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Small pilot studies of young children have frequently shown promise, but very few have been successfully scaled to the regional or national levels. How can we ensure that these promising approaches move from a suite of pilots to full-scale implementation that can deliver sustainable impact for hundreds of millions of children? To elucidate concrete lessons learned and suggestions on accelerating the transition to impact at scale, we reviewed the Saving Brains portfolio to better understand three points: (1) the extent to which useful signals of impact could be extracted from data at the seed phase, (2) the ways in which innovators (project leaders) were approaching human resource challenges critical for scaling, and (3) the multisector diversity of the portfolio and the way innovators entered partnerships. The findings suggest key considerations for transitioning early childhood development interventions to scale and sustainability: strong entrepreneurial leadership, rigorous measurement and active use of data in support of adaptive learning, and champions acting at subnational levels. Together, these can enable flexible, iterative learning that can make the scaling process an opportunity to increase the level of benefit each child receives from an intervention.

Original publication





Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Publication Date





230 - 248


School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Humans, Pilot Projects, Child Development, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Child, Child, Preschool, Program Development, Early Intervention, Educational