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Systems change

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A Better Start aims to bring about changes to the way that systems operate around children and families in order to improve early childhood development outcomes.

Systems are made up of lots of different elements including people, resources, services as well as relationships, values and perceptions, and the wider policy context. A Better Start is aiming to change local systems to bring about and embed:

  • A shift in culture and spending across children and families agencies towards support and services for children and families that is prevention-focused, and responsive to local needs;
  • Effective partnership working across local health, public services, social sector and wider community to co-produce and deliver less bureaucratic, more joined up support and services;
  • A commitment to science and evidence-based support and services, and to innovation.

Systems change is a complex process and achieving the aims outlined above is new and exciting territory. Each A Better Start local partnership is developing and testing approaches to promote system change locally, and the learning from these approaches will be captured to enable other areas to draw on and apply the learning.

Development Support Projects
A Better Start has commissioned a series of development support projects to support the five partnerships to embed systems change through optimising the design, development and implementation of their individual programmes. The partnerships are working with leading experts from research, policy and practice to continuously support and challenge programme development. The learning from these projects is being shared widely to support the work of other local areas.

Better Evidence for A Better Start
The Big Lottery Fund worked with Dartington Social Research Unit and Warwick University to develop two resources – ‘The science within’ and What Works - to support A Better Start partnerships to develop science and evidence-based strategies. These may be of interest to other local areas interested in developing local strategies to improve Early Childhood Development.

The Big Lottery Fund commissioned the London School of Economics to undertake a study into the potential savings that could be achieved through investing in prevention and intervention in the early years. Project resources include a Unit Cost Calculator and an Area Level Tracking Tool.

Volunteer Evidence Review and implementation toolkit
The Big Lottery Fund commissioned Parents 1st, the Institute of Voluntary Action Research and Oxford University to carry out an evidence review to explore if and how volunteering projects can support child development outcomes. The review includes an implementation toolkit that can be applied to other areas of volunteering practice.

A Better Start Common Outcomes Framework
The London School of Economics in partnership with the 5 A Better Start partnerships has developed a Common Outcomes Framework to support local areas to use population level outcomes and indicators to track early child development outcomes locally, and to compare trends in national level data.