This is the first case in a two-case set that explores why likeminded policymakers in Uruguay and Chile, focused on the same basic problem, made very different choices in designing a government program to tackle it. Overall, this case pair showcases the decision-making process of Uruguayan political leaders in creating a broad national program to address problems in early childhood development, especially among poor families. This first case sets out the political and bureaucratic context in Uruguay, then pivots to describe an approach that many Uruguayan policymakers admired—the early childhood development program in neighboring Chile—Chile Crece Contigo (Chile Grows with You). The bulk of the case describes the thinking and politics behind the creation of ChCC, a program embedded in the country’s national health system that has won accolades internationally. It ends with policymakers in the Uruguayan departamento of Canelones considering how to design their own early childhood pilot project. The second case, By Design: The Thinking Behind Uruguay Crece Contigo/Betting on the Power of Personal Connection (B) continues the story by describing how Uruguayan policymakers—first at the regional level and then at the national level—designed a different kind of program that embraced the strengths of their own small, close-knit country—in particular, a tradition of forging connections with marginalized families through a program of personalized home visits.
In a world where policymakers are encouraged to replicate model programs, this case pair shows the importance of balancing the strengths of a specific design—proven in one context—with a recognition that a modified approach may be both necessary and more effective in a different context. This first “decision-forcing” case in the set ends by posing students a challenge: given the context in Uruguay and the example of the Chilean model, how should the region of Canelones design its pilot program?