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Lively Minds

A £1,644,779 grant to support Lively Minds to set up high quality educational play schemes in kindergartens using local resources and rigorously test their effectiveness in delivering high quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).

Investment Overview

Northern and Upper East regions

Lively Minds

Education | Northern and Upper East regions, Ghana | Test & Transition


The development problem: 200 million children in developing countries currently fail to reach their full potential in terms of cognitive development. Although Ghana has made great strides in early childhood care and education (ECCE) in comparison with other African countries, 30% of children under five are still moderately or severely stunted and 50% of children who take part in the Basic Education Certificate Examination fail. Prior research suggests that encouraging psychosocial stimulation at an early age can generate long-lasting improvements in children’s outcomes. The challenge is to set up models of parental engagement and early education services that can operate cost-effectively at large scale.

The innovation: Lively Minds has replicated and adapted to Ghana an innovative model of improving ECCE by setting up community-run educational play schemes in kindergartens. These schemes are run by volunteer mothers and give kindergarten children access to age-appropriate and interactive games that are designed to improve cognitive skills, school preparedness, and health of children. Lively Minds’ monitoring data and theory-based independent evaluations indicate the model tackles both demand and supply issues and has important positive impacts on participating children, mothers, kindergarten teachers, and communities.

GIF’s investment: Through this investment, GIF is supporting Lively Minds to set up to set up 250 new community-run play schemes and to rigorously test their effectiveness in bringing high quality Early Childhood Care and Education to hard-to-reach, resource-poor communities. In addition, GIF is funding the Institute of Fiscal Studies to carry out a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of the model, demonstrate the mechanisms of impact, and undertake a cost-effectiveness analysis.

Why we invested:

  • The intervention and RCT address an important development issue affecting 200 million children, with significant long-term benefits on general productivity.
  • The play scheme is potentially an effective, low-cost, replicable model that addresses both demand and supply side issues and responds to many education, social, and health challenges simultaneously.
  • The intervention uses a scalable government service delivery system and has initial buy in from the Ghana Education Service, which has assessed the Lively Minds model to be ‘cost-effective, child-friendly and adaptable for use in Ghanaian kindergarten classrooms’ and has engaged its staff at the district level.
  • Robust study design and strong plans to generate evidence that is directly comparable and will complement existing research in ECCE in Ghana and contribute to the global public good.
  • Highly capable team, with a proven track record in using evidence in programme design and implementation, and with world class reputation on ECD research.
  • This intervention also supports a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals including: Goal 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Quality Education) and 5 (Gender Equality).