2024 Smart Start Conference!
May 6-9, 2024 | Greensboro, NC

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Somart Start Conference a success!


About the Conference

The Smart Start Conference is the nation’s largest conference devoted to early education systems and strategies. The conference provides advanced professional development for early education leaders committed to improving the quality of and access to early childhood services for all children ages birth to five. It is intended for professionals who support families, for professionals who support those who work with children, and professionals engaging in early care and education systems change. Although we greatly value our early childhood workforce, content is not designed for those working directly with children.



What to Expect

The 2024 Conference features a full day of preconference sessions followed by three days of workshops and networking opportunities. Workshop focus areas include Early Care and Education; Child Health & Well-being; Family Support and Engagement; Public Engagement, Fundraising, and Management; Prenatal through Five Systems Building; and Racial Equity. The conference also includes an opening keynote presentation, a flex block session, and a keynote luncheon.  

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at conference@smartstart.org


Special Address - Special Opening Session May 7 at 1:40pm

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper

Governor Roy Cooper is serving his second term as North Carolina’s 75th Governor.

The Governor is a lifelong North Carolinian, born and raised in Nash County, where he attended public schools and worked summers on the family farm before earning his degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Throughout his career, Governor Cooper has worked to build a stronger North Carolina where everyone has an opportunity to live in safe communities and get a quality education, a good job and access to affordable health care. Since taking office in 2017, Governor Cooper worked tirelessly across party lines to build an unique coalition that led North Carolina to expand Medicaid after years of opposition, extending health care coverage to approximately 600,000 North Carolinians.

As Governor, he has helped create tens of thousands of new jobs and fought to boost public education and revitalize rural communities.

He has also taken strong action to fight climate change and make North Carolina a leader in the clean energy economy, appoint the most diverse Cabinet in the state’s history, make our state a more inclusive place to live and work and help families with policies like paid parental leave.

He has also led the state with a steady hand throughout a series of unprecedented crises, guiding the response to historic hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic as North Carolina had among the lowest COVID deaths and job losses per capita.

Governor Cooper is focused on ensuring that our people and communities have the tools to grow and thrive and that our state’s best days are ahead.

Opening Keynote - May 7

Darneshia Allen - Training and Technical Assistance Integration Manager - ZERO TO THREE

Darneshia Allen has amassed over 30 years of experience working with young children. Her extensive background includes intensive engagement with families in urban communities and a wealth of experience in Early Care and Education.

At present, Darneshia enjoys the privilege of creating content and curriculum aligned with research that supports the mission and vision of Safe Babies, a program of ZERO TO THREE, reflecting evolving practice trends and best-practice strategies in her capacity as Training and Technical Assistance Integration Manager. Over her 14-year tenure with ZERO TO THREE, Darneshia has generously shared her knowledge and expertise. She has delivered presentations on the safety and well-being of infants and toddlers, along with their families, who have been affected by adversities and overwhelming stressors leading them into the child welfare system. Her platform extends to state and national conferences, where she regularly addresses multi-disciplinary audiences inclusive of Child Welfare, Dependency Courts, Early Care and Education, Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Policy Advocacy, and renowned national conferences such as the Children’s Defense Fund and NCCAN.

Closing Keynote - May 9

Joe Waters - Co-founder & CEO - Capita

Joe Waters is the co-founder and CEO of Capita. An independent, nonpartisan think tank with a global focus, Capita works to build a future in which children and families can realize their full potential in a just, peaceful, prosperous society on a healthier, cleaner, and safer planet. Since starting Capita in 2018, Joe has developed forward-leaning initiatives exploring how the great cultural, planetary and social transformations of our day affect our youngest children (0-8 years old) and our communities.

From the impacts of climate change to parental loneliness and social disconnection, Capita’s work catalyzes creative new ideas and solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges impacting families. A 2021 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow, Joe’s commentary on issues facing families has been published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Investor’s Business Daily, The Hill, Newsweek, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Charlotte Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nonprofit Quarterly, Early Learning Nation, and other outlets.

He has been an invited speaker at the White House’s first forum on social impact finance, the Aspen Forum on Children and Families, the Lego Idea Conference, Think Future, and the World Forum on Early Care and Education. He is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Felician Center, which helps those who struggle to meet their basic needs in South Carolina’s rural Pee Dee region.  Joe also serves as a Senior Advisor at Openfields, a Greenville, South Carolina-based consulting firm. Prior to starting Capita, Joe was the Executive Vice President of the Institute for Child Success where he led pioneering work helping governments pay early childhood service providers for outcomes.

He and his wife Molly Benedum, a family physician, live with their son Al in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.



Early Bird

(February 1 - March 8)


(March 9 - April 19)


(April 20 - May 5)

Smart Start Data & Fiscal Precons

Note: these two preconference sessions are only available to Smart Start LP Staff

$0 $0 $0
Full Day Preconference Sessions $175 $175 $175

Half Day Preconference Session

Note: only the Starting Strong preconference has half day admission

$85 $85 $85
3-Day Admission $295 $385 $475
4-Day Admission $345 $435 $525

Please finalize cancellations within 5 days of the first day of the Smart Start Conference. If for some reason, a cancellation has to be made, please contact conference@smartstart.orgPlease note that there is an admin fee of $10.00 associated with canceling. Registrations can be transferred to another person at no cost. Please contact conference@smartstart.org to transfer a registration to another person.


Special thanks to our generous sponsors

For more information about sponsoring the 2024 Smart Start Conference contact: Yvonne Huntley | yhuntley@smartstart.org | 984-221-1242.