Funding the Future: Duolingo Sets Sights on Community Child Care Needs Through Early Learners First Program

Duolingo – a globally renowned language-learning program headquartered in a city of bridges, Pittsburgh, PA, is bridging the gap between what families in the community need and what’s accessible to them in terms of high quality, affordable early learning programs.

In fall 2023, Duolingo unveiled its first-ever signature impact program, Early Learners First, combining its love for learners and its commitment to Pittsburgh. The program supports nine childcare programs in the city, providing $1 million in annual funding to ensure that these high-quality centers continue to foster staff growth and retention and embrace sustainable business practices.

According to Duolingo’s Head of Social Impact, Kendra Ross, this investment will strengthen these exceptional programs, allowing them to expand their scope and help even more families as they work in the community.

“We are a global company with learners and staff all over the world, but we are proud to prioritize high-impact support for Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, where Duolingo is headquartered,” Ross says. “Learning is a lifelong pursuit, so we decided to get in on the ground floor with our flagship community investment: Early Learners First.”

The company’s 2024 Social Impact report details its investment in the Early Learners program and outlines how Duolingo is committed to fulfilling its mission to be a good neighbor in the communities where its offices and employees are based.

The program was designed in response to community needs. As dollars from the American Rescue Plan of 2021 began to expire, more than 70,000 child care centers nationwide have faced imminent danger of closing, including one in three child care programs across Pennsylvania. This has ripple effects across communities. According to a Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children study, less than 50 percent of childcare centers in the Commonwealth currently meet high-quality standards. In addition, the loss of child care access means parents may be forced to leave their jobs – hurting their prospects to further their careers, contributing to their families’ financial bottom lines in an economy with inflationary pressures, and improving their local communities’ economies.

From the offset, the $1 million infusion helped the eligible programs motivate and retain staff and adopt sustainable business practices. Each program received up to $80,000 to assist in meeting the cost of care, including staff benefits and facility improvements. Duolingo also partnered with local organizations to offer business coaching so each center could maximize its use of the investment.

As autumn approaches, Duolingo is preparing to unveil the next phase of its Early Learners First program: providing tuition grants to eligible families to send their children to the designated schools receiving funding.

While this is the first year of Early Learners First, it will not be the last – this multi-year investment is one Duolingo plans to make for several years to come. Year one is serving as a guide to determine how best to distribute the funding, with future plans to fund child care costs for families throughout Pittsburgh. They aim to provide the greatest benefit to those needing child care and the providers themselves.

Investing in this worthy social program while considering how it will pay dividends in the future shows how well Duolingo is revered not only as a successful global business but also as a good neighbor in the city of Pittsburgh it calls home.