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Our History

How we became 3,000+ business leaders improving the current and future workforce through smart investments in the earliest years.

Our History

Since 2006, ReadyNation has been the premier national business leader network dedicated to improving the current and future workforce through smart investments in children, youth and their families (from “cradle to career”). Since 2014, ReadyNation expanded its reach worldwide under the ReadyNation International brand with affiliate operations and/or partner engagements in five countries.

The ReadyNation concept began earlier, in the summer of 2003, with a conference-call among economists and business leaders including James Heckman (University of Chicago Professor of Economics and Nobel Prize Winner), Arthur Rolnick (former Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota Research Director), and Rob Dugger (former Partner, Tudor Investments). In that call, they discussed the roles each could play to increase public awareness of the investment urgency and high economic returns on sound early childhood programs, and decided to support the organization of a working group dedicated to the topic: “Invest in Kids Working Group.”

By the mid-2000s, the Working Group oversaw a wide range of early childhood research, evolving into a national business advocacy resource. To manage the research more effectively and speed its advocacy development, on January 1, 2006, Rob Dugger and Sara Watson (then Senior Program Officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts) converted the Working Group into a donor-advised project within Pew with Watson as Executive Director. The co-founders called the new group Partnership for America’s Economic Success which was initially funded equally by Pew and outside private investors, including Dugger.

In 2007, Council for a Strong America, a national charitable nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. created its second member organization, to mobilize business leaders, called America’s Edge. In 2011, The Pew Charitable Trusts wound down its pre-k campaign, and the Partnership for America’s Economic Success “went public” under a new name, ReadyNation. Following a brief affiliation with America’s Promise, ReadyNation re-positioned itself as one of the five constituent organizations within the Council for a Strong America, merging with America’s Edge to be known only as ReadyNation going forward.

ReadyNation now counts on more than 3,000 business leader members, including a special subset of executives that comprise the CEO Task Force on Early Childhood. ReadyNation members have participated in a variety of high-profile tactics – from speeches, testimony and policymaker meetings to thousands of earned media pieces and press events – all calling for increased public investments in evidence-based support for underserved parents and children at the state and federal level to strengthen U.S. competitiveness.

After years of success with a unique domestic model of business leaders as unexpected messengers, ReadyNation attracted international attention. Since 2014, ReadyNation International has built a worldwide presence helping to establish networks of business champions for children in other countries. Affiliate or partner operations exist in Uganda, Romania, and Australia while other engagements to raise public awareness on the topic include Brazil and Mexico (Learn more here). In 2015, ReadyNation held the first Global Business Summit on Early Childhood in New York City, a first-of-its-kind convening by and for business leaders that included representatives from fifteen countries and major multilateral institutions including the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. That capstone summit - a two-day interactive conference affair – is held every three years or so, the last one being in 2018.

On January 1, 2019, ReadyNation Co-Founder Sara Watson stepped down as its Global Director after thirteen years. Watson was succeeded by Nancy Fishman and Daniel Frank who jointly lead and continue to grow ReadyNation domestic and international operations as Co-Global Directors. During the current global health pandemic, ReadyNation remains laser-focused and will continue to mobilize our business leader voices and encourage Congress to establish a child care stabilization fund as part of its relief efforts.