The Illinois ECFN is an informal network of foundations interested in early childhood or family strengthening issues. Approximately 30 people from 12 foundations participate in the group which meets quarterly – alternating between speakers on topics of shared interest as well as updates on early childhood policy in the state, and sharing individual member updates primarily for the purpose of community building.
Invest in Illinois is a parallel network launched by Irving Harris Foundation and ECFN members to intentionally encourage greater investment in early childhood in Illinois by providing opportunities for interested funders to work together on common issues and projects. Most members of ECFN are also members of Invest in Illinois, but the parallel groups allow for a primarily learning and sharing agenda among ECFN members, and an aligned and coordinated funding agenda among Invest in Illinois members.Irving Harris Foundation provides informal coordination for communications among group members.
Irving Harris Foundation currently provides informal coordination for communications among group members and for quarterly meeting planning – although at times other foundation members have provided staffing support including the McCormick Foundation. Different foundation members also host quarterly meetings and other events for the group.
The IL ECFC’s purpose is very much a learning agenda for members. Quarterly meetings are held that rotate between:
- Two meetings include speakers - one meeting per year typically invites the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood to share updates, and the other speaker meeting focuses on a topic of interest to the group (determined by an annual survey of the group members).
- Two meetings are general sharing and update meetings to build community among the group members.
The group does not engage in pooled funding (as a collaborative) although members sometimes work together outside of the ECFN. The best examples of this are the Illinois Early Childhood Fellows Program, and Invest in Illinois:
Early Childhood Fellows Program
In 2009 identified a need to develop a pipeline of diverse leaders with deep experience in early childhood policy and advocacy who could take leadership roles in Illinois’ advocacy agencies now and into the future. Six ECFN members (Irving Harris Foundation, Grand Victoria Foundation, the M.K. and J.B. Pritzker Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, McCormick Foundation and an anonymous foundation) partnered with Illinois’ leading advocacy organizations to develop and launch an intensive two-year fellowship program to recruit, train and advance the careers of diverse leaders in early childhood policy. The program has supported 3 cohorts of 15 fellows, has been expanded by Erikson Institute into a mid-career fellowship program targeting professionals working in leadership roles within Illinois early childhood organizations. The Fellows program is part of Erikson’s newly created Early Childhood Leadership Academy, and includes a newly launched Board Training program and the McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program.
Invest in Illinois
In 2014, in response to a White House early childhood summit, Irving Harris Foundation worked with other members of the ECFN to launch Invest In Illinois – a network parallel to the ECFN which intentionally encourages greater investment in early childhood in Illinois by providing opportunities for interested funders to work together on common issues and projects. Most members of ECFN are also members of Invest in Illinois, but the parallel groups allow for a primarily learning and sharing agenda among ECFN members, and an aligned and coordinated funding agenda among Invest in Illinois members.
There is no membership fee or buy-in requirement. Approximately 30 people from 12 foundations participate. Participant in meetings ranges from 12 to 16 group members, and new members occasionally join the group.
- Regular learning opportunities for members.