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Partners as Partners: Promoting Family Resilience in Marginalized Communities

This program will promote healthy E.C development and family resilience in the Negev Bedouin community - the most marginalized in Israel.

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Name or Organization

AJEEC-NISPED

Geography

This program will be implemented in Bedouin villages in Israel's Negev region.

What is your stage of development?

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

Type

  • Non-profit

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

The Negev Bedouin are Israel's most disadvantaged population, with higher poverty, unemployment, infant mortality and rates of home accidents amongst children. The region periodically becomes a conflict zone. Many communities lack infrastructure, rendering them vulnerable during missile attacks from the Gaza Strip. These unique stresses and challenges, combined with traditional attitudes, pose challenges for fostering strong families and this program, using models that promote family resilience and closer connections between children aged 1 to 3 and their parents.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Parents as Partners: Promoting Family Resilience in Marginalized Communities will develop a program of workshops to bring together young children and their parents in the Negev Bedouin community. The program will be implemented by the network of nurseries of the Parents as Partners program. Operated by AJEEC-NISPED and supported by local Bedouin municipal authorities, these nurseries, as the name suggests, offer a unique "parent-and-child-centered" approach to early childhood care, engaging parents in activities to promote learning, early literacy, health and proper development. Since its founding in 2004, Parents as Partners has developed an extensive curriculum and a variety of programs and activities focused on health and early education that engage mothers and children together. This innovation leverages this model and applies it to a more emotional and less technical but equally important concept: resilience. The traditional conception of society, as in many cultures, viewed children as little adults, to be treated sternly and without significant interest in their unique needs. This program will promote playtime, tactile contact and expressions of emotion between young children and their parents, combining traditional knowledge with recent theories. By extension, it will reach in older children and other relatives, promoting close, loving family ties for resilience, dignity and perseverance. It will be a model for an EC platform in a community without official support.

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

Negev Bedouin communities face deep levels of poverty and marginalization, and families, frequently polygamous, have high fertility and population growth rate. They are a marginalized minority population, and the 40% of them living in unrecognized villages generally live in substandard habitations and lack even the most basic services in their communities. This program will address the emotional distance and lack of close bonding that results from their difficult circumstances.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Established in 2002, Parents as Partners is a network of early childhood nurseries in Bedouin communities in the Negev that has succeeded to bring government support for EC programs in communities that are considered unrecognized and illegal. It serves children aged 1 to 3 and is staffed by paraprofessionals drawn from the local community. The Negev Bedouin population numbers some 240,000 people and is one of the fastest growing groups in the world. It combines a high fertility rate with access, albeit inferior and often fraught with discrimination, to Israel's national health insurance system. Approximately 60% live in seven municipalities and two regional council areas that are officially recognized by the government. These residents, though suffering from high levels of poverty and generally inferior infrastructure, do have access to public services such as schools, clinics, employment centers, local offices of ministries and other government services. The remaining 40%, however, live in "unrecognized villages", built on land claimed by the Bedouin based on historic habitation but considered illegal by the Israeli government. Denied access to most public services, including even paved access roads, these communities and the homes in them are subject to periodic demolitions by the government. An ongoing political and social battle is being waged to ensure the security of these communities. In addition to the material challenges, residents face even higher levels of stress and personal tension. In the unrecognized villages in particular, Parents as Partners was often the first organized initiative to provide early childhood services. These small facilities are staffed by local paraprofessionals and serve approximately 15 children each. AJEEC-NISPED was one of the first organizations to launch these nurseries in the Bedouin community, and the very first in the unrecognized villages. The paraprofessionals receive a variety of initial and follow-up trainings from AJEEC-NISPED’s staff. There are currently 20 AJEEC-NISPED nurseries in several municipalities employing 40 women and serving 300 children. A large number of private nurseries operate under a similar framework. The launch of these nurseries has enabled women to work by providing convenient opportunities for childcare in the hands of trusted caretakers from their own community. Therefore, among mothers of the children there is a 40% rate of employment, more than double the average for the Bedouin community. As the name suggests, the project aims to engage parents as partners in their children’s educational, psychological and health development. Parents are introduced to activities and concepts used with their children at the nursery and encouraged to continue them at home. Parents as Partners emphasizes child development through the prism of three themes: literacy, resilience and early detection and treatment of potential developmental problems. Paraprofessionals provide trainings in these areas and serve as resources for parents and communities, including by providing referrals for specialists if a child appears to have developmental difficulties. The program aims to bring benefits to entire families and, by extension, the wider community. Support for early childhood development is also as a way to engage parents in broader and interconnected conversations about health, education and resilience and to promote solidarity among families and neighbors. Literacy as a key factor whose impact goes beyond simply reading. It is also an avenue to strengthen bonds between parents and children by providing a constructive activity to do together and to promote healthy cognitive development. AJEEC-NISPED, in consultation with local leaders, has identified these three interrelated areas – literacy, early developmental delays and resilience – as being where families and children are most in need of support. A significant number of programs for identification and response to development delays and for family literacy have been developed over the past decade and a half, with the active involvement of local authorities, particularly from departments of health, education and welfare, and professionals from hospitals and school systems. They are being implemented in the 20 nurseries run by the program, and trainings are held for paraprofessionals at other nurseries. These activities have been widely successful and expanded across Bedouin community. Efforts on education and health are more straightforward to implement than the less defined area of "resilience". Nonetheless, resilience and strong family relationships are important in and of themselves and in relation to health and learning. The three are mutually reinforcing and this project will add a resilience angle to trilateral programs. The focus initially will be in a group of unrecognized villages near the town of Lakiya, some of the most disadvantaged, but also will be piloted in some recognized villages.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The most direct beneficiaries of this program will be the participants in the activities and trainings - children aged 1 to 3 in nurseries and their parents. Initially, the project will reach 300 children in the villages near Lakiya along with their mothers and in some cases their fathers. Families are envisioned as a "dyad", with the child being one part of the whole and the parents the other, and they cooperate and learn from one another to grow, develop and strengthen. The program will be based in existing nurseries, some operated by Parents as Partners and others privately run by cooperating with the initiative. Children and their parents will benefit from activities that promote interaction and bonding, overcoming the challenges posed by their precarious existences. The children's development will benefit, and generally the families will benefit, too, from the closeness and stability fostered by the program. The group of direct beneficiaries will be able to have a positive secondary impact on their relatives, peers and neighbors, becoming ambassadors for the concept of bonding and resilience. As noted, AJEEC-NISPED has a decade and a half of experience working with this population and their local leadership. The system of nurseries is already in place and provides a ready group of participants.

