As you may know, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has undergone some significant transitions over the past few months. In particular, on Jan. 1 we welcomed La June Montgomery Tabron to her new role as president and CEO, and Bobby D. Moser to a two-year term as board chair. And, last November, we launched a redesigned website at wkkf.org.

For the past several years, WKKF has also been evolving its approach to its annual report in ways that share both the foundation’s point of view as a funder and voices from the communities with which we work.

2013 marks the third consecutive year to feature a “boots-on-the-ground” look at issues that bear directly on WKKF’s mission, using the theme of “Who Knows What…?”

Like the previous two reports in 2011 and 2012, the 2013 report embodies WKKF’s values, particularly the conviction that the solutions and insights which most benefit children come from the people closest to them: their parents, caregivers, teachers, physicians, dentists and community members, and the grantees who work with those people every day.

The 2013 report is also the second consecutive report to use the “Who Knows What” umbrella to explore dimensions of a single issue. Our 2013 focus, specifically, is: Understanding Vulnerable Children: Who Knows What About Early Childhood?

WKKF defines early childhood as the time up to a child’s eighth birthday. This is the period when the child gains the tools and learns many of the skills which become the basis for her later learning and development. That also makes it the best point at which to interrupt the generational cycle of poverty that might otherwise doom future generations to the vulnerability of their parents when they were children.

The questions then become, how can those early experiences be optimized? How can we ensure that all kids experience the environmental, nutritional, cognitive, social, physical and emotional conditions that allow them to develop to their full potential? This annual report explores those questions, guided largely by people with firsthand knowledge of the questions and stimulating ideas about the answers. Each essay offers an authentic voice and a unique and valuable set of insights into what children need early in life to thrive:

  • Dr. Wiener Leblanc, emeritus professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, reflects on the profound challenges infants and expectant mothers in Haiti face in obtaining high quality health care. He offers suggestions for increasing both the availability and quality of care, including some surprisingly simple and affordable steps.
  • Download the 2013 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Annual ReportVeronica Felix, community organizer with the Manaus Foundation, describes Colorado’s Valley Settlement Project, with an emphasis on El Busesito, a preschool bus that’s one component of the larger project focusing on early education and parental engagement.
  • Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Ph.D., director of education equity, Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational and Environmental Design, reports on a survey instrument on mobile phones with the potential to revolutionize education by giving students and their parents a structured, approachable and actionable way to provide feedback to educators.
  • Kimberly Seals Allers, journalist, author, breastfeeding advocate and WKKF Food & Community Fellow, identifies some of the cultural and environmental obstacles that must be overcome if children and their mothers are to gain the full benefits of breastfeeding including its positive effects on their physical and emotional health.
  • Fred Patrick, national project director, Vera Institute of Justice’s Pathways from Prison to Post-Secondary Education Project, describes a five-year effort to provide soon-to-be-released and recently released prisoners with a post-secondary education offering a degree track, an employment path and the potential for greater family stability and economic security.

In addition to voices from outside the foundation, the annual report features perspectives from the inside. The president’s letter includes a provocative challenge from outgoing CEO Sterling Speirn to “reimagine education.” Rod Gillum’s letter from the board chair makes a compelling case for the writings and aspirations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as both a vision and a blueprint for social change benefitting our children. And when a group of WKKF executives participated in a wide-ranging conversation about early childhood, we captured some of their thoughts. The result isn’t an exhaustive dissertation but, rather, a snapshot of the everyday ways we think about our work and the people we’re here to partner with and serve.

Of course, the annual report also includes sections on new grant commitments for 2013, sample grants, mission-driven investments, governance and financials.

Beyond using it to frame annual report stories and content, an exploration of “Who Knows What?” will also become the theme of a broader foundation blog to be launched in spring 2014. At that time, we’ll begin creating and curating similar knowledge-based content throughout the year and sharing it more frequently.

In the meantime, we hope that you’ll read, enjoy and perhaps gain some insight from the essays and content featured in the 2013 annual report.