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Care Gigging

Care gigging will transform how systems partner with parents to deliver care to young children and ameliorate wealth inequality in the US.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

I have been thinking about and refining the Care Gigging concept for years. In 2013, with encouragement from thought leaders like EJ Dionne, I submitted an essay to the editorial board of The Atlantic titled “Poor Moms to the Rescue! Why America should see low-income mothers as a solution, rather than a problem.” The essay offered the philosophical, political, theological, and research-evidence foundation of the "Care Gigging" concept -- although at that time, I referred to my ideas as “mother-delivered solutions,” not "care gigging." The essay was not published, but, undeterred, I decided to elevate my credibility for advancing such ideas by leaving my thriving DC-area consulting business to join the Urban Institute. At Urban, I have worked on many related strands of research and looked for the right opportunity to bring my ideas back to an appropriate forum for additional feedback and testing. The Prize has given me just that opportunity at just the right time. The Prize also motivated me to speak with the Executive Director of Educare DC about partnering to field a small test of the care gigging concept. As a result, I have learned that my ideas dovetail well with an interest her staff has in paying unemployed mothers and fathers to do valuable tasks at the school. Educare leaders have also given me excellent feedback on how to adjust the concept to fit the circumstances of all parents, employed and unemployed alike.

Name or Organization

The Urban Institute. Educare Washington, DC will serve as the key partner. Educare DC is a high-quality early childhood education center serving 160 children from 6 weeks to age five and their families in DC. Educare engages and empower parents in their children’s learning and provides high-quality education through small class sizes and cutting-edge teaching methods. Educare DC is an NAEYC-accredited Head Start program, and is part of the national 23-school Educare Learning Network.


Washington, DC

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe your submission in one clear sentence

This submission requests funds to conduct a prototyping test of "Care Gigging," an innovation which (at this stage in its development) will engage a very high-quality early childhood provider to pay parents real wages to help deliver high-quality care and early learning services to very young children.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Care Gigging will transform early childhood systems at the community level by engaging high-performing early education providers to pay parents for helping with the services they provide to our nation's children, as well as for other services of value to nonprofit missions and the larger community. When fully mature, care gigging will address income inequality by providing a “guaranteed earned income,” as opposed to “universal basic income” to any American who decides to pick up “care gigs” (for a child, an elder, or a neighbor) from a trusted and certified nonprofit in their community.

Select an Innovation Target

  • System design: Solutions that target changing larger systems.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

