Smart Start of Mecklenburg County Announces its Third Annual Innovation Grant Recipients

February 2023

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County (SSMC) is committed to innovation in early childhood. In order to drive innovation, we seek partnerships with organizations that have the potential to deliver meaningful outcomes for children and families.

We value change centered on community, collaboration, and collective action as integral to shifting entrenched power structures. Our third annual Innovation Grants support efforts to champion equitable access and opportunities for all in early childhood. Smart Start funded projects engage community voices, particularly communities of color, to build equitable solutions.

Please continue reading to learn more about our 2023 Innovation Grant recipients.

Black Child Development Institute
Funding will fully implement The Family Empowerment Program, FEP, a holistic approach to build the capacity of families through education families on brain development, toxic stress, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and the importance of building resiliency and developing protective factors. FEP is culturally relevant and responsive, trauma Informed, and evidence-based.

BYE Foundation
Funding will increase family engagement by establishing a Family Leadership and Engagement Coalition (FLEC), where parents/caregivers work alongside early childhood education providers as equal partners to shift from agency-centered to family-centered policies.

Educational Equity Institute
Funding provides a 12-month Family Advocacy Academy, a community organizing approach, to build power and advocacy skills within traditionally marginalized neighborhoods. Participants will learn about power (e.g., what it is, who holds power in Charlotte); what early childhood education is, why it is important, and how programs get funded; and key advocacy skills. The Academy will address the root causes of white supremacy, entrenched mindsets about race and power, and scarcity mindsets. 

Family Childcare & Center Enrichment Foundation
Funding to help build the capacity of this new organization to meet the needs of area family child care providers and the families they serve. A consultant will be hired to facilitate focus groups with families and to support the strategic focus and goal setting.  

Safe Alliance
Funding to engage families, survivors of violence and direct service providers to inform the creation of a model, trauma-informed early care and education program capable of fostering the social and emotional wellbeing of children exposed to violence. The model program will be housed at the new Umbrella Center, formerly named the Family Justice Center. 


We are incredibly thankful for the Community Investment Committee's time and consideration dedicated to this process and the private funders that support this year's innovation grant process.

We look forward to witnessing how these investments permeate our early childhood community today, tomorrow, and in the future!