Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

Somerville, Mass., has spent years building a strong foundation for its early education and care programs.

Now, a case study – One Somerville, Every Child — explores how Somerville has used a three-year (2019-2022), $1 million grant from the Commonwealth Children’s Fund to make vital progress that will support young children and families – and set an example other cities can learn from.

This work began in 2018 when representatives of the City of Somerville and the Somerville Public Schools were introduced to team members from the Commonwealth Children’s Fund – thanks to the Harvard Education Redesign Lab’s By All Means Initiative.”

Somerville officials “shared plans and dreams they had for expanding their early childhood services, and the CCF team shared their plans to start investing in communities piloting innovations in early childhood systems,” the case study says.

Somerville had three goals it sought to achieve:

Another program that was central in the grant-funded work was “Somerville’s light-touch, universal home visiting program, SomerBaby,” a first point of connection “to early childhood services and supports for many families.”

Unfortunately, in year one of the grant the pandemic hit, forcing city officials to focus on emergencies — such as helping struggling families buy diapers — so there was less time for strategic planning and capacity building. And plans to grow the city’s mixed-delivery, early childhood system shifted to efforts to keep providers in business.

The silver lining? The pandemic compelled the entire country to pay attention to child care, and Somerville was well prepared to use federal Covid relief funds to stabilize its programs for young children.

Somerville also had other advantages, including:

Armed with a vision and a commitment to hard work, Somerville used the Children’s Fund grant to create:

To learn more, be sure to check out the case study – and read about Somerville’s ongoing work to build an early learning system.

As the case study explains, one key lesson that Somerville learned is:

Work towards both the ideal and the achievable: While it will take time to achieve the end goals, and the team will need to be realistic about what they can achieve, it is important to keep the ideal vision of each goal in mind so if there is an opportunity to make progress toward the ideal, the team is positioned to leverage it.”