The “care gigging” concept marries new job models to the robust infrastructure of the nonprofit sector to provide the leg up millions of Americans need to make it in today’s changing world. The guaranteed earned income (GEI) provided by care gigging will help working class Americans move to prosperity by closing their income, training, and family care gaps; support families trapped in poverty to secure hope, stability and a new future for their children; and provide communities with the homegrown “careforce” they need to address addiction, reweave frayed social bonds, and provide loving and high-quality care to their most vulnerable members.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Twenty-first century innovation is producing economic and social change at a rapid pace. Many Americans worry that these changes will produce utopia for a privileged few and dystopia for the masses. These fears are validated by large gaps in school achievement and college attainment between children of low and high means; gaps that often begin early in life and are grounded in the harsh economic circumstances of parents and communities.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Operationally, care-gigging is simple. Donors target specific neighborhoods and provide funds to a high-performing local nonprofit(s,) which, in turn, provides paid “gigs” of various types and lengths to any member of the community who meets very basic requirements. Donors may set broad parameters for care gigs (e.g., prioritize limited funds to parents of very young children), but care gigs should never be means-tested. Before offering the gigs, the selected nonprofit(s) engages neighborhood residents in planning conversations to identify and design short- and long-term gigs which best suit the unique needs and concerns of the community. Oversight committees of community leaders would play an important advisory role, working with the nonprofits to ensure that organization, donor, and citizen goals and expectations are being met. The proposed protyping test will unfold in four phases over the course of one year. Phase 1: Pre-Launch (3 months): A research team from the Urban Institute and Educare staff leaders will confer on overall parameters for the test, as well as to gauge the scope of the test based on the size of the Prize award and/or if a modest amount of additional funding should be raised from local funders in order to ensure a robust test. Urban and Educare staff will also use Phase 1 to settle administrative details such as which entity will transmit payment to the care giggers and how. The relative likelihood of potential pitfalls like exceeding parent income caps for benefits like TANF will also be investigated and addressed during Phase 1. Once basic parameters and feasibility conditions have been set, the Urban team will seek clearance from its Institutional Review Board to ensure that the approach and research methodologies to be used for the test meet standards for human subjects protection. Phase 2: Design & Launch (3 months): The research team will work with parents and staff from Educare DC to design and launch the care gigs. The research team will use resident-engaged formative evaluation methods -- such as open-space inquiry, photovoice, etc. -- to elicit staff and family ideas on what the care gigs should be, how much they should pay, and what basic parameters -- from need to fairness -- should govern who is eligible to take on a care gig. These planning sessions will also establish low-burden parameters for how performance of a care gig should be supervised and/or evaluated. Throughout, the research team and Educare leaders will be clear about the scope of the test, organizational parameters, and resources available to fund gigs. One can envision care gigs ranging from helping Educare staff with an event mailing to delivering supplies to classrooms to reading one bedtime story per night to each child in a household emerging from the launch phase; however, these choices and related parameters will not be established by an outside entity such as Urban, but rather by the Educare DC community itself. While these launch conversations are taking place, the research team will also conduct exploratory interviews regarding the expectations and context care giggers and Educare staff bring into the test with them. Phase 3: Implementation (3 months): The care gigging 1.0 prototype will be launched during this phase for a duration of no more than three months. The research team will use qualitative methods like interviews and focus groups, as well as, possibly, very brief surveys using Urban's Qualtrix tablet system, to collect data from staff and care giggers on questions like: How have the care gigs been implemented and did the implementation deviate from the initial plan?; if so, why? What was best about the care gigs? What were the biggest challenges? For families who took on care gigs, why did they do so; what were the benefits and downsides; and did the cash they earned make a difference? For families who did not participate, what were the reasons? What surprised participants? Were expectations met and/or were there unintended consequences? What impact do Educare staff and care giggers think the gigs had on the children and families enrolled in Educare? Phase 4: Analysis, Report out, and Dissemination (3 months): The Urban team will conclude the care gigging test by writing up the findings in a formal report to funders like Gary Community Investments and to the Educare DC community. In addition, the team will present the data to the entire Educare DC Community via a "data walk," which is an innovative and highly visual way to engage program participants and others in exploring findings from research. The data walk will be an additional opportunity for the Educare DC community to offer expertise to the prototype. The Care Gigging Prototype 1.0 that emerges will be packaged up as an interactive video (or some other accessible product) and marketed to the field and to more funders in order to move the concept to the next phases of prototyping and demonstration research.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

At scale, care-gigging will offer benefits at both the child/family level and at the community/systems level. Families will be able to meet short-term urgent needs or desires (everything from movie tickets to rent or an unexpected car expense) quickly and have better cash flow overall. Cash-strapped parents can spend time working with their children and neighbors rather than taking extra jobs. Unemployed parents and community members can pick up labor market skills while providing valuable personal and civic support to their own families and neighbors, as well as to the valuable missions of local nonprofits and systems. Rigorous research has produced evidence that even modest boosts in parental income during a child’s first years have striking associations with that child’s future school and employment success. For example, the earned income tax credit (EITC), a cash supplement for low-wage workers, has been remarkably good for kids’ school achievement, college attendance, and future earnings. Cash assistance that is not attached to parental work can also produce robust effects for moving children permanently out of poverty. One excellent example is the extraordinary impact of a longtime casino profit-sharing initiative on mobility-relevant outcomes for low-income Cherokee children. (See Bogle, Why cash assistance is essential to moving Americans out of poverty, Urban Wire blog, 9-12-16.) For Mary's experience working with beneficiaries, see "Tell us more about you" below.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

