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BrightStart Family Workshop for Parents, their Children and Other Caregivers

Our innovation is a community-based experience for families with toddlers to help parents' give their children the brightest start possible.

Photo of Peter Tullson

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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)

We have had new insights about other components we could include in our toolkit. First, for groups that do not have experiencing preparing meals for larger numbers of people, we plan to create a BrightStart Cookbook that includes nutritional information, instructions, photographs, and amounts scaled for different numbers of people. Our focus will be on a breadth of styles of cooking that parents can also use at home. The menus will be for inexpensive meals that are high in nutrition and that children and adults will like. The second idea is to include 'brain building' activities for parents to do at home. We already give each family a craft kit full of supplies, but this resource will be for sharing ideas of things to make with children. We are hoping to include several of the techniques described in the HCD Toolkit to gather insights from workshop participants which will help us to refine what we teach. As we answered these questions we became aware of missing pieces and how we need to add more depth to our team to meet these objectives and implement our strategic plan. Ou next steps are clearer. It is exciting to reflect on our innovation and the possibilities of our idea. We can imagine the outcome of having a completed curriculum so more children will flourish in school and become productive adults. The process renews our desire to move ahead with the development of our innovation. We teach parents the importance and value of having an open mindset based on the research of Carol Dweck, and we want to keep an open mindset about our innovation. Reading other ideas helps expand our imagination of what’s possible to see all children flourish. Parents can provide what their children need to flourish and we can help them.

Name or Organization

Building Healthy Families, Inc.


We are located in Manchester, CT. Our idea can be implemented anywhere.

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?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

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

From our growing understanding of brain science we know what needs to be done to foster healthy brain development in children during the first 1,000 days after birth. Waiting until a child enters preschool is too late. Because the earliest years of a baby’s life are crucial to their future success, we help parents of infants & toddlers gain the skills they need to support their baby's healthy growth by providing a language rich, safe, and secure environment to grow physically and emotionally resilient. This is our two-generation model to equip parents to give their babies a bright start.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Channel: A new way to deliver existing products or services to customers or end users.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

BrightStart is community-based. Parents attend the workshop Saturday mornings with other parents when fathers are most able to participate. Parents are ‘In it Together’. Parents are welcomed as guests, not clients, into a positive, encouraging environment, free of judgment. The positive experiences of families leads to positive word-of-mouth promotion. BrightStart is for the whole family. Fathers, mothers & children through 8-years old attend together. Children from birth through 3-years old receive caring nurture from loving volunteers. Older children experience an age appropriate children’s program similar to pre-school or an after school experience staffed with well-equipped volunteers. BrightStart is sustainable because it’s powered by volunteers. The gift of time & love from our committed volunteers helps validate the importance of what participants learn which helps prepare parents to grow. Volunteers create the atmosphere of hospitality that is crucial to welcoming families from diverse backgrounds. Volunteers see the difference the gift their time makes toward the well-being of children & families. BrightStart is taught through the lens of brain science & the best, research-based information on child development. The first thousand days of a child’s life are critical for healthy brain development. This gives urgency to what parents do TODAY and TOMORROW. The knowledge & encouragement parents receive supports positive change in how they nurture their children.

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

Babies & toddlers are the most vulnerable members of every community, often suffering consequences of their parents’, often unwitting, choices. This is a tragedy, both for the children whose opportunities for a bright future are substantially diminished and for the wider community that invests so much in education only to see educational achievement decline year by year. Our two-generation model helps young children flourish by building the nurturing capacities of parents & other care-givers.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

