The World Forum was first visualized during a meeting between Bonnie and Roger Neugebauer and Carmel and Rodney Kenner in Sydney, Australia.
Bonnie Neugebauer, Roger Neugebauer, and Bruce Schon decided it was time to connect global early childhood professionals who were working with great determination and creativity, but little support or recognition, to improve the life chances of the young children of the world.
They announced the first World Forum on Early Care and Education to take place in Hawaii. 525 adventurous souls from 36 nations attended the first-ever World Forum event.
It was decided the concept had legs. The venture was incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit tax exempt corporation in the United States as the World Forum Foundation.
In the ensuing years, this experiment evolved into a highly valued point of connection for the early childhood field. Early childhood professionals and advocates worldwide value World Forum events as stimulating and safe environments where people are free to share, to learn, and to develop life-long professional alliances and relationships.
To date, over 5,000 professionals from more than 80 countries have attended a World Forum event.
Soon, the World Forum Foundation began to do more than host events.
Global Leaders for Young Children was conceived by Joan Lombardi at the World Forum in Acapulco, México. With a mission of developing the next generation of champions for children, early childhood professionals recognized as emerging leaders are given the designation of a World Forum Global Leader. They receive training and financial support for small, yet impactful projects they carry out in their own countries. Participants in the project have consistently described Global Leaders as a life-changing experience. Most ‘graduates’ have gone on to play key advocacy roles in their countries.
The first Working Group was conceived. The topic this initial Working Group tackled was “Peacebuilding with Young Children.” The first Working Forum event (a smaller gathering focused on the topic of Peace Building and hosted by the Working Group) was held in Northern Ireland.
New Working Groups focused on various topics continued to be added and more Working Forums were held.
The World Forum Foundation was invited to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, based on the Foundation’s commitment to connect two million children with nature.
Also in that year the 10th anniversary of the Foundation was celebrated. During the first 10 years, over 5,000 early childhood professionals from 90 nations participated in World Forum gatherings in Singapore, Greece, Malaysia, the Netherlands, México, Fiji, New Zealand, Canada, United States, Northern Ireland, Italy, Hungary, and Colombia.
The Leadership Team for the Working Group focused on Children and Nature completed a comprehensive online “Environmental Action Kit” funded by the IBM Work/Life Fund.
Also in that year, on June 29, 2011, the World Forum sponsored the first International Mud Day. Parents, teachers, children, and one elephant joined the fun in nations around the world. The event continues to be celebrated annually, and is growing in participation each year.
Working Groups had expanded to 14 active groups, and 136 emerging leaders from 54 countries had received training and support through Global Leaders for Young Children.
A social network for the World Forum Foundation community —named WoFoNet – was created to offer community members places to hold conversations on a wide range of issues impacting young children.
WoFoNet was expanded to become part of the World Forum Connection Center – an online source for sharing new writings, research, and resources with early childhood practitioners and advocates throughout the globe.