A New Tool to Help Funders Coordinate and Grow Early Childhood Investments in East Africa

Coordinating investments is a challenge all funders face. How do we avoid duplicating investments in some areas while other areas are overlooked and underfunded? How do we identify potential synergies and opportunities to collaborate with others who have similar interests, and align our investments to be more impactful? These questions arise frequently for my colleagues and me at Bernard van Leer Foundation. As the range of actors investing in early childhood development (ECD) in East Africa grows, so does the challenge of understanding who is investing in what, and where. 

Luckily, we now have a way to get at the answers we need.  With our support, Foundation Center – a leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide – took up the challenge of creating Foundation Maps for Early Childhood Development in East Africa, a funding map that serves as a planning and learning tool to identify gaps and opportunities. Foundation Center designed it with foundations, NGOs, policymakers, and other ECD stakeholders in mind.

My colleagues first started thinking about a way to coordinate funding during a meeting a few years ago in Tanzania with a coalition of funders that invests in young children’s development in the region. The group agreed that an integrated information hub that includes contextual information and information on bilateral and multilateral aid flows would be a critical tool to guide and inform strategy. We wanted to support something that would not only serve our foundation, but that could increase transparency and serve others working in our field.

The map shows who is funding what and where. It has information on over 250 funders funding more than $2.7 billion, as well as more than $13.5 billion in bilateral and multilateral aid for early childhood development from 2008 to the present day. The ECD funding map provides access to foundation grant and disbursement details and can be overlaid with three country-level indicators: mortality for children under 5 years old, prevalence of undernourishment, and GDP per capita. Foundation Center will keep the map updated as new information becomes available.

We funders often lack the time and information to situate our programming in a broader context. With a tool like the ECD funding map, this is no longer the case. We will be using this map to further develop our strategy in East Africa, coordinate our investments in the region, and find new partners.

Foundation Center has tackled the trickiest part of making data usable, which is aligning all of the grants information so that we can compare apples to apples. However, launching the ECD funding map is only the starting point. We are eager to put the map into the hands of those who will use it. Foundation Center is committed to enhancing the map to meet the needs of ECD stakeholders and with your help, we can make this an even more valuable resource. We encourage you to check out the map, send Foundation Center your feedback, and share your foundation’s grants data for inclusion on the map.

Our hope is that use of the map will help shift investment in East Africa to fill existing gaps, increase collaboration between funders, and grow the amount of funding invested in early childhood development in the region. We hope it will help the growing amount of funding translate into effectively ensuring that all children in East Africa are able to develop to their full potential. 


Blog by Katelyn Hepworth, the research and evaluation officer for the Bernard van Leer Foundation.