From our growing understanding of brain science we know what needs to be done to foster healthy brain development in children. Babies who grow up in a context of nurturing relationships with parents & other important adults have the best opportunity to grow up healthy & whole. Only the adults in a baby’s life can offer protection from the barriers hindering healthy growth. Because the most sensitive period of brain development is so early in life, waiting until a child enters preschool or later is not the best option. We must equip parents & other adults who are providing daily care during a baby’s earliest years. Our strategy is to replicate our innovative parent workshop to help parents help their children in other locations around the country. Using our proven two-generation model encompassing parents & children together with other families in a community-based setting is the key. The goal of the BrightStart Family Workshop is to address research identified root causes that hinder the success of children in school & in life. BrightStart is for parents & other caregivers who have at least one young child (pre-natal through 4 yo) & siblings through 8 yo at no charge. The purpose is to equip parents with the encouragement, knowledge & skills they need to promote healthy brain development in their young children. It’s crucial to reach parents early (before their children get to pre-school) while they are still in the most sensitive period of brain development, i.e. during their first 1,000 days of life. This strategy to address the needs of children by raising the capacities of parents in a community setting is a distinctive feature of this program. BrightStart meets on Saturday mornings when families & volunteers are most available. The workshop has a consistent structure each week, with topics that build on one another. An emphasis on the ABCD's of Discipline forms the organizational core of the workshop instruction. A is for Attention, B is for Bonding, C is for Communication, & D is for Diet. These ABCD's are the building blocks every baby needs for healthy development. Parents learn about brain development & the simple things every parent can provide that will nurture their child. Parents learn how to increase their child's attention span & executive function, develop a secure attachment with their child, & boost their child's verbal skills & physical health. We emphasize how & why self-directed free play is important for children’s healthy development. Parents receive age-appropriate books, crafts & toys to support reading & creative play. To address the risks of childhood obesity, we teach healthy nutrition (for adults & children) & address common eating issues of toddlers. The ABCDs form a mutually reinforcing framework that let’s us revisit key ideas multiple times over the course of the workshop. For example, reading to your baby & sharing family meals contributes to both pre-literacy skills and secure attachment. Every week we provide healthy meals (breakfast & lunch) that model the nutritional principles we teach. Everything about BrightStart is geared to help parents prepare their baby for a bright start, in school & in life. Parents receive books & toys. To fulfill this vision we need to accomplish five major goals. 1. Complete development of our workshop curriculum to be used by others. For local workshops that do not have qualified professionals able to teach & mentor workshop participants, we want to produce whiteboard videos of key parenting topics that can be used in conjunction with a discussion guide to foster exploration & learning. 2. Create a How to Run a Parenting Workshop Guide to be used by sponsoring organizations in other localities.The Workshop Guide covers building cooperative relationships with stakeholders in their community; how to invite participants; how to train, schedule & supervise volunteers and how to develop financial supporters. Volunteers should be recruited from as wide a cross-section of the local community as possible. 3. Complete our Participant’s Toolkit. This will be a coil bound book of what is presently a series of handouts. The participant’s guide includes workshop policies, outlines of the content of the workshop, discussion questions, group activities & other resources. 4. Complete our Volunteer’s Handbook. Volunteers learn about our two-generation model to help babies & toddlers thrive including the logic model for our workshop so they understand the critically important role they can play to help families flourish. Besides job descriptions, the handbook covers child safety policies & procedures & mutual expectations. This will support training to equip volunteers to serve participating families with excellence. 5. Complete our Nutrition Team Cookbook. A selection of low-cost, high nutrition lunches to serve as part of the workshop with grocery lists & instructions for different numbers of people & the nutritional content of each meal.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Our BrightStart Family Workshop innovation benefits five groups: Parents, their children, workshop volunteers and our financial supporters and the wider community. From an analysis of a pre/post survey assessment, we know: parents experience measurable growth in their confidence as parents; they read to their children more; and they share family meals more often after the workshop. Children experience less distress as evidenced by less yelling and fewer tantrums. Volunteers and our financial supporters report a high degree of satisfaction as they partner in our mission to help children by helping their parents. During the 8 Saturday mornings of the workshop we and our volunteer staff interact with parents, other care-givers and their children during the workshop and shared meals. Because we come from the same community we continue to interact with alumni of our workshop at community events. For example, when we share our Imagination Playground at community events such as "Movies in the Park" or our September Kid's Fair we re-connect with parents and their children. The majority of our new participants come to the workshop by word of mouth or by links via Facebook. Perhaps most significantly, numbers of workshop participants join our mission to help parents by volunteering alongside us. Anecdotally, we have heard of positive change from others who interact with families in our community about improvements they see in the lives of children and their parents.

