Introducing keynote speaker Joe Waters, CEO and Co-Founder of think tank Capita
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Introducing keynote speaker Joe Waters, CEO and Co-Founder of think tank Capita

Introducing keynote speaker Joe Waters, CEO and Co-Founder of think tank Capita

by Jason Roberts

March 03, 2020

The ECEC Innovation Forum 2020 aims to bring together leaders and decision makers from across the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector to create an environment dedicated to the discussion of innovation, and how it is being applied across the sector to improve outcomes for children, families, teams and organisations. 


Such a dynamic mix of change makers demands a high calibre keynote speaker – someone with extensive experience in exploring how the great cultural and social transformations of our day affect young children, and in fostering new ideas to ensure a future in which children and their families can flourish. 


Enter Joe Waters, co-founder of US based not for profit ideas lab, Capita


Founded in 2018, Capita now sits at the intersection of research, policy, social innovation, design and the arts and has evolved into a thought leader without parallel when it comes to what needs to be done now to safeguard the future of the world’s children and their families.


Nowhere is Capita’s innovative capacity more evident than in the collaborative paper Foundation for Flourishing Futures – A look ahead for young children and families which was created in partnership with not for profit learning specialists KnowledgeWorks.  Released in 2019, the paper seeks to provoke responses to important questions pertinent to ECEC professionals, and society more broadly, such as: 


  • What if innovation created more stability, not more disruption, for young children and families? 
  • What if children were treated as full members of society instead of as adults in training?
  • What if flourishing were seen as a common good instead of as an individual accomplishment? 
  • What if every issue was a children’s issue?


It is the exploration of questions such as these which make Mr Waters the ideal candidate to lead conference delegates in an exploration of his keynote topic Rethinking Early Childhood – the future is now. 


The Sector Founder and CEO, Jason Roberts, and editor, Freya Lucas, spent time speaking with Mr Waters recently, ahead of his arrival at the end of this month, in preparation for the Innovation Forum.


Who is Joe Waters?

First and foremost, Mr Waters is someone who has committed his career to serving others, in particular, children, families and the disadvantaged through a variety of different organisations, in paid and voluntary capacities, and with a focus on problem solving and ultimately improving outcomes.   


Secondly, he has the rare skill of being able to step outside of his immediate surroundings and access different ways of thinking when approaching problems that need to be solved – a hallmark trait that underwrites his unique ability to pioneer solutions to some of our most intractable challenges. 


His work has been extensively published in a variety of publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and he was an invited speaker at the White House’s first forum on social impact finance, the Aspen Forum on Children and Families, the Lego Idea Conference (Denmark), Think Future (South Africa), and the World Forum on Early Care and Education (China).


Prior to Capita, he worked at the Institute for Child Success, a not for profit research and policy organisation, where he led their Social Innovation Fund that, amongst other things, successfully created and implemented a new range of high impact tools that focussed on improving outcomes for young children and their families which culminated in one of the largest pay for success (PFS) funding transactions in the world.  


What is Capita? 

Capita is an organisation focused on deepening the understanding of how social and cultural transformations affect young children and their families. Through this deeper understanding, the Capita team aims to create new ideas and pathways to a future which allows children and families to have the best lives possible. 


“Political polarisation, the changing nature of work, climate change, alienation from the land and communities are just some of the transformations that impact today’s children, but will also impact our children’s children.” Mr Waters said outlining the types of issues Capita seeks to understand. 


As well as understanding the issues at hand, Capita recognises the increasing urgency of rethinking programs, policies, practices, systems and the underlying social values and cultural norms related to the support of children and their families to secure better futures. 


Capita brings together free thinking leaders from a diverse range of sectors and experts from across disciplines with the express aim of arriving at, through exploration, evaluation and critical examination, creative solutions to some of society’s most intractable problems. 


“On any given day, I might have a conversation with a physician, a philosopher, or a designer about potential collaborations ” Mr Waters added.


Keynote insights?

Without wanting to reveal his hand ahead of the Forum, Mr Waters indicated that the rich learnings from Foundations for Flourishing Futures: A Look Ahead for Children and Families will likely feature heavily in the presentation, particularly through a lens of innovation, and policies and ideas both past and present, good and bad, as will Mr Water’s extensive international experience of ECEC settings in developed and developing countries.


The important role of the ECEC sector in building a humane future for children and families and the many tools available to apply and to innovate to make sure it happens will remain at the heart of his message, Mr Waters said – a message that is likely to resonate heavily across the ECEC community in Australia and beyond. 


It’s a message that Mr Waters is keen to share, and one which he believes can wait no longer. 


The reasoning behind the urgency, he said, is pretty simple: “our governments, our economy, our society—the “system”– isn’t working for far too many people. If we are to have a humane future for our children and their children, then we have to work for it. That work is the work of a century or more, but it has to begin now.”


To secure your space to hear Mr Waters’ keynote presentation “Rethinking early childhood education – the future is now” at the ECEC Innovation Forum 2020, please see here.

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