Jenny Bowen, Founder and CEO
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OneSky for all children
The OneSky Approach
Neuroscience has shown us that during the formative early years, the brain is developing at lightning speed and the quality of care in that critical period shapes the trajectory of a child’s future. Yet each year across Asia, 58 million children under five are at risk of not reaching their full developmental potential. As toxic stress from poverty and adversity weakens a child’s budding brain architecture, the lack of quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) further undermines that child’s promising future.
Our Blended Learning Approach
Over the past 21 years, we have developed an evidence-based blended learning approach to train the adult caregivers in a child's life (early educators, child welfare workers, childcare providers, parents, grandparents, and more) to provide high-quality ECCE for vulnerable young children. Our blended learning approach includes classroom training, hands-on mentoring by early childhood specialists, and online learning communities with on-going skills development pathways. We work to ensure that adult caregivers have the knowledge, capabilities, and community of support they need to provide nurturing responsive care and early learning that enable marginalized children to thrive.
The OneSky curriculum is inspired by the Reggio Emilia principles of child-centered learning, globally informed by the scientific evidence base on early childhood development, and locally adapted to serve the specific needs of vulnerable young children and caregivers in low-resource contexts. Core to the curriculum is establishing a responsive relationship between the caregiver and the child, promoting age-appropriate communication, creating safe and nurturing early learning environments, cultivating play and discovery, and simulating healthy cognitive, language, physical, and social-emotional development.
We are committed to systemic change and have worked, always in partnership with government and other stakeholders, to transform the national standard of early care for the vulnerable children we serve. With the support of our partners, we adapt our approach to the local context, demonstrate its impact, and then build capacity through training of trainers. Over time, our partners invest in and adopt our approach to advance quality ECCE at scale. To date, we have trained 43,270 caregivers to transform the lives of 209,907 children across China, Vietnam, and Mongolia—and indirectly, have impacted hundreds of thousands more. By 2030, we aim to reach 5 million vulnerable children in 5 countries across Asia.
Our Programs and Impact across Asia
After a flawed social policy resulted in an entire generation of abandoned baby girls in China, OneSky (formerly, Half the Sky Foundation) began to train child welfare workers to bring family-like care to young children languishing inside state-run orphanages. Over two decades, our training programs have helped frontline caregivers provide orphaned and separated children, many with special needs, the responsive care and early education they desperately need for healthy development. In 2011, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs invited OneSky to train every child welfare worker in the country through our approach, making it the national standard of orphan care. This unprecedented partnership has since reached over 30,000 caregivers and the majority of state-run institutions in all 31 provinces of China.
Today, our work in China has moved beyond orphanage walls to also run community programs that hire and train local women to meet the needs of the estimated 23 million left-behind children under 5 years of age in high-poverty rural villages. In Vietnam, we are working to train and upskill the home-based childcare provider workforce serving an estimated 1.2 million marginalized young children of low-wage, migrant factory workers living in industrial zones. In Mongolia, where formerly nomadic families have migrated to cities as a result of climate change and economic transition, OneSky launched a pilot in a government nursery and is now training parents to improve early care for vulnerable children across urban informal settlements known as the ger districts.
In 2018, a three-year randomized control trial of our work in rural China was completed by the China Development Research Foundation and the Amsterdam Institute for International Development. The impact evaluation showed that our programs had statistically significant positive effects on caregiver attitudes and child development outcomes. OneSky is now producing a new landmark body of evidence with Professor Aisha Yousafzai of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health through an impact evaluation of our work in Vietnam. The study will be the largest home-based childcare provider survey outside of the Global North and the first in Asia looking at a blended learning approach for childcare providers.
The 1BigFamily Online Learning Platform
1BigFamily is our multilingual online learning platform, suited for mobile, that connects, upskills, and digitally empowers the caregivers we have trained. 1BigFamily has the following skill-building features:
- Blended learning: integrating with in-person training so that topics learned in the classroom continue to be reinforced through discussions, follow-up practice instruction, related resources, photos, videos, and specialist support
- Community of practice: connecting caregivers with each other to collaborate, work through challenges, support one another, learn through shared experiences, and get feedback from their trainer
- Multimedia resource library: rich, engaging, and on-demand digital content for caregivers of all literacy levels, including play activities, guides for homemade toys, best practice videos of responsive child-caregiver interactions, and more
- Distance learning courses: longer, interactive e-courses for specialized skills development, professional development, and career advancement
1BigFamily provides not only a strong sense of community, even in remote, hard-to-reach areas, but also the clear indication that frontline caregivers, once considered menial laborers, are now regarded as professionals, worthy of respect, support and continuing education. Zhu Haijie, a child welfare caregiver in remote western China, shares: “When I meet any difficulty at work, I can always find help on 1BigFamily. This kind of help feels boundless.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic in China, thousands of devoted frontline caregivers, including those at the epicenter Wuhan, have worked up to two weeks at a time in lockdown within child welfare institutions to care for the children. Despite the social distancing measures in place and likely to be reinstituted periodically throughout the pandemic, they have been able to use the 1BigFamily platform to connect with peers, respond to the crisis, access resources around hygiene and child health, learn new skills, and gain support and inspiration.