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It Takes a Village

We are a peer-based parenting group that works to enrich the lives of parents and families by creating the network they so desperately need.

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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 came into this Prize with lots of ideas, but throughout our discussions while writing this, have made those ideas into tangible plans! We have worked to make our community more inclusive so that we have a larger reach in the various cultures that make up our county. We have more clearly defined the problems we are trying to mitigate and how our efforts will do so. We have a plan!

Name or Organization

Elizabeth Kendrick in c/o It Takes a Village (non-profit status pending).

Geography

Boone County, Missouri

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD

Type

  • Team

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe your submission in one clear sentence

It Takes a Village (ITAV) aims to help families connect with one another and attain the knowledge and resources they need to create healthy, happy homes in Boone County, Missouri.

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

Parents are the most isolated they have ever been. Where there used to be "villages" of extended families raising children, we now have lonely parents desperate for support. The services that ITAV aims to provide are meant to empower parents, giving them the confidence to raise strong and resilient families. Our community group encourages diverse parents to share their knowledge without the pressure of needing to be labeled an expert in any particular field. This peer-based model creates an open space for all local families to access services they wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

It Takes A Village is a movement; a force to be reckoned with. It is hundreds of local parents coming together in a world that is constantly trying to divide us. We have all found ourselves lost, confused, and exhausted at some point in our parenting journey and we’ve all found ourselves alone more than once during those moments. ITAV aims to change that. In line with the evidence-based Strengthening Families framework (https://ctf4kids.org/about-prevention/strengthening-families/), we seek to enhance all five protective factors to increase the overall well being of children and families. Our informal, peer-based model allows our diverse and knowledgeable parents to connect and utilize their skills to help one another. This type of mentorship helps our community catch and attract parents who don't feel like they need formal services through a social service agency, but are still struggling. We are a welcoming and comfortable environment, for all cultures, that empowers and supports families of young children by creating a collective commonwealth of resources. Our community supports postpartum mental health, connects families of young children through events, and provides parental education opportunities.

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

We seek to decrease parental isolation, support parental mental health, and increase parental knowledge of basic child development and positive parenting techniques. We seek to enhance families’ resiliency and overall well-being by promoting the following five protective factors: parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parent and child development and the social and emotional competence of children.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

ITAV aims to evolve our parenting organization into a legally recognized non-profit with its own physical space. Over the last few months, we have started building our community from the ground up. We’ve worked hard to put the It Takes A Village name out into our city and we’ve gained positive support and interest from multiple local non-profits, social workers, and early childhood educators. We have created multiple events for families but have consistently had to battle the availability of public spaces. With the support of so many families and the consistent feedback of “more availability and events, please!” ITAV founders have determined it is time to take the next step. Our community needs us to become a legally recognized entity and they need us to have the flexibility and availability that our own personal space will allow. ITAV and its services aims to achieve a community of parents that can independently and collectively solve the challenges that parenthood can bring and also the challenges that families may face as a whole, whether it be career, financial, health or otherwise. Our group aims to be a network within itself and to our outside community as well. We have organized and carried out community-oriented volunteer service and continually serve our own community with programs like meals for new mothers. Ideally, we would expand these opportunities paralleling our growth both internally, and to our external community. We have included social workers, grant writers, early childhood educators, and marketing professionals into our founding administration in order to create a viable non-profit that can help provide concrete professional services to families in all aspects of life. Moving forward as a legally recognized non-profit and with our own physical space, ITAV will focus our beginning efforts on the following: improving postpartum mental health, creating connection events for all members, and providing parental education opportunities. Our services will include, but are not limited to, the following: •Postpartum Support: Free screenings, peer and professional support groups, infant respite opportunities, and more! •Connection Events: Mom-centered events, age specific play dates, first time parent groups, Dad-centered events, Welcome to Parenthood events, Working parent events, and more! •Parent Education Opportunities: Positive parenting classes hosted by local partners, family financial planning seminars, educational child activity planning, local resource networking events, cloth diapering classes, and more! For a further glance into our planned programs: •PPD/PPMD Education For Partners: Creating a class for partners that helps them identify symptoms of postpartum mood disorders and educating them on self-care techniques. •Basic Nutrition Classes: Helping community members learn basic nutrition through the WIC and USDA nutrition guidelines for children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. •First Time Parent Gatherings: Creating a network of parents in the same stage of parenting, allowing them to find a network to utilize from the earliest stage of parenting. How each of the protective factors will be addressed with our services: Parent Resilience: •Resources and information accessible •Presentations from community organizations and professionals •Environment that is flexible and allows for parents to share with peers •Within support groups, reflective questions encourage parent-led problem solving •Parent expertise is valued and celebrated •Intentional collaborations with mental health providers •Focus on positive child-parent relationships •Focus on positive parent peer relationships •Mental health support groups Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: •Playgroup leaders guide parent-child exploration and learning based on observations •Child development information is provided organically when real-life examples emerge in the playgroups •Positive discipline approaches are modeled •Focus on attunement to child’s needs •Relationship-based approach •Evidence-based reference points and materials accessible Social Connections: •Caregivers are intentionally introduced to new caregivers •Leaders facilitate new relationships among participants and caregivers •Full family events are promoted and welcomed Concrete Support in Times of Need: •Resources and information are provided and referrals are made when appropriate •Presentations from community organizations •Lending Library of expensive baby and toddler gear •Meal train for new parents Social and Emotional Competence of Children •Positive interactions modeled by playgroup leaders, targeting child-parent relationship and child peer interactions •Play and learning environment that supports exploration, social interactions and expression of feelings •Playgroup leaders are connected with mental health providers that can support their families Modeled after First 5 Monterey County

