ECA’s Athar initiative addresses key challenges facing the early childhood sector

The Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) launched ‘Athar’ earlier this year, a community engagement initiative to reimagine the way in which Abu Dhabi interacts with and caters to the wellbeing of its children, parents and caregivers. Leveraging human-centric and design inspired methodologies, Athar enables the engagement between diverse local and international stakeholders to prioritize ideas that address the most pressing early childhood-related challenges. This initiative acts as a mechanism to meet and address the continuously evolving needs of children, parents and caregivers of Abu Dhabi.


In January, a community engagement poll was launched to identify the most pressing challenges that children, parents and caregivers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the 20 challenges identified in the poll, eight were prioritized as being the most pressing by almost 700 parents and caregivers. The ECA then further engaged with Abu Dhabi parents and caregivers through virtual workshops, gathering more than 250 insights to address and mitigate the impact of the prioritized challenges on Abu Dhabi’s early childhood development (ECD) sector.


Building on the insights gathered, eight virtual ideation sessions totaling 25 hours were held with 47 diverse local and international ECD stakeholders. These stakeholders, representing 13 different countries, generated more than 500 thought starters to address the eight prioritized challenges.


Following the ideation sessions, ECA conducted feasibility and prioritization sessions with specialized stakeholders to discuss, assess and refine the ideation outputs. These sessions were attended by Abu Dhabi government representatives, ECA internal stakeholders and global innovators. Through the prioritization process, the three most promising ideas contributing to the holistic development of children were selected to be transformed into tangible and sustainable initiatives and programs.


The Athar initiative aligns to the ECA’s vision to adopt innovative solutions that address Abu Dhabi’s ECD sector challenges and ensure children, parents and caregivers have access to a supportive environment. One of the key efforts of the Authority is to create a robust ecosystem that promotes parental accountability and continuous quality improvement, create systems and platforms that drive excellence and innovation as well as develop an ECD research strategy to implement evidence-based policies.


ECA seeks to promote child development and wellbeing through four sectors, including health and nutrition, child protection, family support, and education and early care; from the initial stages of pregnancy to the age of eight. In addition, ECA boosts the capabilities of its partners to support holistic child development, develops coordinated and aligned policies and laws, informs decision-making through research, data and evidence, and supports initiatives that ​transform how people think about and address the needs of young children.

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