Jana Fleming, Penny Smith

Since 2009, the Illinois Early Childhood Fellows Program (IECFP) has offered a multidimensional program of leadership development to small cohorts of professionals, as well as support to build the capacity of early childhood organizations to develop and retain a diverse workforce.

The fellowship experience includes intensive professional development and networking, in addition to a two-year placement in a leading nonprofit “host organization” with expertise in early childhood policy, advocacy, and systems building.

The first cohort of IECFP fellows ran from 2009-11 and the second from 2011-13, comprised of four and five fellows, respectively. Erikson expanded its involvement by taking over management of the program just in time to welcome a new cohort of five fellows on July 1, 2013.

The overarching objective of the IECFP is to strengthen the pipeline of qualified leaders in early care and education public policy and advocacy in Illinois, with a particular focus on deepening the pool of leaders from diverse backgrounds. The IECFP is based on the premises that leadership can be nurtured and enriched, and that professional trajectories can be enhanced by intensive, well-designed learning experiences, professional and leadership development, and mentoring. It assumes that outstanding, diverse leaders will be attracted to the intensive professional development opportunity offered by the program, and that over a two-year fellowship experience they will hone skills, knowledge, insight, and relationships to boost their careers.

The IECFP aims to help develop strategic, visionary leaders with authentic voices who can influence the creation and implementation of effective public policy.

Under Erikson’s management, the program will add two new components: developing and implementing professional development activities for participating host organizations aimed at deepening their capacity to develop and support leaders of color, and creating and supporting an alumni network.

In addition, in January 2014 Erikson will launch a new leadership program for mid-career professionals, which will share the same goals and objectives of the IECFP but will be less intensive and target individuals who are slightly more advanced in their careers.

To learn more about the program and its current and past fellows, visit the Illinois Early Childhood Fellowship Program website.