Other Group

Bernard Van Leer Foundation




The Hague, Netherlands




Private grant maker in childhood development and environmental policy


Michael Feigelson

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Bernard Van Leer Foundation is an international early childhood advocacy and grantmaking organization with a secondary focus on environmental issues and city planning. Founded in 1948, this group is an affiliate of the Van Leer Group Foundation, the grant making arm of Royal Packaging Industries Van Leer (acquired in 1999 by Huhtamaki and then Greif Bros in 2001). The Van Leer Group Foundation also supports a left-of-center think tank, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and the arts organization Jerusalem Film Center. 1 2

Bernard Van Leer Foundation advocates for government subsidies for daycare, “parent coaching” classes, and government intervention to increase the amount of paternal engagement in child-rearing. The Foundation publishes the online periodical Early Childhood Matters. It advocates for paid parental leave as a way of mitigating “discrimination” toward pregnant working women and mothers. 3


Bernard Van Leer Foundation, with the World Bank, has given €30 million to the Early Education Project in Kenya between 1971 and 2010. The focus of this grant making is nomadic communities and children affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 4

The Foundation also instituted early childhood aid programs in Jamaica, where it conducted long-term studies using interventions from nurses and doctors involving home visitation and play sessions with malnourished and low-birth-weight children. This program had to be altered several times due to cost inefficiency, but Bernard Van Leer’s studies purportedly showed “moderate” to “large” improvements in cognition and IQ scores over control groups, even years later at age 17. 5


Bernard Van Leer Foundation is also a supporter of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) environmentalist and social-engineering goals. In November 2021, Van Leer promoted a joint online and in-person COP26 conference on urban planning, especially safer bike trails and reducing air pollution to prevent childhood asthma. Ahead of the COP26 meeting, the Foundation also promoted an open-letter campaign to end the use of fossil fuels and cease new conventional fuel development projects. Using the #EndFossilFuels and #Act4OurKids hashtags, the open letter highlighted purported negative health effects of fuels, and predicted climate disasters if governments refused to place a moratorium on licensing new energy exploration. 6

Urban95 Academy Cohorts

Urban95 Academy is a joint initiative of Bernard Van Leer Foundation and the London School of Economics’ LSE Cities project. Focusing on early childhood development and city planning, the initial online curriculum is aimed at local government leadership. In January 2022, the Foundation announced the pilot “cohort” of this project, consisting of 30 cities ranging from Quito, Ecuador to Bratislava, Slovakia. At the end of 14 six-week sessions, ten cities will be selected for an in-person residency at the London School of Economics. 7

Early Years Starter Kits and Parents+

Bernard Van Leer Foundation encourages parent training, and offers online resources through its Early Years Starter Kits and Parents+ programs for coaching parent/child interaction. Part of the Van Leer Foundation’s curriculum includes also mental health screening of parents and caregivers. The Foundation advocates for governments to screen parents for mental health issues, placing special emphasis on the screening of pregnant mothers. The Foundation also called for government intervention ranging from “universal interventions such as disseminating information on recognizing stressors, to targeted interventions such as peer support groups.” 8

Bernard Van Leer Foundation proposes that governments organize and conduct regular “well-baby” visits to gauge healthy development in infants, relying on the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. It also suggests using regular home visits and immunization appointments as opportunities to monitor children’s cognitive and behavioral development. 9


Michael Feigelson is the CEO and former executive director of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation. In June 2014 he co-authored an article for Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Accelerating the New Macho,” which discussed ways to shift views of men away from stereotypes such as “dominant, physically forceful, [and] unemotional,” stating that these ideas of masculinity “perpetuate problems such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and bullying.” He is also a former consultant for McKinsey and Company Global, specializing in media and pharmaceutical companies. 10 11


  1. “Home.” Van Leer Group. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://vanleergroup.org/
  2. “Greif Bros. Complete Van Leer Acquisition.” Recycling Today. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/-b-greif-bros–completes-van–leer-acquisition–b-/
  3. “Family-Friendly Workplace Policies and Practices.” Brainbuilding.Org. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://brainbuilding.org/ideas-for-action/family-friendly-workplace-policies-and-practices/
  4. “Building Africa’s First National Preschool System in Kenya.” Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Accessed January 30, 2023.  https://bernardvanleer.org/cases/building-africas-first-national-pre-school-system-in-kenya/
  5. “The Jamaican Early Childhood Home visiting Intervention.” Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://bernardvanleer.org/ecm-article/2015/the-jamaican-early-childhood-home-visiting-intervention/
  6. “Giving Our Youngest Generation a voice in COP26 Climate Conversations.” Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://bernardvanleer.org/news/giving-our-youngest-generation-a-voice-in-cop26-climate-conversations/
  7. ”30 Cities Form the First Cohort of the Urban95 Academy.” Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://bernardvanleer.org/news/30-cities-form-the-first-cohort-of-the-urban95-academy/
  8. “Ideas for Action: Strengthening Caregiver and Maternal Mental Health Through Screening and Support.” Brainbuilding.Org. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://brainbuilding.org/ideas-for-action/strengthening-caregiver-and-maternal-mental-health-through-screening-and-support/
  9. “Regular Child Development Monitoring.” Brainbuilding.Org. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://brainbuilding.org/ideas-for-action/regular-child-development-monitoring-child-health-and-nutrition/
  10. [1] “Michael Feigelson.” Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://bernardvanleer.org/team/michael-feigelson/
  11. Witter, Lisa and Feigelson, Michael. “Accelerating the New Macho.”  Stanford Social Innovation Review. June 6, 2014. Accessed January 30, 2023. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/accelerating_the_new_macho
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