers of the next generation.
  • Addressing the Dual-Generation Risks of Adolescent Motherhood: Approximately 17 million girls 19 years or younger give birth every year globally. Rates of adolescent motherhood are at epidemic proportions; up to 60% in some low-income nations have their first live birth by the age of 19. Early childbearing is associated with higher risk pregnancy-related complications and maternal/infant mortality, interrupted schooling and low levels of skill acquisition among mothers. In addition, the stresses associated with early motherhood may affect a mother’s ability to respond sensitively to a child’s needs, compromising physical and cognitive development in infants.

Governments worldwide and local civil society are identifying such urgent needs in their countries. Many are facing challenges of limited resources while simultaneously grappling with consequences of economic shocks, war, migration, and environmental and climate change. We bring New York University’s global scholarship, resources, and networks to bear in working with governments towards a common goal: improving child and youth development at scale through science-based innovations in programs and policies.

Impact:

Our research contributes to growing evidence that improvements in the resources and relationships within families, schools, and communities are key to enabling children to develop to their full cognitive, social-emotional, and physical potential. Moreover, using recent methodological advances, our work is able to demonstrate how quality improvements in health, education, and social protection systems can produce measurable changes in these same resources and relationships which in turn can improve children’s outcomes.

Taken together, we believe that evidence from this science base holds great promise for addressing the 21st-century challenges that policymakers, NGOs, and researchers face: How do programs and policies to promote children’s development work? And how can programs and policies be most effective when implemented across diverse contexts and at scale? In turn, children can have the supports they need to grow up to be healthy and productive citizens who can advance a future of global prosperity and sustainable development.