Head Start
Innovation Fund


The Head Start Innovation Fund is an $11 million effort, launched in 2013, aimed at improving the quality of Head Start services and outcomes for children and their families in Detroit and the tri-county region of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Collectively, this geographic area serves nearly 9,000 children through Head Start and Early Head Start. The Innovation Fund is supported by a group of 10 regional and national foundations.

The Innovation Fund awards competitive grants to Head Start providers, as well as strategic support for system-wide needs, such as oversight of a monthly Learning Network, creation and administration of a common enrollment campaign, comprehensive data collection, and provision of collaborative access to shared resources, such as quality training.

The Innovation Fund leverages and supports a $48 million, 5-year federal investment in Head Start programs in Detroit following a rebidding process in 2013, as well a similar recompetition effort that occurred in the outlying counties in 2016. The supporters of the Innovation Fund, saw that these rebidding competitions were a moment of key change in the system locally, and want to be supportive of both new providers and existing providers as they transition to a new model of Head Start that provides more full day options for parents as well as more slots for younger children.

Innovation Fund supporters include:

  • Colina Foundation
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
  • The Jewish Fund
  • McGregor Fund
  • PNC Foundation
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • The Kresge Foundation
  • Skillman Foundation
  • Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

Collectively, the foundations contributing to the Innovation Fund invested more than $54 million in early childhood locally between 2012-15, including the initial investment into the Head Start Innovation Fund’s of $5 million.


Innovation Fund grantees have built capacity and created innovative practices across the system in Detroit since the Innovation Fund began making grants in 2014.

There have been five rounds of grants from the Innovation Fund so far.  You can read about those awards at these links:


Grant highlights include:

  • Unique partnerships between universities and Head Start agencies to build teacher pipelines. New St. Paul Tabernacle, a Detroit-based Head Start agency, partnered with Madonna University to focus on training early educators.
  • Staff development and appreciation activities like those at Starfish Family Services, which included several all-staff outings and self-care days.
  • An online learning management system that enabled Matrix Human Services to deliver relevant and required on-demand training and development to its more than 900 staff members across multiple locations.
  • Deep capacity building at the agency leadership level to build sustainability and increase staff tenure and quality, like at United Children and Families Head Start.

Highlights of larger, system-wide activities of the Innovation Fund include:

  • Partnership across all agencies on citywide enrollment activities and events, data collection and teacher recruitment. Supported a system-wide enrollment marketing campaign increased enrollment in Detroit Head Start agencies from 70 percent to 84 percent, year-over-year. The campaign included the launch of DetroitHeadStart.comand a Facebook.com/DetroitHeadStartNetwork.
  • Enabled access to resources that are shared by all Head Start agencies, such as research, data, access to national experts, training, teacher recruitment tools and marketing.
  • Created knowledge through a tri-county study of quality early childhood seats and where there are gaps. A video of the report can be found here.
  • Conducted a scan of Early Educators, learning about challenges and opportunities around recruitment and retention. A copy of the report can be found here.
  • Underwrote a comprehensive teacher recruitment strategy and campaign to increase the pool of qualified early childhood educators as a result of the scan.


Questions? Feel free to contact