Our model

Lively Minds works to get preschoolers in Ghana and Uganda, school-ready.


Our vision is that all children have the opportunities to develop their skills and talents, and the chance to reach their full potential.


To achieve that vision, change needs to happen at scale and solutions need to be affordable and sustainable by governments. We have designed and fine-tuned our model with this in mind. 

Our ‘hybrid’ programme targets both the home and pre-school environments to improve early childhood care and education in resource-poor, rural villages where it’s needed most.


We do this by building the skills and confidence of marginalised parents to run educational Play Schemes and provide nurturing care at home, using the resources they have.

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“The evaluation provides novel evidence that 'hybrid' programmes that simultaneously target the home and preschool environments through parents can be effective at improving child development, as well as knowledge and practices of parents".


Institute for Fiscal Studies and Innovations for Poverty Action Randomised Control Trial End-Line Report 2019

How it works

We work in partnership with local governments, who own and implement the programme, using a train-the-trainer approach that empowers, builds capacity and strengthens systems.

We have refined our approach to provide each local government team with a two-year package to support them to set up and embed the programme. Over the two years, the programme is fully integrated into their work, strengthening their processes.


The goal is that when this period ends, they are fully able to sustain the programme themselves, with support from national government systems.

The two-year package of technical support includes the full curriculum, capacity building workshops, coaching, and the systems and processes required to manage the programme.

Why it works

This simple but highly structured programme is specifically designed for implementation in remote rural communities and has been co-created with local government and communities.

The model is replicable at scale and adaptable to different country contexts:

  • in Ghana, we work through Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Kindergarten system. Kindergarten teachers act as trainers and the Mothers come into the classroom every day.

  • In Uganda, there is no pre-school or Kindergarten in most rural areas, we work through Sub-county teams, who train an existing network of Village Health Teams as trainers. Play Schemes still take place every day in any available community building, or under the trees on a mat if no building is available.

Programme benefits

  • Improves school readiness: Our evaluations show dramatic improvements in children's cognitive & behavioural skills and their health.

  • Utilises & empowers mothers: The programme creates a system to empower, support & provide information to marginalised and uneducated mothers in hard-to-reach communities. Our evaluations show dramatic improvements in positive parenting practices and in the wellbeing of the Mothers.

  • Improves schools: The Scheme relieves the pressure on teachers caused by large class sizes & lack of resources. Our evaluations show improvements in teacher motivation & attendance.

  • Cost-effective & scalable: The programme does not require investment in classrooms or in teachers. Play Schemes are run by voluntary workforce using local materials.

  • Promotes community-action: We create a platform of change-makers at community-level. The group of Mothers quickly becomes a very powerful platform for further change and development in their community.  Through participating in the programme, these Mothers gain a thirst for further learning, realise change is possible and develop skills and peer support networks to put ideas into action.

  • Increases demand for early childhood development: By raising awareness of the importance of early childhood development (ECD), the programme encourages communities to hold schools and government to account and to demand better ECD services. This is a vital catalyst for systems reform.

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"I believe that this programme has the power to transform ECCE in Ghana, and also globally.


...We are fortunate that the Lively Minds programme has been the subject of a world class study and this shows that this programme is working.

…The programme has seen significant improvement on cognitive skills, language, socio-emotional and health of children.


It has also had positive impacts on the mothers, teachers and the Ghana Education Service teams involved".

Hon Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister for Education, Ghana (2019)