Unlock the power of early childhood development with NCECF’s groundbreaking First 2000 Days Campaign. By embracing a community-driven approach, we’ve reshaped the narrative on brain development in the crucial early years of life. This initiative has revolutionized the conversation around early learning, garnering bipartisan support and engaging unexpected voices as advocates. 

With our open-source campaign, communities in NC can download free presentations and supporting materials to kickstart their own advocacy efforts, available in Spanish and English. 

Early Investments. A Lifetime of Results.

NCECF’s First 2000 Days Campaign has:

  • Built bipartisan support for investments in children’s early learning by positioning early child development as an issue that impacts all North Carolinians.
  • Engaged unexpected voices as messengers.
  • Recruited community influencers that support early learning.

By allowing broad ownership of the initiative across North Carolina (think Got Milk?), we have:

  • Changed the narrative about the urgency and importance of brain development in the early years of life.
  • Recruited new unexpected voices as champions, including business and faith leaders, and crime prevention professionals.
  • Partnered with numerous organizations across the state.

The First 2000 Days initiative is an open source campaign that allows communities across North Carolina to download presentations and supporting materials to start a campaign. Our message is accessible and has become part of the vernacular when talking about early education issues. Materials are also available in Spanish. 


  • NC voter polls in 2014, 2016 and 2018 have shown gains in North Carolinians’ understanding of the importance of early learning and in support of more public investments in young children.
  • Organizations participating in the First 2000 Days engagement initiative expanded their public engagement skills, built new partnerships and relationships, strengthened alliances, expanded their bases of support, and integrated the message into their organizational communications strategies.
  • A wide range of community leaders became unexpected voices for why early learning matters. Judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, business and faith leaders, economic development advocates and community college administrators became First 2000 Days Champions to educate and engage their networks. These respected champions also authored editorials to reach out across their communities.

Promote Understanding

By creating community teams to build momentum for the campaign at the local level, more than 10,000 North Carolinians have heard the First 2000 Days message through executive briefings, faith summits and community conversations.

Spearhead Collaboration

The First 2000 Days initiative brought together organizations and individuals for common purpose, including many that had not collaborated in the past. Building new and lasting relationships and partnerships has provided ongoing opportunities for local collaboration.

Advance Policy

By building public will for early learning investments through the First 2000 Days initiative, local governments in NC are recognizing the importance of investing now in its future workforce. At least a half dozen counties are supplementing state and federal dollars for early learning programs and others are considering how they can invest early in children’s success.

Advancing Work

First 2000 Days Availability Outside of NC

Due to the success of the initiative in North Carolina and the numerous requests from across the country to replicate the work, we offer lifetime licenses to states and entities outside of North Carolina. The state of Wisconsin owns a license, as does the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS), the University of Mississippi and the Center for Early Success in Virginia.

Training is available to those investing in a First 2000 Days license to learn about the success of the initiative in NC to inform goal setting, strategies and tactics for creating engagement campaigns. Read more about the licensing here.




With continued out of state interest, the First 2000 Days tools are refreshed. The Center for Early Success in Virginia purchases a license.


The First 2,000 Days Campaign is updated with a new look for the educational, presentation and engagement materials as well as materials in Spanish and for faith audiences.

The University of Mississippi purchases a license for the First 2000 Days materials and program.


Awarded 2017 Best Awareness Campaign by the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading!


The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students purchase licensing agreements. 

NCECF obtains First 2000 Days trademark and begins licensing the First 2000 Days toolkit outside of NC.

March 2015

An independent evaluator of the First 2000 Days initiative found that local Smart Start partnerships gained public engagement skills, built new partnerships, expanded their based of support and integrated the message into their organizational communications. Smart Starts stated that NCECF support was highlighted as a major strength of the campaign.


Nine hundred faith leaders attend regional and local Faith Summits in Burlington, Fayetteville, Greenville, Rutherfordton, Eden and Wilmington. Twelve Business Briefings across the state are held to engage 500 business leaders in becoming First 2000 Days champions.

Between 2012 and 2014, at least 10,000 North Carolinians heard the First 2000 Days message through over 300 presentations and events across the state.

May 2014

Kevin Frye, Sheriff of Avery County and then President of the NC Sheriff’s Association, writes all 100 sheriffs, urging them to become First 2000 Days Champions.

April 2014

NCECF awards 11 small grants to local Smart Starts in North Carolina to host community summits to engage faith, law enforcement and business leaders in the First 2000 Days campaign.


NCECF selects 25 counties across NC to provide two years of strategic assistance, coaching and support a learning community about First 2000 Days engagement campaigns.


NCECF develops downloadable First 2000 Days engagement toolkit including presentations, educational and engagement materials, much of it in English and Spanish.


First 2,000 Days campaign is launched to build bipartisan support for investments in children’s early learning by positioning early childhood as an issue that impacts all North Carolinians, engage unexpected voices as messengers and create community influencers that support early learning.


What People are Saying About the First 2000 Days

Pastor Jerry Lewis from Grace for All Church in Marion, NC said: “the Faith Summit was truly eye-opening” for him. Pastor Lewis recently entitled his sermon series the First 2000 Days to introduce the new childcare facility addition to his congregation.

Early childhood blogger Paul Nyhan called it [First 2000 Days]: “a model for early learning in the age of social media” and Education Week featured it in their Early Years blog.

Smart Start of Henderson County said: “the message has opened doors for us to collaborate more closely with the local k-12 school system, communities of faith and the local children’s museum. We’ve presented to the local Chamber of Commerce and the message was well received. It has also helped bridge a gap that’s we’ve previously had with law enforcement.”

Sarah-Elizabeth Langford, the former first lady of Atlanta said “the First 2000 Days are incredibly valuable because that is when a brain is built, not born and the foundation of all future learning, future behavior, and future success is during these 2000 Days. Langford was featured on WSB-TV Atlanta promoting the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) Program.

First 2000 Days Champions

  • Clifford Barnett: Pastor, Warner Temple AME Zion Church
  • Corina Knott: Account Executive, Interstate Outdoor
  • Dale Jenkins: Chief Executive Officer, Medical Mutual Holdings, Inc
  • Darrell Cunningham: Director of Community Partnership, Broward County Human Services 
  • Jim Goodnight: Chief Executive Officer, SAS
  • Kit Cramer: President/Chief Executive Officer, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Lael Gray: Executive Director, Asheville Jewish Community Center
  • Lavern Weathers: Kinship Caregiver Navigator, Mecklenburg County
  • Reggie Winston: Owner, The Bar Ber Shop Raleigh
  • Sandra Ixa Plata-Potter: Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Mount Olive
  • Tommy James: Pastor, First Baptist Church in Yancey County
  • Vivian Correa: Professor Emeritus, UNC Charlotte
  • Wanda Yuhas: Executive Director, Pitt County Economic Development Commission


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