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

Results from our Pre/Post participant survey show improvements in several aspects of family well-being by the end of our workshop (see Who Benefits). Feedback from Early Headstart staff indicates remarkable improvements in some families that occurred after they participate in the workshop. These changes are attributable to empowering parents & raising their hope for a bright future for their children. Hope fuels changes in actions. As parents change what they have been doing & embrace & practice the principle taught on the workshop, their children respond positively. Children’s struggles lessen, their successes increase & the atmosphere in the home improves. A more positive atmosphere contributes to parents experiencing success & thus encourages them to continue practicing what they’ve learned about meeting their child’s needs, creating a positive spiral. Positive word-of-mouth in the community could well be due to this effect. The informal follow up we have with families is very positive; parents feel good about their experience, even years later. We imagine a community where it becomes natural & normal for parents to want to grow in their understanding of what babies & toddlers need. The logic model (see attachment) for our workshop describes the short, medium & long-term outcomes we expect. Over time we expect to see more evidence of positive long-term results. Good practices might also be spread through expanding, informal social networks of parents.

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

We created the BrightStart Family Workshop as a way to help all families, without regard to income. The workshop isn’t about 'fixing’ poor families, but helping all parents with the common challenges that come with raising healthy & whole children. This has been an intentional, though perhaps paradoxical, part of our strategy to reach low-income families. We believe high income does not guarantee effective parenting, and low-income need not result in a child who fails to thrive. There is, however, an undeniable effect of income on children’s lifetime success. Our strategy is to offer something of value to everyone. Since 2011, over 200 families have attended our workshop with a strong majority being from extremely low to medium-income as define by federal standards (up to 30% and below 80% of the area median income). Because low income is a risk factor for children, we have focused our recruitment efforts on under-resourced neighborhoods in our city. Our innovation helps low-income children because their parents come to learn in a place where we're all 'In It Together'. We welcome everyone as a guest, not a client, believing that every parent has vitally important assets to help their children thrive. The workshop help develop what parents already have: they love their children and want the best for them. Whatever a parent has can be developed if they are invited in to an environment of encouragement & love, where everyone (other parents & our volunteers) is with & for them.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