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Any interested parents in Boone County and their children can benefit from It Takes A Village. Boone County, Missouri (population 174,974 as of 2015) sits squarely in the middle of the state and Columbia, ITAV’s home, serves as an urban hub for multiple rural towns and counties. Multiple state-funded services, as well as the region’s only Women and Children’s based hospital are based in Columbia. Many families travel into Columbia on a regular basis to access these services and more. This provides ITAV with an excellent opportunity to extend our reach not only to our urban population but also to rural families that are often left underserved.

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

When parents are overwhelmed and stressed, they aren't able to be the best parents that they could be. This can lead to abuse, neglect, attachment disorders, anxiety and depression, and many other negative outcomes for children. On the other hand, the Strengthening Families framework has been shown to reduce child abuse/neglect, increase family strengths, and enhance child development. By supporting, connecting, and educating parents, we will improve their mental health and parenting skills, which leads to happy and healthy little ones (which then, of course, grow to be happy and healthy grown ups who change the world!) We currently have 473 individuals in our Facebook group. Considering that at least half of them also have partners/spouses, and all have at least one child, we are already looking at thousands of lives benefiting from our efforts. We currently have 435 individuals in our Facebook group. Considering that at least half of them also have partners/spouses, and all have at least one child, we are already looking at thousands of lives benefiting from our efforts.

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

While parenting is difficult for everyone, families that experience poverty have even more to juggle. These families have fewer resources to commit to things like parenting books and social opportunities. Often the stress of how to keep the household afloat overshadows things like coming up with activities to help their children develop fine motor skills or their children's social-emotional development. By making these resources more readily available, creating a supportive community, and having the leaders of this community well versed in other local resources, we create a safety net of fellow parents ready to catch someone when they fall. Additionally, some classes like budgeting and cloth diapering would be especially beneficial to those families that struggle with income.

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

We are innovative because we are parents supporting parents. This is a grassroots group that was born out of moms' experiences of being alone and needing support. We are in this world, living it every day, which means we know the needs of our peers, and ourselves and we seek to meet those needs. We are also original in that we prioritize human interaction and connection. Most agencies and organization prioritize education or something else, but what parents are craving is connection. Through this connection, we are seeing parents learning through parents. Through this connection, we are seeing parents lighten their workload by finding other parents that are willing and able to help in times of need. Through this connection, we are watching as our children improve social and emotional skills with each play date. We, as a village, are able to connect on such a personal level and pull each other through the difficult times as well as celebrate the good times. The peer-based model is really creating a sense of belonging and community support in an often transient college town.

