Building Resilience through Collaboration for Early Childhood Development in Europe

Justyna Turek

December 14, 2022

The world has been facing many rising social challenges recently - climate crisis, inequality, poverty and health, to name a few. The joint effort to fight it has never been as needed as it is now. Often, the most active forerunners working with social challenges are local NGOs and non-profit organisations. Due to their character of work, they are the closest to real people's needs, spending countless hours in the field.

Nevertheless, their work shouldn't be taken for granted. After the covid and pandemic, NGOs and non-profit organisations continue struggling with organisational challenges. Lack of funding, limited capacity, unclear future, or even the rotation of the employees makes it all complicated. It is the right time for this organisation to boost its working approaches and methods. To enable resilience, a regional collaboration might be a suitable solution. 

Larm Rmah / Unsplash

At the beginning of this year, Holis joined a program, Places to Grow, to foster the collaboration and exchange of experience between 11 Early Childhood Development organisations in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a term that describes healthy development for kids in their early years. Only some children have the same chance to achieve such a balance due to regional inequalities. As stated by UNICEF, early interventions and investing in all children, especially the poorest and most marginalised, is central to breaking intergenerational poverty and inequality. In the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, a fundamental focus of ECD go to the Roma community, the largest visible yet most discriminated European minority. Roma kids face combined adversities that simultaneously act as symptoms and determinants of other disadvantages, including extreme poverty, social exclusion, racial biases, inappropriate housing conditions, and much more. Collected evidence in numerous case studies confirms that quality early childhood interventions can mitigate the risks of permanent exclusion and set children in adversity on the right track towards future achievement.  Places to Grow organisations are genuinely dedicated to the case, serving the communities by supporting their youngest, but still, these organisations' workforce is often limited.

”(...) I taught in a village school; 98% of that school's pupils were from marginalised Roma settlements. I also saw the cause of all the failures in our social system that deepen social injustices” - Adriana Zarembova from Karpatska Nadacia
“I knew when I was a child that, becoming an adult, I would do something for children. To make them feel good in their bodies, souls and live” - Marta Bacskai from BLUM program. 

Resilience through collaboration

The inequalities in early childhood development can’t be solved in a blink of an eye. It might take years for the system to change, which needs civic work and community support. Focusing first on the ECD organisations, helping them become more resilient is more realistic and might bring effects faster. Simple as it is, it reminds us of the rule of the oxygen mask on the plains. First, parents must put on their oxygen masks before supporting their kids. We want these non-governmental to be this kind of a parent on a flight and care for themselves first. At Holis, we believe that a large-scale partnership between people of various professions, nationalities, and backgrounds might solve complex challenges. As Yuval Harari said in the book Sapiens - “Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers”. Despite all the obstacles, humans can create, foster and maintain a high level of collaboration between various sides. Through regional cooperation, a sufficient level of resilience can be reached. 

“Resilience is a sort of muscle that contracts during good times and expands during bad times” - Sandberg & Adam Grant

Different sources claim that - resilience - is the ability to survive a crisis and thrive in a world of uncertainty. Some say resilience is a strategic capability that teaches a particular approach rather than precise tools. What makes the organisation genuinely resilient is being aware of the future (foresight and situation awareness), applying a change management model and carrying a vision from solution-based psychology (an ability to turn crises into a source of strategic opportunity). The Bridgespan Group mark three strategies of resilience for nonprofits - thinking long and short-term, focusing on their superpower and seeing opportunities rather than problems in a crisis. A crucial part of the resilience model takes collaboration as a factor for building alliances. Setting a successful partnership between many partners in disruptive times is key to an organisation's survival. A well-functioning network of collaborative organisations is more willing to manage together crises and inconveniences. Individual organisations might resist a little summons, but only a regional network of organisations might influence policymakers and transform the global system. Nonprofit Risk Management Center noted that resilience enhancement might appear by fostering a culture of openness, trust and mutual support. 

“Resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary” - the American Psychological Association 
Joel Muniz / Unsplash
Joel Muniz / Unsplash

Dark side of resilience 

We noticed that “resilience” is recently perceived as a “holy grail” for many that will solve all the problems in the world. Is it true, then? Working Capital Review stated that resilience might build an unrealistic world where goals are unreasonable or unattainable (a false hope syndrome).​​ In addition, Harvard Business Review claims that “too much resilience could make people overly tolerant of adversity (...) when resilience is driven by self-enhancement, success comes at a high price: denial”. Resilience sceptics point to Challenge Thinking as the proper method to operate since it focuses on influence rather than control, gains rather than losses and building confidence. As an alternative to resilience, The Conversation suggests - hope - as “the capacity to identify meaningful goals, the steps necessary to attain them and the motivation to take them”.  For sure, resilience can be used “badly”, harming teams, leaders, and projects if not used appropriately. 

Holis’ investigation

Currently, Holis is running an ongoing investigation at the intersection of resilience and collaboration. By conducting a series of interviews, research, discussion sessions, study visits and interactive workshops with our partners from the Places to Grow program, we are on the journey to “shape” the solution in a way that will be suitable for them. As Holis already had an experience with the ECD organisation (Hybrid Edition in 2022), we are aware of context-specific challenges. 

We are curious what is your experience with this topic! Please, share with us! 

Places to Grow Partners:

Karpatok Alapitvany, Nadace OSF, Karpatská Nadácia, SOCIA, Schola Empirica, ICDI, Milan Šimečka Foundation, BLUM, Skola dokoran - Wide Open School and Cesta von / Way out.

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