Professional Resource

GETTING TO KNOW OUR FELLOWS: An interview with Sandipan Paul

"..., it has been an opportunity for me to gain leadership experience, which empowers me further to transform programs, systems, and policies across countries and especially in developing countries where I work."

Briefly describe the burning issue, need, or question that you have addressed through your Fellowship.

I am committed to working in policies and programs that affect the education and development of young children, with a focus on improving the quality of early childhood interventions for all girls and boys.

Sandipan Paul, Consultant, Pre-Primary Education, UNICEF New York Headquarters

My work involves supporting early childhood policy development, developing competencies and standards for quality improvement, conducting program evaluations, formulating programming strategies, capacity building, and building partnerships and collaborations. Given my diverse experience and learning from different contexts, I strongly believe that the ZERO TO THREE Fellowship has been important for me for two reasons.

  1. I have learned from my experience that, within early childhood, the biggest challenges are linked to policy and programming for the age group of birth to 3 years old. Inadequate policy frameworks and leadership, low capacity settings, a dearth of professional approaches, low budget allocations, and inefficient governance systems are a few of the many challenges one faces. The objective of this fellowship is to address important program, system, or policy issues in different professional contexts that directly affect very young children and their families. Therefore, it has been an opportunity for me to gain leadership experience, which empowers me further to transform programs, systems, and policies across countries and especially in developing countries where I work.
  2. The Fellowship correctly recognizes that an effective agenda for young children brings together a diverse group of practitioners from different disciplines and sectors. The Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for me to engage with this community of practice, learn from the experiences of practitioners from different sectors, and bring to the group my experiences of working with different early childhood development models with diverse stakeholders.

I brought to the Fellowship complex policy, systems, and program issues from developing and emergency country contexts (especially in context of Sustainable Development Goals). I shared with other Fellows how some of these complexities are being dealt with and the opportunities for practitioners to collaboratively seek answers. The vision of change that I worked on during the Fellowship to develop a motivated and competent early childhood workforce in the countries in which I work.

How did this issue come to mean so much to you?

The workforce is at the core of early childhood development; research offers evidence that an effective and motivated workforce positively impacts developmental outcomes of young children. I have been working with the United Nations, multilateral organizations, country governments, international philanthropic organizations, and international humanitarian organizations across 15 low/middle income countries. I have been using these diverse platforms to advance the early childhood agenda, especially focusing on the workforce. My diverse experience within these countries, and my perceived need across them to address workforce issues, made me choose this issue.

Now that your Fellowship is ending, what are you most excited about?

I am most excited about implementing the concept of adaptive leadership and, by doing so, creating collective impact. I am looking forward to “leading from where I am” through effective partnerships with my colleagues in and outside of my organization. I’m excited to share my vision for change and work with potential allies for a collective impact on lives of young children and families.

What has been the most beneficial part of being a ZERO TO THREE Fellow?

The most beneficial part has been the leadership building process, which has not only equipped me but taught me processes through which capacities can be built. Keeping core, cross-cutting issues of diversity and equity at the center, ZERO TO THREE has enabled me to reflect on the development of processes and tools that look at leadership with a holistic lens. A core aspect of my current portfolio is building critical relationships and partnerships and leveraging opportunities for impacting educational outcomes for young children. ZERO TO THREE Fellowship has addressed this gap in my leadership skills and enabled me to emerge as an early childhood leader in the global ecosystem.