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 ISSUE 9   May 2005  
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One on One: Part 2 - Meet Rob Santos, Healthy Child Manitoba-Network Partners Committee Member


In this issue of Dialogue, Rob Santos discusses his insights into how Network partners play a pivotal role in children's language and literacy success. In Dialogue's previous issue, he discussed the Healthy Child Manitoba Strategy and government policies relating to language and literacy for children.








Rob Santos serves as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Healthy Child Manitoba Office (HCMO). HCMO provides staff for the Government of Manitoba's Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet. Rob is a member of The Network's Partners Committee.

"Research, particularly concerning children, needs to be regarded as what it really is, which is a public good." Rob Santos

Q. You wear various hats, including that of provincial co-chair of the Federal/ Provincial/ Territorial Committee on Early Childhood Development Knowledge, Information and Effective Practices. What is the role of that committee?

I'll call it the Knowledge Committee -- it grew out of a commitment stated in the First Ministers' Early Childhood Development (ECD) communiqué of September 2000. The commitment was to, "work together where appropriate on research and knowledge related to early childhood development, share information on effective practices that improve child outcomes, and work together to disseminate the results of the research."

Explicit in that agreement is the importance of knowledge exchange and effective practices based on research and good outcome data. The Knowledge Committee is looking at what that means in practical terms with three main goals. The first is to create a structure for sharing ECD knowledge, information and effective practices across the various levels of government. The second is to influence Canadian research in ECD to meet the needs of governments. And the third is to influence ECD data collection that includes, but isn't limited to, research.

Communities, governments and other sectors all collect data, and a lot of that data is on children. Yet we're still lacking some of the most essential data to make good decisions about investments in children. For example, an abundance of research has been done about First Nation and Métis children yet with relatively little return to their communities. Currently, there is not enough in the way of meaningful longitudinal data needed to inform policy.

By building partnerships with leading centres of excellence in early childhood development, we can facilitate a dialogue around the most pressing priorities for governments and their knowledge needs.

Q. With all your different perspectives, what do you bring to The Network Partners Committee?

Our work at HCMO brings a perspective that can provide insight into the cross-departmental issues facing a provincial government with regard to knowledge needs, public investments, and policy development when it comes to children's health, learning, and development. At the same time, the Knowledge Committee provides a cross-country look at the most pressing knowledge needs in these areas. The key is to look at current needs as well as to anticipate emerging ones. The Network's Partners Committee is a very good vehicle to do so since it is organized with this particular process in mind. It has rapidly built very high-quality partnerships and relationships between scientific disciplines and is broadening that across sectors with the community, practitioners and policy makers. The work I'm involved in can provide government, policy, and public service perspectives to The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, which I hope will be helpful to the Partnership Committee since a goal of The Network is to influence policy using quality science.

Q. How can The Network provide additional support to the Healthy Child Manitoba Office or the Federal/ Provincial/ Territorial Committee on Early Childhood Development Knowledge, Information and Effective Practices (Knowledge Committee)?

I hope to continue discussions we've had with The Network on how we can collaborate more closely. Dr. Donald Jamieson, The Network's CEO and Scientific Director has presented to the Knowledge Committee on two occasions. From Manitoba's perspective, Dr. Jamieson visited Winnipeg in June 2003 to talk with a number of experts heading promising projects and initiatives around literacy and language development. We hope to tap into the success The Network is creating through partnerships and leveraging resources that can lead to meaningful improvements in the lives of young children. (Note: In June 2004, the F/P/T Committee on ECD Knowledge, Information and Effective Practices established a formal partnership with The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network.)

Q. How do you see The Network making a difference provincially and nationally?

The Network has the potential to make a difference because it's connected to key hubs across the country that are already in place to facilitate change for children. The Network is well-placed to take language and literacy development for Canadian children to the next level. You've got an excellent structure and people with the right knowledge, background and expertise as the engine of The Network. At the same time, there's currently a good policy and public climate around language and literacy development in the context of innovation and economic development in the new economy, as well as local community mobilization efforts across the country that are dedicated to improving ECD. You don't need to look far to see very concrete changes being made. We have a ways to go but I think that we're certainly headed in the right direction. The challenge for those investing in this agenda is to look long-term at institutionalizing the structures that work. Both HCMO and the F/P/T ECD Committee on Knowledge, Information and Effective Practices are proponents of institutionalizing The Network as the leading scientific centre of excellence on literacy and language for Canada. Governments need a Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network to do their work more effectively. Communities need a Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network because there's an assumption by the public that their tax dollars are being invested in evidence-based programs. It's an assumption we must follow through on. Research, particularly concerning children, needs to be regarded as what it really is, which is a public good.


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