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

As mentioned earlier, we already have over a thousand "end-users" that would benefit from these new services. We continually push to reach out to other parents in our region, as we love to see our supportive community grow.

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

Very feasible. Our largest obstacle in moving forward is acquiring funding that would provide us a space. We have already created so much connection and support with our only resource being other parents. We have been shocked at the talent we've uncovered within our community (Turns out we were all people with skills before kids!). We believe that having a designated ITAV space will allow us to grow, house resources and activities, and host the various groups and classes that we are seeking to provide to our community.

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

It Takes A Village has a unique and viable concept within our area. We are needed and the growth of our community to over 400 parents in just a few months verifies that. Financially, we have plans to incorporate as a 501 c 3 and plan to implement sliding scale memberships to help us continue our funding. We will continue to search for grants and work with area nonprofits to provide our services in the most cost-effective way.

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

Humans are our entire concept! Since the beginning, ITAV’s founders have taken the ideas and experiences of others to improve our organization. We have taken a step back to view our world, our community, and determine what was missing. We found our inspiration in the idea that we know that we can do better for our children. We know that we can create a world and a community open to all--regardless of race, religion, class, culture, etc. And as we continue to open our doors to all that are ready to make a better world, we continue to find our inspiration. We consistently gather feedback from all of our members and we are working to find solutions to the roadblocks we face. We are taking the ideas and voices of hundreds of families and putting it behind us. We are ready to take this support and the ideas we’ve gathered, most of them so valuable and simple to implement that it would be crazy not to at least give it our best shot, and create a long-lasting resource for families within our community. ITAV founders are here to stay. We’re here to put in the effort needed to implement our idea. So please, help us as we continue towards our implementation phase! We are ready and willing to accept any help we can get in implementing our HCD project.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

ITAV was founded on the idea that parents need connection in order to thrive. Raising children is one of the hardest responsibilities bestowed on someone, and feeling isolated creates an overwhelming feeling of insecurity and a shaky family foundation. The founders of It Takes A Village were living apart from extended families, leaving them without a built in support system. After recognizing that their circumstance was not unique, especially in a college-based town, the founders felt it was important to help provide a place for families in need of connection. So we did just that. We set up play dates at local public spaces, we started a book club for moms, and we created a meal train for expecting families. Since founding ITAV, we’ve been so excited to watch parents join us on multiple events and find the connection and support they’ve been searching for. This group grew so quickly and has become so strong, that it leaves the founders constantly wondering, “What if we did have the money, space, and resources to affect more lives? What if we could approach every suggestion of forward movement by a member with a space and funding?” Seeing numerous families start to thrive once becoming involved with ITAV has pushed us to reach inside ourselves and find ways to make this group a fully developed nonprofit organization. We're excited about working in the early childhood space because we live here, in the early childhood space. We are fighting the daily battles of toddler independence and the ups and downs of breastfeeding. We know how much these years matter for the success of our little ones, and we want to see that success not only within our own walls, but also across our community. We have found so many backgrounds, experiences, and hidden talents among our community members! In addition to the personal experience of having young children, we have several members who are currently, or have previously been, teachers (in early childhood as well as older ages), others who are social workers and have worked in various settings with young children, and other members with other varied and valuable experiences. Being able to fuse these backgrounds and talents into one community allows us to gain so much insight that will help us move our organization, community, and our own families forward

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

We think so! We have discovered lots of hidden talents - we have parents with experience in grant writing, marketing/sales, social work, early childhood education, accounting, community organizing, health care, etc. We have also identified multiple partner agencies in our community that will provide us with resources on various parenting topics for our classes.

Would you like mentoring support? [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

  • No

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).

ITAV Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/itav.columbia/

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