MEDIA6: An organization focuses on early childhood stimulation
resolved Jul 10

As part of Charity Entrepreneurship's 2023 Top Ideas contest, will we select "An organization focuses on early childhood stimulation" as a top Mass Media intervention?

Idea overview

By the age of four, it is estimated that over 40% of children in sub-Saharan Africa fail to meet the cognitive or socio-emotional milestones expected for their age. Many are likely to do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes as adults. Intervening in the first three years of life is a highly effective way to help children develop their cognitive skills. This organization would focus either on encouraging and supporting parents to spend more time doing stimulating activities with their children, or produce stimulating (audio or audiovisual) content that children could engage with.

Mass media interventions

By ‘mass media’ intervention we refer to social and behavior change communication campaigns delivered through mass media, aiming to improve human well-being. We intend to select 2-4 ideas out of the 10 presented to recommend to entrepreneurs who enter our incubation program. This market resolves YES if this idea is chosen; NO otherwise.

About the contest

In partnership with Charity Entrepreneurship, Manifold is sponsoring a $2000 forecasting tournament to inform which ideas end up selected

  • You can win part of a $1000 prize pool as a forecaster, for best predicting which interventions we choose.

  • You can win one of ten $100 prizes for posting an informative comment on Manifold that most influences our decision.

For contest details and all markets, see the group CE 2023 Top Ideas.

Get Ṁ500 play money

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🏅 Top traders

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BTE avatar
Brian T. Edwards

@Lorenzo @DavidChee Perhaps this should be re-resolved too?

3 replies
Lorenzo avatar

@BTE I don't think so, but let's wait for CE

BTE avatar
Brian T. Edwards

@Lorenzo It doesn’t look any different than the second idea in the most recent blog post. This idea.

Lorenzo avatar

@BTE "This organization would focus either on encouraging and supporting parents to spend more time doing stimulating activities with their children, or produce stimulating (audio or audiovisual) content that children could engage with."

While iiuc the blog post mentions "improve the quality of teaching by providing structured teacher guides alongside training and coaching on their usage."

JesusDeSivar avatar
Jesus Of Sivarpredicted NO

Hedge your bets here:

EvanLaForge avatar
Evan LaForgebought Ṁ25 of YES

I don't think this intervention is particularly strong, but as an average intervention, I think it belongs somewhere near 30% range, so the market is undervalued. This intervention seems promising, as this type of programming could be highly beneficial if done correctly, though I am concerned about the measurement of impact of this intervention because the organization will necessarily deal with longer timescales in its work.

DanMan314 avatar

I suspect there is a large opportunity cost of parents spending more time with their children for people in deep poverty. I sort of struggle to believe that the major issue in impoverished areas is parents not knowing it’s valuable to spend time with their children, as opposed to have life circumstances that force them to work or be elsewhere.

Lack of stimulating play also might have more to do with lack of toys and books than no radio programs.

It’s possible media instructing how to make time and play more development oriented for the child could have an impact? I found a study in Burkina Faso:

But for this to be convincing to me I think I would need long term followups and randomization. It’s not clear how much impact marginal changes in childhood activities would have on life outcomes, and I do have a prior that communities might have a better understanding of the child’s needs.

hominidan avatar
hominidanpredicted YES

I'm not sure about creating audio-visual content, but it seems there are promising ideas in the vicinity, for instance advising parents from developing countries to utilize evidence-based strategies in running children groups .

Positive parenting interventions seem to show significant effects for language (g = .25), and mental abilities (g = .46). Unfortunately, the effect of early childhood interventions seems to fade over time.

There's a surprising lack of RCTs measuring effect of screens in early childhood considering the content. My guess is that a lot of psychologists echo that screens have devastating effects just based on correlational studies and that research in this area could reveal there could be value in rating content based on how positive it seems to be for development. While screen time as such seems to have mildly negative effects, e-book interventions have an effect of g = .85 on language development, compared to regular childcare.

However, I'm not sure whether language skills and educational attainment in studies above measure anything relevant. It could be that a child knows more words and therefore does better in English classes but that this does not have much social value (as Caplan suggests, most value for individuals in language education could be in better education signaling)

BenjaminM avatar
Benjamin Mbought Ṁ9 of NO

I actually took a class that touched on this and found that, specifically with regards to language, children do fine even when cultural practices are set up in ways that go against what the West considers stimulating children. More or less, for language, having a sing-songy, high-pitched voice and talking directly to children are often considered part of how children learn, but some cultural groups don’t do that and their children do fine. Encouraging parents seems odd because presumably parents want to play with their children in stimulating ways?

JaimeSevilla avatar
Jaime Sevillabought Ṁ200 of NO

I feel like I must be missing something here. Parents like spending time with their children! If they aren't doing it, there must be something else preventing them!

finnhambly avatar
Finn Hambly

I think this:

As part of Charity Entrepreneurship's 2023 Top Ideas contest, will we select "Mobile technologies to encourage women to attend antenatal clinics and/or give birth at a health care facility" as a top Mass Media intervention?

needs to be replaced with this:

As part of Charity Entrepreneurship's 2023 Top Ideas contest, will we select "An organization focuses on early childhood stimulation" as a top Mass Media intervention?

1 reply
Austin avatar

@finnhambly Done, thanks!

NicholasKross avatar
Nicholas Kross

Nitpick, but you ought to pay attention to the spelling in all materials about/outputted-by this project. You really don't want to spell "antenatal" wrong lol

Lily avatar
Lilypredicted NO

There's no way stimulation is the culprit for 40% of children not meeting developmental milestones, right? I'd be extremely surprised if this were
1. not due to something like malnutrition or early childhood illness, and
2. easily solvable by parents interacting with their children in a different way before age three,
3. in a way that doesn't trade off against other things that might contribute to the family's well-being more, and
4. in a way that's easily teachable via a mass-media (i.e., one-way, rather than in-person teaching) campaign.

There's so much variation in how parents in different rich countries treat their toddlers that if difference in stimulation were a huge factor in development, we'd see bigger disparities in those places too. Plus, intuitively, it's hard not to stimulate a toddler? They're interested in everything!

PatMyron avatar
Pat Myron

Parenting in sub-Saharan Africa seems difficult, and I'd be interested to know how disseminating parenting information would compare with more direct support systems in terms of tractability when resources are thinner

1 reply
Lily avatar
Lilybought Ṁ60 of NO

@PatMyron right, presumably whatever time parents aren't spending stimulating their children trades off against some other thing they've judged more valuable (eg, working to feed the children)?

cloudprism avatar
Hayden Jackson

encouraging and supporting parents to spend more time doing stimulating activities with their children

^ This should be core.

produce stimulating (audio or audiovisual) content that children could engage with

^ This should only be supplemental.

jacksonpolack avatar
jackson polack

Personally not a fan of the quality of resarch behind, e.g. 'stimulating audiovisual activities promoting cognitive development', but don't expect anyone else to share that opinion

AnishaZaveri avatar
Anisha Zaveribought Ṁ10 of YES

GPT-4 ranked this #3 of the 10

AnishaZaveri avatar
Anisha Zaveri

@CE The first paragraph of the description is incorrect

1 reply
PatMyron avatar
Pat Myron