The Exchange Leadership Initiative identifies and supports leadership in Early Care and Education. Leadership takes many forms, from people working directly with children in an early care and education or school-age program, to people administering programs or working with support organizations; and from working locally to working in states and provinces, nationally and internationally. Our Exchange Leaders are everywhere, doing powerful work. They share these constants:

  • Passion for young children and their families and the field of early care and education.
  • Vision, determination and persistence.
  • Willingness, eagerness and curiosity to continue to learn and grow.
  • Belief that together we are stronger.
  • Humility based on a commitment to equity and diversity and recognition that leaders before us have built the mission, passion, and knowledge base of our field.

      ELI Directory                         Exchange Articles by ELI Members


Exchange Leadership Criteria


Exchange leaders are grounded in their own work and are using their strengths and advocacy skills to make a difference for children, families, and their communities. They demonstrate leadership in strengthening their program or organization, and go beyond their position through building the profession, and advocating for children and families at community, state, and/or national levels.


Exchange leaders engage in work that addresses issues around young children and families and early care and education—they are program managers, classroom teachers, organization leaders, home care providers, home visitors, trainers, advocates, professors, researchers, counselors, and policy makers.

Knowledge Base

Exchange leaders understand strong early care and education principles and practices, address diversity and equity, and are engaged in life-long learning.


Exchange leaders work collaboratively and with personal initiative to build networks around key issues and demonstrate perseverance in pursuing difficult objectives.



The act of applying for this designation is profound.

If you see yourself as a leader, that will change how you think and how you act. Each of us has the capacity to contribute to our field.

Please note that the application must be completed by the applicant. There is no nomination process, but we encourage you to recommend individuals who you believe fit the criteria.

Applications and recommendations are currently closed. The process for 2024 will begin in January. To be notified when applications are available, please fill out the information below.


Questions? Contact us at [email protected].