Rationale and Purpose

Early Childhood Development (ECD) is central to a child’s development: it lays the groundwork for successful learning, which in turn helps children progress confidently into formal schooling. In this way it serves as a foundation for the development of an active and educated citizenry which can contribute to social and economic advancement. ECD is prioritised in education policy in South Africa, yet the actual provision is fragmentary and functions to some extent in competitive silos.

In order to promote co-ordination in the sector, BRIDGE’s National Early Childhood Development Community of Practice aims to assist government’s goal of implementing ECD strategies and policies in a systematic way, through collaboration with civil society and informed by real issues on the ground.

Key Activities

The Community of Practice meets regularly to promote the collaborative sharing of working practice, tools and resources amongst different stakeholders in ECD. Key focus areas have been identified, with activities carried out as described below:

  • BRIDGE’s National ECD Community of Practice has been debating what ‘quality’ means in ECD, given the diverse range of contexts. As a result of these discussions, the CoP has developed a Quality Toolkit, which is a self-reflection tool for ECD practitioners to engage with dimensions of quality, supported by a set of processes – a first in the sector! Its purpose is to enable ECD practitioners to understand what quality practice means in a context, to gather data on quality issues, and to contribute to a common understanding of quality.
  • The ECD CoP aims to link practice and policy by forming collective submissions on key ECD policy documents. The ECD CoP also represents civil society along with five other umbrella ECD organisations on the government’s Inter-Sectoral Steering Committee which identifies the key issues that the sector should be putting onto the agenda for engagement with government.
  •  The Mapping Action Group has supported the Community of Practice’s mapping undertakings, which aim to provide a systems view of activity in ECD. The mapping of provincial ECD forums and networks in South Africa (in partnership with Ilifa Labantwana) will promote better engagement, communication and collaboration by all stakeholders for a stronger ECD sector. In addition, BRIDGE is in the process of mapping the size, scope, capacity and distribution of ECD RTOs in Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.

The work of the action groups is brought back to the National ECD Community for further input towards achieving targeted outcomes.

Link to the BRIDGE Knowledge Hub for meeting highlights, presentations, tools and documented working practice from this Community.


BRIDGE’s National ECD Community of Practice has been in existence since February 2013. It is growing fast, with over 350 members across all nine provinces from a range of stakeholder groups represented on its database. As a result of the widespread sharing of knowledge at all levels, the community has reached the position where it is making a significant contribution to the development of a strong and effective ECD system in South Africa.

If you are interested in collaborating with a range of stakeholders to contribute towards a more co-ordinated ECD sector, contact kaley@bridge.org.za for more information.


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Great platform to allow brainstorming and debating issues to make meaningful contributions

Christine Mbabazi, FHI 360