Our concept is innovative for the following ten reasons. Our workshop… 1. Serves mothers and fathers by being offered on a Saturday morning when both parents are most likely available to attend. Other early childhood services are provided one-on-one by a professional in a setting of a home visit or clinic. It is important to emphasize that the workshop is very attractive to fathers. In our first talk of the workshop we discuss "What's the Big Deal About Dads?". Fathers enjoy learning about brain development and the important role of fathers in a child's healthy development. We also have many men who volunteer in every part of the workshop: in the kitchen and serving food; working in our kid's rooms and in teaching. The workshop isn't just for moms, though we love moms too! 2. Is for the whole family, including all children (pre-natal through 8 years) and other caregivers, e.g. grandparents. 3. Children have a great time. We hear comments like, “My kids can’t wait to get here.” This helps parents to attend. 4. Is designed to be a fun, community building experiences for adult participants. Parents become friends with other parents and volunteers. They are 'In It Together'. 5. Because it depends on the generosity of local volunteers, it is a low-cost delivery system for transmitting state of the art insights about what children need to thrive during their first 1,000 days to those who need it the most: parents and caregivers who spend the most time with babies and toddlers. 6. Acknowledges that every community has important assets that can be discovered and deployed. Generosity stimulates formation of community. People know they are valued and their children are valuable because our volunteers are making a sacrifice to help them. 7. Is flexible because it can express assets that are unique to each community. For example, our next local workshop will include a talk on dental hygiene by a pediatric dentist for the first time, because the dentist learned about what we do and wants to contribute. We offer music and dancing experiences for families, but others will find other assets to share. 8. Gives members of the community a way to make a positive contribution to the thriving of parents and their young children by sharing a wide range of gifts, from preparing and serving meals to working with babies, toddlers and elementary age children or by their financial support. The generosity of volunteers is very important to help create a welcoming and positive atmosphere that is so important to fostering growth and change. Families are treated like guests, not clients. 9. Our workshop is innovative because it doesn’t focus solely on low-income children. It is for everyone. Robert Putnam in his book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” quantifies the dramatically diminished social connections low-income children experience currently, compared with earlier generations. Connections across across the divide of socio-economic status have in the past been highly important in fostering success in education & contribute powerfully to upward mobility. This loss of social capital has had a devastating effect on the life outcomes of low-income children. Families from a wide range of income attend the workshop. For example we have had at least four MDs (including one pediatric resident!) attend the workshop. The opportunity to be with people who have a very different culture or life experience has empowered many participants to engage with the community and resources offered by the community in other venues. We are now seeing significant numbers of parents who are returning to the workshop as volunteers. The development of acquaintances and friendships among participants and with volunteers across cultural lines is beneficial for everyone. 10. Our two generation model teaches executive function skills to parents as we teach them skills to foster the same abilities in their children. Executive function and self-regulation depend on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self (inhibitory)-control. These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires these functions to operate in coordination with each other. Each type of executive function skill draws on elements of the others. Working Memory governs our ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods of time while Mental Flexibility helps us to sustain or shift attention in response to different demands or to apply different rules in different settings. Self-Control enables us to set priorities and resist impulsive actions or responses. Focus, Attention, Planning, Delay Gratification, Problem Solving, Monitor self and others. In this way we seek to build skills in parents so they can provide what their children need.

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

Too many children reach school age ill-prepared to learn. This happens to varying degree in every community, but particularly in low-income neighborhoods. The market size for our innovation is enormous. Educational attainment slips downward while the cost of education rises, especially with the costs associated with remedial education requiring highly trained interventionists, special programs, and high teacher/staff to student ratios. We see three market segments who could be interested in our innovation. First, many school systems need to improve student outcomes and/or lower costs. Others see the need to help parents out of self-interested concern for their families, neighborhoods and broader communities. These include PTAs & philanthropic fraternal organizations. Other groups are concerned about the thriving of children out of religious or ethical conviction. Faith communities possess rich assets to that can be deployed to foster healthy flourishing of families. What all of these market segments lack is a strategy that can be implemented which leverages the strengths they already have in a way to benefit children in their wider community. Our innovation could be marketed at a high benefit cost ratio that could adequately resource ongoing development of the workshop and training resources. Barriers to scaling include developing a good enough production value product and recruiting others to help us learn how to teach others what we are doing.

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

Our innovation has five technical requirements: the workshop curriculum; outreach to attract families; space to offer the workshop; volunteers to run the program; and resources to run the workshop including leadership, volunteer training and support resources. We have more than 7 years of experience offering BrightStart to more than 200 families in our community. Experience has taught us that the workshop is feasible and successful in our context, but is it feasible in other communities? We believe it is for the following reasons. The workshop was developed from the perspective of Asset Based Community Development. We identified & mobilized the skills of a strong team of professionals from our community to create the curriculum. There are at least three other essential assets we believe are present in most communities that can supply the operational requirements of the workshop including the following: outreach to attract families, space to offer the workshop, and volunteers to run the workshop. Our next step is to produce the leadership resources to support running the workshop. Existing Community Assets. First, parents all come with assets, chiefly, parents love their children and want the best for them. They can be encouraged & equipped to support their children’s healthy development. Second are volunteers who come from every walk of life & every age & demographic. Their desire to help families helps create the atmosphere of acceptance & grace that let’s parents & their children know that we are for them and want the best for them and their children. Chris Farrell, journalist & author of 'Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life' argues that we are on the verge of a positive transformation of our society as >10,000 Baby Boomers retire/day. Properly resourced, this demographic wave can transform the experiences of families with young children as they are deployed in their local communities. An abundant community helps potential capacities to be recognized, developed & expressed. This happens as a space for thinking, reflection, & learning is created for parents and other care-givers. Third, are the natural allies of parents within communities that can support the technical requirements of the workshop such as outreach to parents, space, modest financial resources for the food and material supports of books, toys, etc. which families receive. These allies include schools, youth services, faith communities, social services, fraternal organizations, medical services, hospitals, etc. The remaining missing pieces are a completed transferable curriculum and support resources including the 'How to Run the Workshop Guide', 'Workshop Participants Guide' and Volunteer Manual'. The purpose of entering the Early Childhood Innovation Prize is to help us accelerate our pace to complete these steps.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

