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NHSA’s Data-Use Optimization Project Selected As Early Childhood Innovation Prize “Top Idea”

May 23, 2018

Gary Community Investments Will Help Accelerate Project’s Development

WASHINGTON, DC — Among the 15 breakthrough solutions named the Early Childhood Innovation Prize’s “Top Ideas” is a practitioner-driven infrastructure project to increase the ability of Head Start programs to use data to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families, the National Head Start Association announced today.

The project, “Helping Children Thrive Through Community-Led Outcome Metrics,” has been selected from more than 570 ideas submitted from innovators in 100 countries through OpenIDEO’s prize platform. The capacity-building project is a collaboration between NHSA and the impact-driven data technology company BrightHive and is being supported by Gary Community Investments (GCI) to help accelerate its impact.

“The Head Start community knows that behind data are real lives, real challenges, and real opportunity,” NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said. “Data-informed decision making will strengthen accountability to partners and the community, and ultimately take Head Start to the next level in providing high quality early childhood development curricula and services for America’s most vulnerable children and families. NHSA thanks Gary Community Investments for their support, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with and learn from them and the other innovation-focused organizations that came together during the Prize process.”

The concept behind the data infrastructure project was hatched during NHSA’s Data Design Huddle in December 2017, which convened Head Start practitioners from across the country who had expressed interest in finding ways to optimize their use of data to improve outcomes for the children and families they serve. The goal of this community-driven project is to create a shared data and outcomes infrastructure that increases local Head Start programs’ ability to use data to measure and improve quality, brainstorm smarter ways to fix problems, and achieve better results.

The Early Childhood Innovation Prize was launched in fall 2017 as part of GCI’s multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to catalyzing early childhood innovation. The Prize has brought together hundreds of innovators and experts from across the globe to collaboratively solve the question: How might we maximize every child’s potential during their first three years? As part of the Prize process, 217 participating innovators received mentorship from 135 experts in early childhood and other fields, helping to strengthen their concepts before they were submitted.

“The Early Childhood Innovation Prize tapped into the brainpower of thinkers from diverse backgrounds who were willing to offer ideas that are novel to the space, or more effective, efficient, or scalable than current ones,” says Steffanie Clothier, Gary Community Investments’ child development investment director. “We are thrilled to recognize the National Head Start Association’s Helping Children Thrive Through Community-Led Outcome Metrics as one of the Prize’s Top Ideas because we believe in its potential for creating transformative impact for young children.”

The Prize’s 15 Top Ideas include solutions that focus on three opportunity areas: improving children’s earliest experiences so they are healthy and constructive; supporting parents and families in giving children the best start possible; and leveraging neighborhoods and communities to design neighborhoods and communities with very young children and their families in mind. Ideas that fell outside of these areas but were particularly novel were also considered. The winning solutions include ideas from new innovators with early concepts in development, early stage innovators with at least one-year prototyping experience, and advanced innovators with more than three years’ experience. More information on the Prize and all of the Top Idea winners is available here.

To continue the momentum generated during the Prize, GCI and OpenIDEO are in the process of designing an early childhood innovation network that will accelerate compelling ideas that emerged through the Prize through access to mentors, experts and investors and facilitate continued collaboration around solving early childhood challenges.




The National Head Start Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 200,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Visit and follow @NatlHeadStart for more information.



Gary Community Investments, which includes The Piton Foundation, invests in for-profit and philanthropic solutions for Colorado’s low-income children and their families. Learn more.



OpenIDEO is IDEO’s open innovation practice, enabling people to collaborate and design solutions to the world’s toughest challenges, and working with partners around the world to bring these solutions to life. Both online and offline, OpenIDEO empowers innovators to use design thinking to generate social impact.


National Head Start Association
Robin Winchell, 703.260.7276,

Gary Community Investments:
Melissa Viola, 303.454.3768,

Sara Codraro, 207.266.4382 /