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

This program aims for longstanding outcomes that promote a cultural change in how families interact, fostering relationships that are more resilient and more emotionally connected. It will equip beneficiaries will the skills and perspectives needed to have fortitude in the face of adversity. Starting with a limited group of families, the program aims to have a ripple effect, by which the positive lifestyle changes adopted by participants spread organically through the community. Given the strong relations with local authorities and the success with existing health and education programs, the programs implemented in these nurseries could be adopted by local governments, as has been the case with previous community programs implemented by AJEEC-NISPED, and become an integral part of early childhood policy throughout the Negev Bedouin community. Further afield, the program could become an inspiration for similar initiatives in similar communities.

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

This entire program is dedicated to young children from communities that are not only low-income but structurally, systematically marginalized and threatened by a violent conflict. This program will develop comprehensive programs that benefit them, but also directly engage their parents and promote long-term, self-sustaining family resilience and connections. The impact not only will improve their family life during childhood, but help them to grow into healthy, strong and intellectually developed school students and eventually adults.

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

This program would extend the proven format of established initiatives in health and education to the new area of resilience. It is therefore already part of an expansion and scaling up process. In the immediate area, meaning the rest of the Negev Bedouin community, there are approximately 100,000 people living in unrecognized villages, of whom one fifth are children aged 1 to 3. The program's ultimate aim is to be expanded, with active support from local municipal officials, to the rest of the unrecognized villages and also to the official communities. Furthermore, once developed, this resilience program could be adapted and implemented for similar marginalized populations in other contexts around the world. Socio-economically disadvantaged communities, groups facing discrimination or violence and refugee camps are all possible candidates for the eventual adoption of a similar program.

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

This plan is based on existing projects. From a technical and administrative standpoint, its feasibility has already been demonstrated and relationships with relevant local partners are in place. In principle, the main remaining task - and the challenge to be explored in this specific idea - is to apply these experiences to develop a program focused on resilience.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

AJEEC-NISPED is the largest and most established NGO working in the Negev Bedouin community. Staff members come from both the Arab Bedouin and Jewish communities, and model the message of partnership. Given the challenges outlined above, staff members are passionate about EC development and, many bring perspectives from their own lives. A key part of the passion is to ensure that parents are able to be the first educators of their children and that strong families will prevent cultural traditions and pride from being lost as the community forges its own path in its transition to a modern lifestyle. For many of the team members, this project, even more so than others, is personal. Beyond early childhood, program areas include economic development, social enterprises, volunteerism, health, and Jewish-Arab partnership. The aim is for them to be holistic, empowering, and culturally appropriate. Staff members come from the communities that are being served, bringing their innate understandings of the needs and perspectives of the beneficiaries. AJEEC-NISPED maintains strong relationships with local municipal authorities to ensure that programs are coordinated to meet the expectations and gain the acceptance of community stakeholders. The ultimate aim for many of the projects is that eventually they be taken over by local and national government agencies, which will ensure their sustainability and expansion.

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

Generally, yes. Since its inception, Parents as Partners received the enthusiastic support of the local Bedouin authorities in recognized municipalities, who are responsible for providing services to inhabitants of nearby unrecognized villages. It is supported by the national ministries of health, education and welfare, which, while representing a government that demolishes in unrecognized villages, nonetheless provide services to their inhabitants. The local partners are therefore all in place and have a longstanding record of support.

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)

As noted, AJEEC-NISPED has extensive experience with implementing similar programs in this area, as well as with the local municipal authorities. A partner or mentor organization would be useful if it had specific experience developing programs focused on the less tangible area of family resilience and healthy emotional relationships.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

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

As noted above, a mentor who could bring experience and offer advice on family resilience would be useful and could serve as a catalyst for successful implementation and the development of new ideas and directions.

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).

This project is a joint effort involving a variety of committed staff from the Bedouin community. It is not built around one individual or one personality and, in part due to cultural reasons, they would not like to be personally singled out over their colleagues.

[Optional] Video: You are invited to submit a 30-60 second video that introduces you and/or your team and your idea.

Please see the attached photos to get a flavor of the program. Due to questions of cultural sensitivity, it is not always appropriate to publicize photos or videos that display the faces of children, parents and other participants.

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