We anticipate only very modest results to emerge from the first prototyping test proposed in this submission. As development of the idea advances, we hope to impact how systems interact with families -- more as true partners than as recipients -- in the care of children, neighbors and communities. By the year 2021, we anticipate using our early tests to design and launch full-scale care-gigging demonstration projects in communities of about 8,000 - 10,000 residents across at least 3 varied geographies (e.g., Pitkin County, CO, Tulsa, OK [or surrounding counties], and Washington, DC). In the long run and to the extent care gigging becomes a platform for providing a GEI to any citizen who wants it, the idea could have an enormous impact on the incomes, development, and well-being of all low-income and middle income children and families in America. The nonprofit Urban Institute is a research institution dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have fielded numerous demonstration projects and conducted extensive research to expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Principal Research Associate Mary Bogle is an advanced innovator in the early testing phase of developing the proposed care gigging concept. For more about Mary's capacity to innovate, including feedback from users, see the "Tell us more about you" section below.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Although child poverty rates have fallen in recent years thanks largely to safety net supports, roughly 1 in 7 American children fall below the threshold established by the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/5/2017). Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the traditional federal poverty income threshold to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 43% of children live in low-income families. Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. (NCCP, 2017) Per the National Center on Children in Poverty, "Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty. Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. But effective public policies – to make work pay for low-income parents and to provide high-quality early care and learning experiences for their children – can make a difference. Investments in the most vulnerable children are also critical." Care gigging can improve cash flow and make work pay for low-income parents and, at the same time, support them to provide high-quality early care and learning experiences to their own children and the children of neighbors.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)

Care gigging is a completely new way of engaging with end users in early child development spaces. Rather than simply engaging parents as the most important teachers their children will ever have, early childhood development (ECD) providers and systems can actually hire parents to be their children's teachers, supporters, and advocates. Yes, parents already perform this important work for free, but care gigging will honor the vital importance of the work of parenting and create a platform where parents can work alongside ECD staff, exchanging lessons and training about children's learning as the true colleagues they are. The GEI component of care gigging will be disruptive, but, unlike Universal Basic Income, not too disruptive or as costly. UBI has many merits, but it violates American ideals about work and earned income and, even progressive economists like Bob Greenstein have declared the concept far too expensive and impractical to be implemented in the US. GEI picked up through care gigging, on the other hand, will likely meet with widespread American approval for being universally available (if not universally pursued) and a fair exchange of wages for important labor that benefits families and communities.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The biggest anticipated barrier to scaling care gigging will be securing the larger and larger funding resources needed to test and bring the concept to scale. However, there is likely a large audience of corporate donors and funders who would be willing to invest in the concept and prove its viability -- particularly for closing the achievement gap so that children with low income can compete successfully in the 21st century economy. Silicon Valley corporations are already underwriting much of the testing being done on UBI. And one can imagine the Buffets, George Kaiser, and foundations like Annie E. Casey – who are among the funders the principal investigator has good connections to – stepping up to provide resources for demonstrations. Ultimately, the biggest hurdle will be securing public resources for care gigging. However, in states like Colorado, where two-generation programming and other innovations are going strong, evidence of care gigging's effectiveness will likely lead to state-level piloting and, finally, federal-level replication. Mary Bogle's affiliation with the Urban Institute, as well as with the Aspen Institute's Ascend initiative and the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community, will also go a long way toward building the case for care gigging until it reaches the millions of end users who need the cash flow and other support care gigging will provide.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

I believe this idea is quite feasible because, like most good innovations, it is very easy to understand and to implement. My conversations with colleagues over the years -- most recently with the development staff at Urban and the leaders of Educare DC (thanks to this opportunity) -- have convinced me that there are clear pathways to implementation and financial support that will build on the care gigging idea. Winning a share of the prize (and the credibility and recognition this will bring to the idea) will make this first small prototyping step for care gigging possible and will lead to more tests and activities to gauge its long-term feasibility and to produce momentum for bringing the concept to scale.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)

