Plenary Panel



Plenary Panel held October 5, 2017 from 11:30 -13:00

In an increasingly inter-connected world, many of the new global challenges have direct implications for local policies: mobility, increasing diversity and the take-up of refugees with young children, growing inequalities and increasing numbers of children in poverty, austerity measures, and a persistent educational gap. On the one hand, local policies have little impact on the causes of these global challenges, yet, on the other hand, local policies often prove to be most creative and progressive in responding to these challenges. The field of early childhood development provides salient examples of such local responses addressing complex issues in systemic ways.

This panel will explore such examples from various countries.



Joan Lombardi is Senior Advisor at the Bernard van Leer Foundation and an international expert on child development and social policy. She also directs Early Opportunities LLC, focusing on innovation, policy, and philanthropy. From 2009 to 2011, she served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the first deputy assistant secretary for Early Childhood Development in the Obama administration.


Deepa Grover is regional advisor on early childhood development for the UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office.




Elke Decruynaere is the Alderman of Education in the City of Ghent and as such, responsible for early childhood education and care in the city. The municipal child care centres and preschools have a long standing tradition in reflecting on their social mission and thus on issues of immigration, diversity and social cohesion.

photo © Jonas Vincken


Roos van Gelderen has been the Alderman for the Dutch Socialist Party in Leiden, the Netherlands in the field of Youth, Care and Welfare since 2010. She is a Member of the Supervisory Board the Children’s Rights Tribunal. Before her political career, Roos worked as advisor and project leader at JSO, an expertise center on youth, society and education.



Chris Cuthbert is Director of Development for the Big Lottery Fund’s A Better Start programme in the UK, which aims to deliver local systems transformation and improve early child development outcomes. He was previously Head of Strategy and Development at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) where he led a national programme of research, service design and policy development. Chris joined the NSPCC from the Cabinet Office where he was Deputy Director of the government’s Social Exclusion Task Force.



Michel Vandenbroeck is the head of the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent University in Belgium. His research focuses on early childhood policy and practice and parent support, with a special interest for diversity and social inclusion.