BrightStart Family Workshop Business Model Value Proposition— All parents love their children and want to see them succeed. We help them do that by providing a fun, community-based learning experience for them and their children. Resources— The BrightStart Family Workshop Tool Kit which will include the Curriculum (teaching resources: content bibliography for instructors; slide decks; handouts; white board videos; participant guide); Support Resources (How to Run the BrightStart Family Workshop Manual; Volunteer Manual; Policies & Procedures Manual covering: Volunteer Training; Child Safety; and Fund Development Strategies. These resources from outside the community when added to the assets already present in a community provide the operational components needed to offer the workshop to parents & other care-givers at no cost. This can happen when generous people & organizations from the local community are deployed with a proven strategy to raise the capacities of parents to help their children thrive. Processes— Recruitment & training of local leadership to identify their community resources to implement the BrightStart Family Workshop; Recruit, train & deploy local volunteers; Recruit participants; Measure of effectiveness. Revenue Model— Our revenue model is based on selling the workshop kit to organizations or collaboratives in local communities who want to support parents of young children. We plan to offer optional training to organization/collaboratives implementing the workshop. Our customers could be any existing organization (school, PTA, faith community, or collaborative of smaller groups networked together for the common good of parents and their young children. We envision piloting the replication of our innovation in a community that is close enough for in-person training & support as a way for us to learn how best to train others to provide the workshop. This would be a reiterative process of do, learn, revise and do again. Once we demonstrate success with replication we want to market the BrightStart Family Workshop Toolkit & training to future customers. We currently have two strategic partners. The Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program ( which “…oversees a variety of community-oriented programs that address a wide range of factors that influence children’s healthy development. Those programs, and their community-based partners, not only focus on the traditional areas of child health services, family support, and early care and education, but also touch other sectors including food and nutrition, housing, economic development, child welfare, and transportation.. Building Healthy Families has participated in been evaluated by AKIP’s Community Health Innovation Check-Up (CHICU). Another strategic partner is Urban Alliance ( where BHF is part of Urban Alliance’s Thrive Initiative ( which aims to “reach and serve young children and their caregivers throughout critical developmental stages so children develop strong foundations for learning and growth”. Urban Alliance created our pre/post survey tool to measure the effects of the BrightStart Family Workshop on family well-being. Future Strategic Partner. We would like to participate in the Center on the Developing Child’s Science-Based Innovation training ( Because our workshop is taught through the lens of brain science we want to use the most up-to-date information and teaching methods. We plan to reach our customers through our strategic partner’s networks. Direct beneficiaries of our innovation are attracted to our workshop locally through local community networks via schools, social service referrals, word of mouth, etc. We have print media (sent by email) to explain the workshop and want to create a white board video about the workshop this summer.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