This idea has strong business viability largely because it leverages -- rather seamlessly -- existing capacity within our nation's robust nonprofit infrastructure. Most human-services nonprofits want deeper levels of engagement with the clients and communities they serve. Care gigging will give them a powerful mechanism for funding and achieving their missions. It will also enable new nonprofits to form in under-served areas of the country as the business model is refined to incorporate "non-profits-sharing" models between community-based organizations and their clients and donors.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)

Human-centered design lies at the very heart of the proposed prototyping test. Participant-based and other research methodologies (see the "Explain Your Idea" section above) will be used by the Urban team to engage care giggers, Educare DC staff, and even systems-level key informants every step of the way. And HCD approaches suggested by IDEO and other Prize innovators will be valuable tools in designing and studying the test.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

From 2002 - 2009, I was engaged in various neighborhood-level jobs, especially evaluation and program planning work for child-serving organizations in Wards 7 & 8 in the District of Columbia. During this time, I often found myself rubbing elbows with parents of color who had low income and served as volunteers and Board members to these efforts. These parents would sometimes ask, very kindly, why people like me -- a white woman from the Northern Virginia suburbs – were making a decent income helping them to raise their children while they were having trouble making the living wages they needed to support those children. I had no good answer for them except to say I thought they had a point. I have thought often about how to get these parents the cash they need and deserve since then. My career began in 1987 as a lay Franciscan youth worker for homeless youth at Covenant House in New York City. Since then, I’ve made a good living doing a broad range of poverty-fighting jobs—from counseling victims of domestic violence, to advising foundations and nonprofits, to planning top-tier initiatives like Early Head Start on the federal level and a Promise Neighborhood on the local level. Of all the work I have ever been involved with, I believe that efforts like Early Head Start and two-generation initiatives hold the most promise for resolving poverty in the US -- that is why I love working in the early childhood space. For the past three years, I have been a senior researcher in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. My research focuses on policies and place-based interventions that help low-income parents surmount the economic, equity, and mental health challenges that often interfere with their efforts to create healthy, productive, and protective environments for their children. I am an advanced innovator. For example, I played a key role in designing Early Head Start. Says my friend Joan Lombardi in the preface to "Beacon of Hope: The Promise of Early Head Start for America's Youngest Children," (ZTT 2004), the volume she and I co-edited, "I was very fortunate to serve as a member of the [EHS] advisory committee and, along with my co-editor Mary Bogle, as a member of the overall implementation team. Mary, who had served as a project officer for the Comprehensive Child Development Centers, provided invaluable experience to the overall team and contributed greatly to its success." As the planning director for the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative, I received recognition for bringing that innovative effort to fruition (see this article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy: In 2014, I wrote the winning application for Tulsa Educare’s Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership, the first round of that federal innovation. Today I am the principal investigator for one of six projects in the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)

Yes. I have a great set of partners for this project. The key partner, Educare DC, is affiliated with the DC Early Childhood Innovation Network (which is a Marriott-funded partnership with Children’s Hospital and Georgetown University), Literacy Lab, and others. Educare is part of a 23-school network serving and impacting thousands of children nationwide. I also have a many colleagues at the Urban Institute who can help me conduct the high-quality research needed to prototype Care Gigging.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

I need to confer with experts who understand the win-win-win spaces in between the nonprofit sector, the caregiving sector (for all ages), and the market economy. I also need consult with HR professionals and experts in employment and training services who understand the finer points of volunteer and employee management, and how Care Gigging could advance other goals such as how part-time "gigs" might help parents gain the skills they need to compete in the market for full-time jobs that pay living wages. Most of all, I need more direct input on the viability of the Care Gigging concept from parents who have experienced or are experiencing the stress of raising children on a low income.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

My Urban Institute biography, publications, and media mentions page: My LinkedIn profile: Urban Institute website: Educare DC website: Educare Learning Network website:


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