OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Play Full Space

An interactive theatrical playspace intended to facilitate parent-child interaction and promote language skills for infants 0-3

Photo of Park Cofield
7 3

Written by

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

Since the early submission deadline, our team has dedicated our time to looking at our go to market strategy and developing a minimum viable product.

Most recently we sought advice from a real estate developer about potential launch sites, as well as funding structures to consider as we look at three strategies -- permanent locations, pop-ups, and the ways in which our services could be provided in a mobile context. We are also further looking into the viability of corporate sponsorships with value aligned brands.

We are also looking closely at existing programs in and around Los Angeles to ensure we have a solid grasp on the existing landscape, and how we can best fit in and fill an unmet need. We understand from conversations with parents that not being able to bring all of their children to our space could be a barrier to attendance. For this reason, we are analyzing the costs/benefits of providing separate programming for ages 3-5 and other ways to welcome the entire family.

Both our mentorship call (described below) and participating in the IDEO community have greatly furthered our idea and thinking.

Name or Organization

Park Cofield

Partners:
Yaser Alhindi
Daniel Baek
Daniela Birnbaum
Joaquin Macias
Talya Yefet Stagg

Geography

Los Angeles, CA

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?

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

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

Place Full Space is positioned as an innovative social business venture with a two-tiered pricing model to benefit low-income families. Our solution comes from a place of solving a significant issue with a new method and bringing joy to people who are living very difficult lives.

Select an Innovation Target

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

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Play Full Space is for parents of children ages 0-3 from underserved communities in Los Angeles who lack access to, and time for, early childhood programming, and/or who may be are unaware of the importance of positive engagement with their children in their earliest years. Play Full Space is a low-cost, interactive and development-focused experience for the full family that utilizes play, song, and theater to teach parent-child interaction and promote language skills, all to ultimately better prepare these children for kindergarten and beyond.

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

Play Full Space aims to address the lack of parent-child engagement and limited access to high-quality early education programs in underserved communities in Los Angeles in the earliest and most crucial years of development. For low-income children, the lack of communication and engagement issue is often compounded by the fact that parents lack time and money to devote to early childhood development programs.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Play Full Space can be experienced and explored in one of two ways, either as an open playroom in which parents and children are free to explore on their own during predetermined open hours OR as a short theatrical performance (20 mins) in which approximately 15 - 20 parents and children are guided through a series of playful interactions by a professional solo performer/educator who models and demonstrates the techniques in the space. The performance will unfold like a piece of music with the performer ushering the attendees through a series of “movements” in which a new parenting technique, game, or conversation strategy is utilized. By the end of the performance, each caregiver will have between 5-6 new ways to play, interact or talk with their child at home or on the go. Parents will be given materials to take home and will be encouraged to download a corresponding app to help them fully incorporate playtime and conversation into their busy days.

Locations will be situated in shopping centers in close proximity to Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) centers, or near other locations in mixed-class neighborhoods that families frequent (such as laundromats and grocery stores) in order to support our two-tiered pricing structure.

Our spaces aim to add to the landscape of advocacy and initiatives related to "Brain Building" in the earliest years to address "The Word Gap" in lower-income communities. Current solutions for promoting parent-child interaction and conversation include printed materials related to awareness campaigns, digital apps and or technology solutions, as well as costly or overbooked educational programs. We aim to differentiate our services by meeting parents where they are and approaching the challenge from an arts-based perspective that models parent-child interaction.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The beneficiaries of our idea are both the parent and the child, as well as the supportive care team within the family (grandparents, siblings, extended family). Our target participants are low-income families in Los Angeles. These families are often living stressful, busy lives, often working multiple jobs, six to seven days a week. By selecting convenient locations, we hope that our space can provide these families with an easy option to seamlessly incorporate play and connection with their children into their lives by selecting convenient locations and providing them with repeatable games and activities to continue this play at home and in transit.

We have engaged in four months of meaningful conversations with parents in laundromats, grocery stores, restaurants, daycare facilities, libraries, and government housing, as well as extensive field research. Our conversations have revealed that the while some parents are aware of the importance of early childhood interaction many do not have access to information or resources or any extra money to pay for anything besides food and other essentials.

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

We anticipate that our idea will lead to multiple long-term impacts:

- Children with higher levels of life achievement and reduced levels trauma
- Parents who are more engaged
- Improved literacy and vocabulary skills (before entering pre-k and kindergarten)
- Increased interaction between neighbors and families from different socioeconomic classes

For measurement we plan to implement a mixed methodology framework allowing us to track qualitative measures (i.e. increase in the number of words spoken at home, improved pre-K readiness, number of new interactions) as well as qualitative measures (i.e. how creative play impacts quality of engagement, changes in mood, levels of socialization) to track intangible impact. We are currently thinking closely about the implementation of our measurement plan and how technology can assist us.

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

One of the biggest challenges we have heard over and over in our customer discovery, especially from low-income families is that food and other essentials come first. Parents want to provide their children with high-quality educational experiences, but the reality is that the cost of quality educational opportunities and early learning experiences are too costly or quickly fill up.