We began exploring how we might support families by surveying every family we could at a “Love Wins” community party in 2010. We asked parents questions to learn their felt needs about the task of being a parent & their hopes & dreams for their children. We talked with public school teachers about what children need & attended public neighborhood meetings where needs & ideas were shared with town officials & community service organizations. We always have families complete evaluations & regularly express an openness to suggestions during the 8 weeks of the workshop. One suggestion we implemented was changing our start time to half an hour later to reflect families’ needs. We have experimented with offering the workshop at different locations to make the workshop more accessible to families with limited transportation but this turned out to not be as helpful as we hoped. For the past 3 years we’ve been at the same location. We asked ourselves if our content was culturally relevant to our participants & regularly ask for our participants’ ideas & input. Our program reaches across a wide range of cultural & economic backgrounds. We use open ended questions such as “What was play like for you as a child?” & build our discussion about play on a dialogue among parents of their different experiences. A key way we get feedback is the ongoing relationships we have with participants as we offer our Imagination Playground at many town, school & church events. We constantly meet alumni families that tell us stories of how they are using what they learned & received at BrightStart. Children’s favorite books are often the ones we give families. These are the same books that are used by our children’s workers in the BrightStart kid’s classrooms. The blocks or stacking cups are often favorite toys that can be carried in a diaper bag. One mom shared the best thing she learned was, “I’ll never give up on my child!” This kind of comment makes all the volunteers hard work worthwhile. Discipline is a primary felt need of parents especially as children reach the “terrible twos”. Our model helps parents develop a framework of understanding discipline as teaching & training their child, not punishment. We use the ABCD’s of Attention, Bonding, Communication & Diet as a way to teach about Healthy Disciple. Children need to learn to pay attention (Attention) to mom & dad for them to know what is expected. Children need a secure emotional attachment (Bonding) to know they are loved & valued for who they are, not just for what they do. Helping parents reflect on how they give instructions (Communication) can help or hinder their children’s ability to bey them is often very valuable. This aids parent in forming strategies for solving problems & providing consequences that are age appropriate for a behavior & not just punishment. We follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines in everything we teach, & emphasize a no physical punishment approach to discipline. This section has continue to expand as we mention discipline with each topic & answer families questions. Family meals (Diet) are a time to bring together all of these ideas in a practical way. Families are taught to present healthy food & let their kids decide what to eat. Many families try new foods during the workshop & discover their children will eat more variety than they thought. Many families do not regularly sit down to eat together so the experience of a family style meal with other families & our volunteers is a new experience. Family meals offer an opportunity to connect with one another, develop conversational skills & to practice being attentive to one another & to learn manners. We serve breakfast & lunch & sit with families to develop relationships with them. We can reflect with families about what they are learning & the right now struggles they’re having. We can address felt needs quickly, discussing topics such as babies not sleeping well or share ideas on how to manage tantrums. Such questions often become topics for group conversations & can be addressed at subsequent teaching sessions. We have a different workshop than the one we started with. While the framework has not changed, many details are different. Issues of cultural sensitivity have arisen with our volunteers, so our training modules now address our philosophy of loving & accepting all people & alert volunteers to the reality of cultural differences among our participants. While these differences may vary in different communities, we want to maintain our openness & appreciative engagement with participants from many backgrounds. All our volunteers are trained & oriented to these BrightStart principles. We take welcoming people as guests very seriously, & have found this to be one of our strengths that allows space for families & volunteers to get to know one another. We're thrilled when participants come back as volunteers to allow other families to benefit as they did.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

