Big launch for Catherine of House Cambridge today. Kate’s top priority has been early childhood development and she’s on a 24-hour tour of the UK, visiting with parents and childcare workers to get their thoughts on how best to raise the next generation, and understand and hopefully confront the challenges facing children under five. She’s kicking off the initiative with 5 Big Questions, a survey of five questions that will be a “vital source of information” to open the conversation to as many people as possible. The survey runs from today to February 21 and Kate and her team will use the results to formalise an action plan.
This is, obviously, an important project. Per the statement released by Kensington Palace:
“The launch of the survey follows eight years of work by The Duchess of Cambridge in which she has explored how experiences in early childhood often lie at the root of the hardest social challenges the country faces today.”
But it took… eight years. To develop a (pretty simple) five question survey from which to build the next steps? To be clear, this is not a knock on her. Kate clearly wants to get to work on this. She’s been consistent in her commitment to the initiative – and it’s an urgent one. They’re focusing on early childhood development, on the first five years of a child’s life. It’s critical to get right in there during that time to set kids up for success. So …taking eight years to figure out five years… isn’t that bad math?! At the very least, it seems inefficient.
And that’s what must be frustrating for her. She can’t show it, but it has to be frustrating. When you are making the point that the “hardest social challenges” that the country is facing today can all tie back to the first five years of a child’s life, spending eight years on an action plan is…well…how it is.
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s another example of how SLOWWWWWWLYYYYY things move where royals are concerned. All that protocol and procedure, all that discussion up and down the palace halls, with this aide and that courtier, all that consultation and caution, this is a barrier to service, to modernisation.
This is the kind of sh-t that makes the British royals seem archaic and out of time. And again, it’s not her fault. She operates within a system that she has to follow because of her position. But that system and its red tape holds back even the most reliable of royal performers and their best member assets.
Kate is an extremely valuable asset to the crown, now more than ever. Are they setting her up for success when it’s taken this long to come up with a survey? I can’t imagine she would have wanted it to roll out this way, as a mother herself, knowing how quickly children grow and change, an eight year stretch to address such a critical period, as she’s arguing, the most critical period, can’t have been the look she was going for.
From a bigger perspective, beyond the royal family, that’s also frustrating to the stakeholders who work in these fields. You can make a serious case – and she’s trying to do that – that there’s nothing more important to our society and our communities than early childhood development but the funding doesn’t support that fact and it takes way longer to secure funding for those programs than it does for others that, debatably, don’t affect every member of our society.
When you add the turtle pace of the palace then on top of the existing realities of research hierarchy, it adds up to change that isn’t happening quickly enough. And this is relevant right now for our purposes because this would have been exactly the kind of thing (one of many) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were pushing back against. They no longer have to operate within this structure but Kate does. And as she takes a more and more front-facing role in the institution and perhaps becomes more assertive as a result, it’ll be interesting to see how she manages it, whether or not she’ll feel stymied by it too.