Since 2008, Oregon's Early Childhood Funders Learning Circle has provided a structure for funders interested in early childhood to learn together, share updates on national EC developments, and identify opportunities for deeper exploration and collaboration. Logistics support provided by The Oregon Community Foundation.


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Originated in 2008 with a few generalist foundations interested in a deeper exploration of early childhood issues (but lacking capacity to do so on their own). The Learning Circle now meets every 6 weeks throughout the academic year, with staffing and logistics support from The Oregon Community Foundation. The Learning Circle offers a combination of basic 101 discussions on topics of common interest (e.g. early screening); as well as deeper discussions on funder strategy.In 2014, the OECLC reached a point that warranted a more structured model for collaboration to take advantages of early learning advances in the state. The Oregon Community Foundation provided support for a consultant to explore models for structuring a more formal structure collaborative, what a funders’ collaborative could accomplish, and the potential for structuring collaborative investments. As a result, the Learning Circle identified a desire to focus on systems change and launched its first pooled funding initiative to address barriers that those not in the mainstream face in achieving Master Trainer status (an Oregon early childhood trainer designation), helping more culturally diverse Master Trainers emerge; and supporting existing Master Trainers to branch out from early childhood to adult education.The Learning Circle has also played a role in launching an early childhood quality rating system for non-English speaking providers and for providers in rural areas of the state where previously trainings were not available to help them reach 4 or 5 stars (out of 5). The Learning Circle hopes this will also support an increase in Master Trainers that speak more languages throughout the state.

Membership Information

Group members include private, family and community foundations, as well as the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and the Portland Children’s Levey (public funder). There is no membership or buy-in fee. The Learning Circle provides a safe space for funders interested in any point on the EC spectrum – from just beginning to explore, all the way to all in/investing in a big way. EC funders and philanthropists know they are welcome and can join in the Learning Circle meetings at any time. This is seen as an opportunity for broadening the field and recruiting new barons to the field.

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