In Los Angeles, infant care in a child center costs an average of $14,309 per year and the average cost for pre-schoolers is over $10K. There are limited slots in free/subsidized head start programs and the waitlist system is long and imperfect. Often people have their name on a waitlist, only to find out they don’t make it and are left without any alternative option. Unless they are free, cultural or recreational events are out of the question too.

We believe that there are plenty of families who will be willing to pay premium rates for the experience to ensure that a family who is not as financially sound can have a high-quality learning experience. By offering a two-tiered pricing model (along with a free voucher system for families served by non-profit and governmental partners) we aim to entirely remove the barrier of entry for low-income families and to create an environment where families of all socio-economic classes can play and interact together.

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

Many of the current solutions for parent-child interaction provide parents with instructive tips, reminders or digital notifications to incorporate into their daily routines. There is a wealth of written material, electronic apps, digital tools, and costly programs specifically designed to encourage parents to talk and play with their children. Our theatrical delivery model is unique in approach, cost, and measurement.

By attending a performance in our space, parents will learn new and playful techniques in a fun, direct, and immersive way. The experience of visiting our spaces is intended to be memorable, delightful, and unifying for the parents in attendance. Our hope is that by asking the parent to engage with their child within the context of a theme and story they will be more likely (and more willing) to re-play the experience at home, on the bus, or while doing other daily tasks.

Additionally, our approach of positioning these spaces in high visibility locations in mix-class neighborhoods for short periods of time builds on the success of other recent successful "experiences" such as the Museum of Ice Cream, 29 Rooms, and Happy Place that are popular with young millennial parents.

We have also learned that many of the national initiatives do not have solid plans for measurement and efficacy. They are able to provide numbers about distribution and geography, but do not know if parents are using their materials or what impact is being made. We are strategically building in qualitative and quantitive measures and looking how to encourage families to track their interactions post visit via a mobile app and word counting devices.

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

There are a considerable number of potential end-users in Los Angeles. According to U.S. Census 2015 estimates, LA County is home to 10,038,388 people. Of these, 641,635 children are under 5 years of age. 18.2% of all people in LA County live under the poverty level, including 26.6% children. This is higher than the national state average.

We are strategically using real estate in proximity to WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) sites as an asset to reach the most families possible. WIC centers are abundant in Los Angeles: there are over 90 WIC service locations across LA County, present in virtually every low-income neighborhood. In fact, WIC currently supports approximately 67% of all infants and about half of children ages one to five, translating into approximately 600,000 individuals and 400,000 families each month.

In terms of scaling the model, we anticipate being able to grow the model and to expand to other cities following a successful rollout in Los Angeles. We are doing an analysis to consider both urban and rural locations and how this idea could potentially be implemented internationally.

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

As a team, we have recently completed a semester of research, feasibility analysis, exploring opportunities and assets, customer discovery, location scouting, and testing our assumptions.

Our work has also included a significant number of interviews with potential partners, service providers, and researchers who are doing some incredible work on this issue in Los Angeles. We are excited about the potential of a partnership around curriculum design and how our model could be used as new delivery methods for some of the research and techniques that have already been studied and tested for effectiveness.
 
In terms of feasibility, we know there are significant challenges and costs to securing and maintaining real estate Los Angeles. We aim to first test the model with a short-term “pop-up” location. This test will serve as a proof of concept and allow us to better determine the market, location, and messaging, as we scale and considered follow up spaces, themes, and additional offerings. It will also allow us to attract attention and build relationships with real estate development firms and lenders who have a social mission or a “placemaking” focus in hopes of developing a long-term relationship and hopefully a permanent facility.

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

We are still early in the process of looking at our business model, defining our customer and growth strategies.

We are starting to dive into our financials to begin determining the cost of services and estimating the amount of capital we will need to go to market. What we do know is that there is a huge demand for “experiences” in Los Angeles, as well as a huge need for low-cost quality early childhood experiences. These two factors are the driving forces behind our two-tiered price structure.

We are also considering corporate sponsorship opportunities with brands or companies who share the same social interest and values. There are huge possibilities for partnership with design firms, collaboration with HCD teams, and for "activations" of products.

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

A significant amount of human-centered design went into Cofield’s initial development of his first immersive baby theater production in 2014. This process included a series of play sessions with infants in daycare facilities. During this process, Cofield and a team of designers spent time playing with infants, introducing various toys and props, studying developmental milestones, and looking for innovative ways to connect parent and child in the context of a theme or story. The design of the production and scenic environment was largely influenced by what the infants responded to in these play sessions. The overall design of the theatrical experience came from many conversations with mothers and fathers in theses rooms, as well as observations of habits, needs, and preferences in preview performances. The result was a new methodology of creating plays for babies.

As we begin to imagine the viability of a playspace in Los Angeles, we are planning a similar series of interactions between infants, parents and a team of artists and designers. The development process will focus on adapting existing parent-child engagement activities into a theatrical context and exploring how we can offer a bi-lingual or multi-lingual experience. These play sessions will not only allow us to test assumptions around the delivery mechanism, but will allow us to speak directly with parents about their needs and wants regarding programming and schedule. We are currently looking to establish a strategic partnership who can bring their methodology and research to the table. We are aiming to arrive at 10-20 potential parent-child activities that can easily be transformed and modified into a theatrical delivery before this summer. This period of testing and iteration will serve as a minimum viable product that we can begin to share with stakeholders, partners and potential customers.