Two personal experiences revealed the deep & widespread needs of children, especially children growing up in low-income neighborhoods. I was serving as a volunteer reading tutor for 1st grade children in an after-school program in our community. I was surprised by the number of children who struggled with reading who had little to no experience with books and a very limited vocabulary. Clearly they were reasons why they were behind their classmates. One afternoon as we were leaving a teacher said to me, “Peter, we really appreciate what you and all the volunteers do because these children are all at least two years behind.” It was October of 1st grade. How could these kids be 2 years behind? Shortly after that I read a study by researcher Walter Gilliam of the Yale Child Study Center showing that CT was 7th in the nation in the rate of pre-K expulsions. At the same time, I was learning about Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and started to asset map the congregation I was then serving and our nearby community. We did community surveys (sent by email) and discovered parents were sensitive to the needs of their young children, specifically around reading and language. At the same time, conversations started among a group of friends who shared a concern for children from different professional perspectives, all with deep experience in the early childhood space and committed to the well-being of children. A summary of our team members is attached below. Shortly after, we were inspired by the Baby College offered at the Harlem Children’s Zone and then read the book, “Whatever It Takes” by Paul Tough about the Harlem Children's Zone. This started us on the journey of asking how we might serve families with young children in our community. We were incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 2010 and soon after we connected with staff and stakeholders in our community that were just rolling out a city-wide Master Plan for Children, Youth and Families. Everyone agreed there was a huge gap in the plan for early childhood and a collaboration began that opened up public schools and city facilities for us to begin offering the BrightStart Workshop for the public. For the past four years we have partnered with Ädelbrook Behavioral Developmental Services, a nonprofit operating specialized education, community and residential programs for youth with autism in our community. They have provided free use of their Manchester Learning Center on Saturdays for our workshop. We and our volunteers are inspired by the parents who participate in each workshop. They are eager to learn and want to give their children the best they can.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

Our nonprofit was founded in 2010 & began the workshop in 2011. So far more than 200 families have come to the 13 free workshops held in our community. We were an entirely volunteer organization until January, ’16 when we went through a strategic planning process and committed ourselves to sharing the workshop beyond our community & created the position of Executive Director, who is our only paid staff. Our local partners & volunteers are great, but we really need more capacity & technical expertise to accelerate our progress toward the goal of making our curriculum and resources transferable.

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)

We need... 1. Additional staff to manage our day to day services to enable existing staff to provide oversight & direction of the completion of the workshop curriculum, support resources and promotional materials. 2. Expertise in media design to help in the design & review of all materials (print & digital) for the curriculum, support resources and promotional materials. 3. Consultant support to review the workshop content. We want what we teach to be as accurate and effective as possible. 4. Expertise in creating white board videos (script writing and animation) of our workshop content. We expect local communities to have different assets, some may have deeper assets than we do, some less. We envision white board videos as a way to supplement local assets with expert, topic specific content. A person could be trained to facilitate or assist in facilitating adult style learning using the white board videos through dialogue among and between facilitator(s) and participants without being a content expert. 5. Expertise to guide efforts to publicize the workshop and its success. 6. Help to recruit and support nearby organization(s) as replication sites. This may include a percent effort of staff time to work with us in the reiterative process of developing our training resources.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Early Childhood development -curriculum and instruction Leveraging technology Storytelling Marketing Design Product

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). A list of our team members was submitted by email.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

I had a coaching call with Bea Camacho and got some helpful suggestions for several aspects of out innovation. Here are some key ideas I gathered from our conversation that we have added to our plan or plan to include in our future development. 1. Include a section on fundraising in our toolkit. The funding requirements for our innovation are modest and we plan to include some ideas that others could pursue to fund offering the BrightStart Family Workshop in their community. We plan to incorporate ideas from the HCD Toolkit. 2. Bea told me about the Card Sort Exercise from the HCD Toolkit as a way to identify hat’s most import to our workshop participants. 3. We discussed shadowing people we are designing for to learn more about their context. 4. I learned about the resource offered by Alice’s Table ( for new business start-ups. 5. We discussed several 'models' that Building Healthy Families' team might learn from as we advance to making our workshop content and support resources transferable. These include the headspace app ( for its creative use of media. Nova and other science documentaries can be excellent models for us as we seek to use story to communicate research informed insights about the needs of young children and how parents can help meet those needs.

Attachments (1)


This is the brochure we use to tell people about the workshop for families we offer on Saturday mornings.


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Photo of Carlton Chen

Hi, Peter.
Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, I will be in New York on Saturday but let's definitely get together. You are welcome to visit us in New Haven and see what we are doing. Or, if there is something to see in Manchester, I can make the trip up. Let me know how your curriculum meeting on Saturday goes.
Kind regards,

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