Two black fathers playing with their children at the playground.


Helping communities build results-oriented, integrated early childhood systems that improve outcomes for young children and their families

What We Work For

The Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) is a network of partners with a shared goal—to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country.

CSSP defines an early childhood system as an aligned set of multi-sector services, supports, programs, and policies that—in partnership with families—focuses on improving population outcomes for young children and families at a city, county, or regional level. EC-LINC communities recognize the importance of early childhood system building. Through their work, they apply a growing body of knowledge and are developing an emerging evidence base to support its efficacy. EC-LINC is designed to elevate the work of communities and other networks committed to improving equitable outcomes for young children.

How We Do It

EC-LINC is a vibrant learning and innovation network of local communities, dedicated to bringing together a mix of services, supports, policies, and practices that help all young children and their families thrive—locally and across the nation. EC-LINC communities focus on young children and their families, ages birth to eight, with a growing number of activities beginning prenatally.

EC-LINC members have a shared goal: to improve opportunities and outcomes for children in their own communities and to share learning, resources, and strategies. Through collaboration, members come together for learning and problem solving in order to build strong early childhood systems nationwide. EC-LINC also contributes to the development of early childhood systems nationwide by working with other organizations and networks to exchange and share innovations and apply knowledge to advance best practices in systems-building.


EC-LINC communities work in partnership across the network and with other complementary communities, networks, and organizations to ensure that young children and their families are thriving. Our action areas for impact and results include:

Integrating family voice, leadership, and equity by demonstrating and documenting how parent leadership, when fully integrated into local early childhood systems and structures, can move the needle on addressing equitable outcomes.

Transforming practice and systems by bringing focused attention to closing disparity rates, tackling systemic barriers to equitable services for all, and accelerating work focused on enhanced pediatric care, maternal well-being, and early learning. This area of work is designed to support direct service providers—and to reform the systems they work within—so that children and families are better off.

Building evidence to validate and further test methods and tools to a) better measure systems performance and b) document and disseminate examples of local successes in making systems improvements that contribute to child and family well-being.

Advancing policy by ensuring that the voice of community experience is reflected in national, state, and local policy priorities and by developing a national, state, and local policy agenda that promotes equity and that advances the development and financing of early childhood systems.

Advancing local early childhood systems nationwide in partnership with other national networks so as to leverage opportunities to learn and coordinate work which will ultimately yield better outcomes for children and families.

EC-LINC members learn from one another and advance solutions for the toughest challenges they face. They implement solutions, providing a real-time test of their effectiveness, and, in turn, generating a deeper level of learning among the group. These solutions are observed, analyzed, and rapidly shared with the field.

Fourteen exemplary communities with long histories of building effective early childhood systems are members of EC-LINC. Their perspectives and experiences are invaluable to guiding the work and solving common challenges faced by communities together. Member communities and their leading organizations include:

EC-LINC Current Activities

Building Blocks for Early Learning Communities. In partnership with the National League of Cities, three EC-LINC communities piloted and tested an Early Learning Community Action Guide and Progress Rating Tool.

DULCE: Pediatric Care and Social Determinants of Health. Five EC-LINC communities are in their third year of piloting the implementation of DULCE, a pediatric innovation embedded in early childhood systems, building the evidence for what it takes to adopt and adapt this approach in varying locations across the country.

Outcomes and Metrics for Early Childhood Systems. We are working with partners to define and measure how children and families are better off when we work to build well-functioning local early childhood systems, including how the early childhood system operates to influence those outcomes.

Parent Leader Network. Nine EC-LINC communities have joined together in a Community of Practice to advance family engagement in early childhood as a core strategy to advance equity and community empowerment.

Prenatal – Three: National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers. Ten EC-LINC communities are participating in a set of activities designed to increase the number of children developmentally on track for Kindergarten by addressing women’s prenatal needs and supporting child development from birth to age three.

The New Neighborhood Hub features tools, resources, and frameworks focused on the impact, innovation, and progress of communities making change on behalf of young children and their families. Using the Building Blocks for an Early Learning Community as a guide (developed in partnership with EC-LINC communities), the resources featured under each building block are designed to foster learning and innovation across communities.

Explore the New Neighborhood Hub here.

Our Experts

Pasty Hampton portrait.

Patsy Hampton

Senior Associate and Director, EC-LINC
She, Her, Hers
Cailin O'Connor portrait.

Cailin O’Connor

Senior Associate
She, Her, Hers