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Why You Should Apply to MIT Solve’s Early Childhood Development Challenge

Did you know that in the first few years of life, over 1 million neural connections are formed every second? Over 1 million. These connections lay the groundwork for building linguistic, cognitive, and socio-emotional capacities. What happens, then, when a child is inadequately nurtured, cared for, engaged, or kept safe and secure?

The statistics are not promising. Millions of children under the age of five—including 250 million in low- and middle-income countries—are at risk of falling behind in their developmental growth due to extreme poverty, violence, and neglect.

However, all of society clearly benefits from investments in early childhood development. In the United States, for example, every dollar invested in early childhood programs reportedly yields up to $9 in returns through reduced national spending on crime, welfare, and special education.

Solve’s Early Childhood Development Challenge

That’s why Solve launched the Early Childhood Development Challenge. We are searching for solutions that level the playing field for young children to develop the critical learning and cognitive skills they need to reach their full potential.

At Solve Challenge Finals 2019, we will select the next cohort of Solver teams with promising, innovative solutions to address the Early Childhood Development Challenge. Each selected Solver will receive a minimum of $10,000 from Solve, with the opportunity for additional prize funding from our cross-sector member organizations. Solver teams will also receive 12 months of mentorship, event and media exposure, and resources from across the Solve and MIT communities.

This is where you come in. Apply today to Solve’s Early Childhood Development Challenge for a chance to join the next cohort of Solver teams! Not sure if your solution is the right fit? Solve is looking for tech-based solutions that address these specific Challenge dimensions:

1. Children in Vulnerable Settings

An estimated 22 million children under the age of five—the peak cognitive development stage of life—are refugees or live in areas affected by conflict or disaster. We are looking for solutions that help mitigate threats to physical, mental, and socio-emotional developmental growth for all children, particularly those living in vulnerable or disadvantaged settings.

2. Decreasing Inequalities at Birth

The foundations for stereotypes and inequalities are laid at birth. Family and societal expectations based on gender, race, class, religion, and socio-economic background socialize young children to think and behave in certain ways, and this continues throughout life. This Challenge seeks solutions that decrease socialized inequalities beginning at birth.

3. Child Care and Parenting Support

The home environment, including parent-child interactions and exposure to stressful experiences, influences the cognitive and socio-emotional development of children. As such, Solve is looking for solutions that provide parents, teachers, and caregivers with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide every child with stimulated interaction and a stable learning environment.

4. Pre-Primary Schooling

Research shows that participation in quality pre-primary programs has positive effects on the cognitive development of children and their longevity in the school system. Yet despite gains, enrollment remains too low in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Solve is seeking solutions that help ensure all children around the world enter school on time and are physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally ready for school.

5. Play and Exploration

The process of play ignites exploration, language experimentation, cognition, and the development of social interaction skills. Encouraging children to play and explore not only stimulates their brains; it also helps them better understand their surroundings. We’re looking for solutions that enable play-based learning and exploration for children under five.

If you have a solution that addresses one of these dimensions, submit it to the Early Childhood Development Challenge by July 1!


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Early Childhood Development

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