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EQUIP Early Childhood Quality Improvement Program - A Funding Collaboration

EQUIP represents a grantmaking model where multiple funders make grants to a fiscal agent for a specific program. These funds are pooled to create a single grant program with its own guidelines. Often times, foundation staff and directors form a steering committee to make grant decisions and vote on policies, guidelines and procedures, much like a foundation board of directors does. These philanthropic collaborations are often managed by an external contractor or staff member of one of the participating foundations. I am now into my 9th year as Director of EQUIP, which has served thousands of children and families at more than 40 individual agencies across the Chicago region.

EQUIP was developed by the Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation in 2005 in response to the disparity in academic preparation among low income children and their peers at the beginning of Kindergarten. Many studies showed (and continue to prove) that not only was the problem partially due to a lack of quality early childhood opportunities for under-resourced populations, but that this imbalance causes children to enter elementary school already at a deficit. It is then very challenging for these children to ever catch up to their peers and therefore must begin their Children who did not receive a high quality early childhood education were set up for failure. Now officially a program of Bright Promises Foundation, EQUIP is still addressing this need and other emerging challenges for low-income little children and their families.

The EQUIP collaboration is currently comprised of four independent funders who support the program. EQUIP funds 1-2 year projects addressing a specific quality improvement need in early childhood centers serving low-income families throughout Cook County. The specific need is identified by applicant organizations, who have to explain why the need is pressing and what the activities will be that they will undertake to make the improvement and to make it sustainable. One requirement of the program is that grantees must hire a consultant or expert in the field to work with the staff and parents over the course of the grant period to identify strategies and create a plan to help the centers successfully implement the project. Examples of grants are: positive behavior management; music and arts; pre-literacy, science or math; social emotional learning, health and nutrition, engaging parents and more.

Later this afternoon, IKA’s office will host staff and directors of the collaborating foundations to discuss grant decisions. It is rewarding to think of how many children have perhaps been equipped with the academic and social skills they need in order to thrive in kindergarten and beyond. Click here for more information.

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