We are also using this period to build relationships with artist and designers of color. Inclusion and representation are top priorities and will directly impact our hiring process and delivery. The spaces will be ADA accessible and measures will be in place to address all needs and abilities.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

We are a team of graduate students from the Masters of Social Entrepreneurship program in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. We arrived at our initial idea over the last six months as part of a course taught by Dr. Jill Kickul (Professor, Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies & Research Director, Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab). Our team initially formed around a mutual interest in "community well-being" and quickly decided to focus our efforts on early childhood development.

Our solution was initially inspired by Park Cofield's previous work as a theater director and a project he directed and curated in Atlanta in 2014 (see video above), but the idea to bring it to low-income families in Los Angeles within the context of a social enterprise is entirely new.

As a team, we each bring a slightly different perspective to the challenge. Our skills and competencies include non-profit arts administration, social/entertainment based fundraising, international youth development, and foundational giving.

ABOUT US:

Park Cofield (Creative & Curriculum Director) has over 15 years of experience directing, producing, writing and designing theatrical experiences for audiences of all ages. His background includes non-profit marketing, grant writing and community-based art practice. He also serves as the Field Resources Manager for the Network of Ensemble Theaters.
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/parkcofield
Website: http://www.parkcofield.com

Talya Stagg (Director of Strategic Partnerships) has over a decade’s experience in the political and philanthropic arenas. Most recently, she helped found and run the social impact division of Santa Monica-based production company, Bad Robot. Prior to this, she worked at Margery Tabankin & Associates, a consulting and management firm, where she specialized in grants management and developed philanthropic and political strategy for a number of family foundations. Before moving to Los Angeles, she lived in Washington, DC where she worked as a fundraiser for political candidates including Senator Mark Udall of Colorado and Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio.

Yaser Alhindi (Metrics Consultant) was born in Jeddah and raised in Dhahran on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. He is committed to supporting and mentoring young people in reading, learning STEM subjects, and career path. He has initiated and contributed to initiatives such as Ignite Dhahran, Ithra, MentorsKSA, Life Makers.

Daniela Birnbaum (Marketing & Communications) was born and raised in Caracas Venezuela. She has a background in marketing and hopes to use her creativity to make the world brighter and better.

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

We have the artistic knowledge and expertise we need to design the space and deliver the artistic framework, but we are looking for non-profit partners who can provide us with access to parents and children for artistic devising sessions and who are willing to share knowledge from their work to inform the content and curriculum of the program. It is essential that we combine our artistic knowledge with the most current methodologies related to trauma and other researched and validated techniques.

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)

Play Full Space is committed to co-creation, collaboration, and inclusion. We believe that it takes the right team to make big changes. We are at the very beginning of our work together and look forward to growing our team and community of partner organizations. If you are interested in collaboration, have a resource we should consider, or think your idea might compliment ours, please reach out!

We are especially in need of assistance and expertise related to:

-Language development (bi/multi-lingual)
-Trauma and the connection to creativity
-The impact on digital devices on parent/child interaction

We'd also love to have conversations with toy designers and app developers for some of the interactive elements we are creating and testing for use in our spaces!

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

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

-Building relationships with real estate developers
-Measurement and evaluation techniques
-Pricing structures and government funding

We would also love to speak with Vroom (or a similar app) to discuss the potential for partnership and how our two delivery models interrelate.

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

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

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

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

We had a fantastic mentorship experience. One of the suggestions we received has led us to consider a wider menu of services and programming to more appropriately and effectively reach a variety of age ranges. Our mentor also helped us think about our strategy for measurement with some great suggestions on mixed methods (utilizing quantitative and qualitative data), as well as suggesting academic papers utilizing random control trials. We are were encouraged to think broader and to make a case for the potential to scale beyond Los Angeles by painting a better picture of what our model would look in other places in the U.S. (urban and rural) as well as internationally.

We also reached out directly to other challenge participants to express curiosity about their solutions and to share our thinking. We had a wonderful call with KaBOOM and received some good advice about corporate partnership and connections to other organizations in Los Angeles who they have funded through their Play Everywhere grant program.

7 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Nancy
Team

Hi Park,
Thanks for sharing. Great to know Social Entrepreneur students are interested in early child development. You mentioned an interest in the impact of screen time on parent-child interactions. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (http://www.asha.org) is tracking this. Just found a recent article entitled :
Impact of parents mobile device use on parent-child interaction (link to article won't copy :(.
Good luck!

Photo of Park
Team

Thanks for taking a look at our idea, Nancy! And thanks for the link and research about screen time. We're looking at an option intentionally remove the phone from our experience and an option where use the phone as an interactive component of the performance/experience that can be replicated at home. That way it becomes a connection point instead of a barrier. We'll be testing this assumption as we further develop and iterate with playgroups. Good luck to you as well! I love how you talk about place-based solutions and that you are using HCD process.

View all comments