One-day introductory training

Science-Based Innovation and Adaptation:

An approach to accelerating the impact of early years services



Dartington Service Design Lab in collaboration with Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

29th October 2019, London UK

About the Harvard Center on the Developing Child

The mission of the Center on the Developing Child is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. Founded in 2006 by Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the Center catalyzes local, national, and international innovation in policy and practice focused on children and families. The Center’s diverse activities align around building an R&D (research and development) platform for science-based innovation, and transforming the policy and practice landscape that supports and even demands change. These activities include:

  • Stimulating demand for science-based innovation by translating and communicating complex ideas in simple, usable ways and in a variety of forms;

  • Developing current and future leaders in the classroom and in the field, supporting them to think, work, and lead differently;

  • Cultivating institutional partners for collective ownership by building and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships with fellow travelers who are committed to achieving breakthrough outcomes for children.

Decades of research have shown it is possible to improve outcomes for children and families facing adversity. However, the impacts of early childhood services have been modest and traditional approaches to evaluation have not told us enough about how programmes work and who benefits most and least. So, how can we design and rapidly test and refine services to improve outcomes for more young children and families?

Over the last few years both the Dartington Service Design Lab and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have been working on approaches to help accelerate the impact of early years services. Now we are coming together in an exciting collaboration to create the first Frontiers of Innovation Cluster outside of North and South America, here in the UK. 

As part of this endeavour, the Lab – in collaboration with the Harvard Center – will be running a one-day training event in October.

In this fast-paced and engaging experience, you will hear from leading scientists and designers from the Harvard Center and the Lab. You’ll be introduced to the IDEAS Impact Framework : a new approach to service development and evaluation1. This will help you consider the specifics of how a service works, for whom it works (and does not work); in what contexts it works, and how to ensure this is informed by the latest science on early childhood development. You’ll hear about nimble, fast-paced approaches to service development, testing and refinement that fit with local system conditions and allow us to continually learn and improve services to make a bigger difference to the lives of children and families.

Who is the training for?

This training is for anyone with an interest in, and commitment to, evidence-informed, co-created service design, delivery and improvement in the early years, and for those that want to go beyond the best of what the field has achieved so far. Previous participants in North and South America have come from a wide range of settings related to the early years, including:

  • Early years leaders and practitioners, including programme developers;

  • Central or local government commissioners or policy-makers; 

  • Research, academic, and think tank professionals;

  • Trusts and Foundations supporting early years services.

Attendees will leave with new ideas and strategies to:

  • Identify and build programmes with the greatest potential for impact;

  • Define and evaluate the effectiveness of services;

  • Orientate their programme toward impact and reach within a local system. 

What does the training include?

The day will be delivered in-person by scientists and service designers from the Harvard Center and the Dartington Service Design Lab. It will include:

An opening presentation from the Harvard Center: Three Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children and Families. They will share three evidence-based design principles that we can use to create and improve policies and services for children and families.

An overview of the IDEAS Impact Framework: An introduction to the framework designed to help innovators overcome barriers and go beyond the status quo to increase impact.

IDEAS Impact Framework Component #1 Theory of Change: Successful and impactful programs have a clear and precise Theory of Change that supports rapid-cycle iteration by pinpointing why, how, and for whom an intervention should work. You’ll hear about and discuss these key components.

IDEAS Impact Framework Component #2 Programme and Materials Development: Programmes should be grounded in science, deliverable in the real world, capable of continuous improvement, and supported by high-quality materials. You’ll hear about and discuss the key components of a quality programme and materials.

IDEAS Impact Framework Component #3 Rapid-cycle evaluation plan: To understand and measure the impact of your service, you need a feasible testing and improvement plan that will answer the questions raised in your Theory of Change. You’ll hear about and discuss key concepts of rapid cycle design and testing to support ongoing iteration and service improvement. 

In addition to these interactive presentations, you’ll have opportunities to network with fellow training participants throughout the day.

How much does the training cost? 

The cost of this training is £250, inclusive of VAT. 

All tickets include: 

  • Morning coffee and refreshments throughout the day

  • Lunch

  • All materials/handouts

Where and when is it taking place? How do I sign up?

The event will take place on October 29th 2019 at a modern, light and central London venue (to be confirmed early summer). Registration will open at 08.30, with the main event running from 09.00 until 17.00.

You can book one or more places here. Places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, with a waiting list as required. 

Post-training opportunity

As part of the Dartington/Harvard collaboration bringing the Frontiers of Innovation to the UK, we will be working with a small number of teams from the public and voluntary sectors to help them apply the IDEAS Impact Framework to their services and develop their rapid cycle evaluation plans, as well as providing ongoing support and technical assistance to implement these.

All teams are running, or planning to run, early years services being tested and implemented within local systems and communities. 

There are a few places left within the first cohort - please get in touch with if you are interested in finding out more. 

Further and frequently asked questions


Will members of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child be there in person?

Yes, senior members of the team which co-designed the IDEAS Impact Framework will be in London co-delivering the event and post-training opportunity with the Dartington Service Design Lab team.  

How might I support this wider endeavour?

The Dartington Service Design Lab is an independent, not-for-profit charity. Our partnership with the Center on the Developing Child is borne out of a shared commitment to improving outcomes for children and families. This training and wider support offer is costed to cover running costs, but we want to ensure that our support is available for small organisations - trusts, foundations and individuals can help us via sponsorship of this event. Get in touch if you’d like to explore this. 

Who has taken part in other countries?

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child has been delivering this training since 2016 and many organisations have gone on to develop their services with the Center, with clusters in Washington and Latin America. You can read about some of these participants here