The fashion industry is built on dreams, imagination, and what's on next season's runways. However, if we don't provide the business with the basic tools needed to execute their strategy - such as manufacturing expertise, technical design capabilities, and systems and logistical support - our design teams will not be able to deliver quality product to our customers. So, we run a company that invests in the basics, starting with our people, systems and so much more.
Childhood is similar. It focuses on dreams and imagination, always with an eye to the future. But if we don't provide children the basics, the tools to be successful, the future for them will not be so wonderful. In order to see children achieve their dreams and goals, investing in them from a young age is key to their ultimate life path. When we don't invest in children, they simply cannot flourish.
Which is why investing in early childhood education and learning is imperative to making a difference in children's lives: It gives them a basis from which hopes and dreams, opportunities and potential, can be realized. We know that learning is a lifelong experience, one that starts at birth, and continues well into old age. It begins with the most basic human exchanges, a mother smiling at her newborn, and grows from there.
Babies and toddlers develop and grow by the minute., and they learn the most and the best when adults around them engage with them, and actively guide and nurture them through their childhood. Additionally, children also learn from early childhood education programs that are designed to develop their needs and abilities. Through programs supported and served by organizations like Save the Children, we know just how valuable this work is for the children and the parents that may or may not be present.
We know these programs are effective, and that they are especially important for helping poor and at-risk children develop the skills they need to be successful throughout life. These programs help to make sure that, when kindergarten starts, children are ready to learn. School readiness provides children born into poverty an opportunity to experience social and economic mobility.
At the same time, we know that poor and at-risk children are least likely to be enrolled in good programs, or to even have access to them. For these children in particular, and for all children, we need to boost America's investment in and commitment to early childhood education and learning, in part through universal pre-K for all 4 year olds. By investing now in these critical education programs - and therefore our children - our future and theirs will be greatly enriched.
Aside from the human returns on that investment, there are economic incentives, too. Every public dollar spent on preschool returns $7 through increased productivity and savings on public assistance and criminal justice (Children's Learning Institute). The Brookings Institute found that a comprehensive national early childhood education program would add $2 trillion to the annual gross domestic product within a generation. In a 2010 report, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce found that for every dollar invested in pre-K today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead.
Government funding and programs will be key to building that future - but there is no way they can do it alone, especially not in an era of sequestration and austerity. Businesses are going to have to step-up and invest in children and their futures.
Children are the future - and they represent our future workforce. They will be our employees, our managers, and our CEOs. They will be our policymakers and our presidents, our health care providers, and more. If our children are going to perform any of those jobs well, they will need the skills and knowledge to succeed, especially now that the whole world is in the palm of their hands.
Getting it right from the beginning, by supporting early childhood education, must become part of America's business as usual. FDR said: "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future." Frankly, as a father of three, I know there are limits to just how much building or nurturing a parent can do on their own. But the future requires each of us to build an educational foundation for children, and to develop children for whom learning is as essential as breathing.
On the world's fashion runways, we see designers who walk the walk and deliver great fashion and quality products for their customers. Real life, of course, takes much more than that. Healthy children ready to learn, are truly our first priority.
This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Save the Children, as part of the latter's drive for universal early education, which is the focus of their gala on October 1 in New York. For more information about Save the Children, click here.