WED Movement Reaches Major Milestone to Drive Innovation and Excellence in Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Development Community

After nearly six months of research, market analysis, discussions, and debates that included more than 200 sessions with experts around the world uniting to focus their attention on the children of Abu Dhabi and the early childhood development ecosystem, the World Early Childhood Development Movement (WED Movement) Breakthrough Working Groups (BWGs) have presented their findings to the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA).

The BWG experts presented their recommendations during a virtual meeting with Her Excellency Sana Mohammad Suhail, ECA Director General, Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation and BWG Chair, and His Excellency Dr. Yousef Al Hammadi, Executive Director of the Knowledge and Impact Sector at ECA.

This diverse group of experts in early childhood development, technology, education, social welfare and related fields worked together to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Abu Dhabi’s physical infrastructure, policies, support community and overall societal trends related to child-rearing unique to the Emirate. They focused their research and analysis on three key themes that heavily influence and impact early childhood development in societies today:  Tech Humanity for Children, 21st Century Lifestyle and Social Interaction & Emotional Wellbeing.


Each BWG developed and presented to the ECA Executive Committee actionable outputs and innovative approaches ranging from policies to on-the-ground initiatives to help address specific challenges and opportunities to improve Abu Dhabi children’s state of wellbeing and strengthen the overall early childhood development sector. The ECA will collaboratively prioritize the proposed recommendations, refine and prepare them for piloting and activation in partnership with a broad set of government, semi-government and private sector partners. The final set of proposed outputs will be announced in the WED Movement Forum in 2022.


Her Excellency Sana Mohammad Suhail said: “The presentation of this body of work represents a major milestone for WED Movement and its mission to drive innovation and excellence in early childhood development. We are incredibly appreciative of the brilliant work these experts produced and so greatly value the passion and care everyone brought to this initiative to help ensure a bright future with endless opportunities for every child in Abu Dhabi. Now our work begins to bring these innovative outputs to life in ways that will have real and measurable impact on the future of the children of Abu Dhabi.”


Her Excellency pointed to a number of key findings and principles underlying the BWG insights that formed the foundation of the groups’ work, such as:


·       There are so many lifestyle factors today that could lead to an obesogenic society posing great risks to the child, the family, and society as a whole. These lifestyle factors and choices must be altered to help transform Abu Dhabi into an energetic, health-conscious society by influencing everyone involved in a child’s early development at every touchpoint with the child.


·       Abu Dhabi must commit to an “Everyone. Everywhere. Every               Time” early childhood development vision. Delivering effective solutions requires clear alignment on the values of an energetic lifestyle and social inclusion shared amplified across all relevant government entities, parents and caregivers, educators and health providers in an ongoing and highly visible way.


·       Prioritizing play, too often overlooked in the home as well as in schools, is essential to a child’s ability to develop foundational social, emotional, and physical skills. Structured and unstructured play is critical to a child’s ability to learn about sharing, tolerance, and understanding, develop problem solving, conflict resolution and language skills while also contributing greatly to healthy physical and cognitive development.


·       While monitoring children’s screen time and digital activities is important, parents need to be given the knowledge and tools to harness the positive power of technology in the learning and growth of a child while ensuring safe places for children to engage online. And companies need to play a proactive role embracing the principles of ethical technology design for children.


·       This child sits at the center of an ecosystem that has so many touchpoints with the potential to make positive or harmful change in a child’s development and behavior. We need to speak and advocate for the child across that entire ecosystem and help our children feel seen and heard at a very young age.


The BWGs worked under the guidance of Chair Cecilia Vaca Jones and Co-Chair HE Omar Saif Ghobash.  This work included 110​ BWG team ​meetings​, as well as 35​ cross-BWG ​sessions​​, more than 60​ formal stakeholder interviews​ conducted and 10​ knowledge​ transfer sessions.


To support this initiative, WED Movement drew on the expertise of a multidisciplinary group of 21 early child development experts representing a mix of academicians and researchers, healthcare practitioners, policy influencers, children’s media and entertainment specialists, global business leaders, and technical consultants. The experts come from several world-renowned institutions such as UNICEF, World Bank, UNESCO, and Harvard University, as well as a number of global companies in technology and entertainment, such as Google, IKEA, Microsoft, Apple and Intel Labs,


Cecilia Vaca Jones said: “When we formed these Breakthrough Working Groups, we had an ambitious agenda to drive innovation that can affect real change in how we help ensure a healthy and nurturing environment for all children to be raised. We are excited by the creative thinking, innovative approaches and enlightening recommendations coming out of these groups. Timely and sequenced implementation of these recommendations will determine the overall impact and efficiency for systems strengthening. We are confident that effective implementation will enable positive impact in the wellbeing of all children, their families, and the communities and societies in which they live.”


WED Movement was established earlier this year under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA). WED Movement’s mandate is to drive innovation and excellence across Abu Dhabi’s early childhood development ecosystem and contribute to the ECA vision of nurturing a generation of conscious youth who have the knowledge and skills to adapt to rapidly changing societal challenges and contribute to building a better society.

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