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Safe, Secure, and Loved: Resilient Families

We are creating the platform to scale up a system of community-led, mindfulness-based parent education that supports nurturing parenting.

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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)

The most major changes in our thinking that have occurred as a function of: developing this application, getting feedback from our Prize mentor; and further discussions with colleagues, students and community leaders, have to do with how we are framing our actual innovation. In the first draft of this application, our focus was placed on sharing what was innovative about our mindfulness-based, trauma informed parent education curriculum (which is focused on the science of resilience and shown to be successfully led by community leaders). Through discussions and targeted feedback from our Prize coach, we determined that the proper emphasis for our innovation is the creation of a user-centered ‘contextualized' or personalized technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for continued training and personalization). This innovation will allow more communities to adopt SSL-RF and benefit from parent education curriculum based on the science of resilience. This realization that we were 'burying the lead' came directly from the discussions and feedback with our mentor Michelle Lee. The clarity gained from our coaching session led to additional discussions with collaborators, and adding more engineers as partners. We are grateful to Open IDEO-ECD for our participation in this process of discovery and innovation. With our new partners we have identified some new strategies for making progress in prototyping our apps, and we have gained insight into ways to gain expertise for some of our additional goals using video/AR in our training system.

Name or Organization

Barbara M. Burns Funding would go to the legal entity: 501c(3) Safe, Secure and Loved


Current location is primarily in San Jose but implementation will allow a national and global scale.

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?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

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

Our community-led parent education system, called Safe, Secure and Loved-Resilient Families (SSL-RF), is based on research in early child development, pediatrics, neurobiology, and public health, and was developed to address the needs of families in communities facing adversity and trauma. It would be a game-changer to create a user-centered ‘contextualized' technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for continued training and personalization) to allow more communities to adopt SSL-RF and benefit from discoveries from the science of children’s resilience.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Safe, Secure and Loved-Resilient Families (SSL-RF) is a community-led parent education system that addresses the negative impacts of parenting stress and early childhood adversities. SSL-RF is based on research findings from early child development, pediatrics, neurobiology, and public health on early brain development and the significance of nurturing parenting for young children’s trajectories of resilience. SSL-RF places a strong emphasis on how and why community adversities and parenting stress challenge nurturing parenting, as well as how practices of mindfulness and self-compassion can support family habits of resilience. Parents learn to identify opportunities during daily family routines to promote strong attachment, self regulation and executive functioning skills as part of a manualized curriculum of high-impact learning activities, crafts, movement, and discussion prompts. Our innovation is the development of a user-centered ‘contextualized' and personalized technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for continued training and personalization) which will allow online training of community leaders. This will support the ability of SSL-RF to expand, domestically and internationally.

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

The SSL-RF community-led parent education system shares the science of brain development, parenting sensitivity, and child development, and strengthens child and family resilience. The problem we are aiming to solve is how to expand our impact. We are creating a user-centered ‘contextualized' technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for adaptive learning and training) to allow more communities to adopt SSL-RF and benefit from the science of resilience.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Recent discoveries from neurobiology provide new insights as to why early childhood trauma and family adversities have serious negative impacts on early brain development. When parents experience high levels of stress, they are challenged to provide the nurturing and physiological ‘co-regulation’ required for healthy social, emotional and cognitive development. An intervention which effectively promotes children’s resilience must address: 1) parenting stress, well being, and hope; 2) education as to specific parenting behaviors that promote nurturing and physiological ‘co-regulation’; and 3) education on what types of daily family experiences promote children’s resilience and how to provide those experiences in daily family routines. These three principles framed the creation of our parent education system for families of young children. Our system of parent education consists of six two-hour workshops. User-needs were identified across 5 years of collaboration with leaders from an underserved and marginalized community. The first image above shows the 6 steps in the current system of training facilitators. A site recruits participants and a certified SSL facilitator provides a workshop series for parents. At the end of SSL,parents are recruited to become facilitators (step 2). They shadow a group led by a certified SSL facilitator, and complete advanced training (step 3), then co-lead a group with advanced training on specific focus on parenting challenges of empathy, co-regulation in parent-child interactions, and the continuation of mindful practice between workshops. Fidelity and evaluation assessment provide feedback to facilitators-in-training and when they reach criteria, they become certified as SSL facilitators. Site staff receive training for distributing workshop materials, leading program evaluation, and implementing fidelity and evaluation assessments. Proposed Innovation for Technology Training of SSL Facilitators. With the creation of a system of user-centered contextualized and personalized technology (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for adaptive learning and training), all aspects of training and support have the potential to be improved, systematized, and scaled up to reach more communities. In the second image (above) is shown the six steps of the proposed system of training. Sites recruit staff and community leaders and complete online training modules with personalized learning (steps 1-2). As a group they complete a virtual parent SSL group and subsequent debriefing and focus groups (step 3). Staff and community leaders train with 3napps we are building to target specific challenging issues (VR empathy app; co-regulation app; and the text messaging system to promote daily mindful practice) (step 4). Staff and community leaders co-lead in-person groups and are supported by weekly advanced training. Advanced training is supported by information from co-leaders' fidelity assessments and evaluations (step 5). Pending meeting criteria targets for fidelity and evaluation, community members achieve certification as SSL facilitators. Creating a technology system to train and certify facilitators, and provide continued training guidance and monitoring requires training to be high-impact, engaging, and personalized and contextualized for the target community. It needs to have the capability to be modified from the challenges uncovered during online training modules, questions raised during workshops, as well as informed by evaluation assessments, fidelity evaluation and data from intervention supports. We are working to accomplish this by creating video-based modules for the Training Institute (step 3) and by building tools for adaptive quizzes/surveys, data collection and management. We plan to create a virtual parent group for facilitator practice (step 4) and experience with various group challenges. Advanced training (steps 4,5, and 6) will be supported by the creation of the specific technology tools related to 3 specific needs. These needs include: 1) a parental empathy VR app; 2) a wearable app to support awareness of physiological co-regulation (based on IR vagal nerve); and 3) a daily automated texting system to support adherence to daily mindful parenting practices. To enhance all aspects of training we plan to create a "google home-like" system of video/augmented reality (AR) in which we will have answers to hundreds of key questions that have come up during training. We recognize that the human-centered design approach will yield additional technology needed to support SSL facilitators to solve challenges in training, monitor performance in training, and support parent challenges. We have begun to develop the online modules (step 2); the apps targeting the parent challenges (step 4); and fidelity (step 5). Next we will work on the virtual parent group (step 3); and video/AR AI analytics system (steps 2-6)

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

1. By strengthening child, parent, family, and community resilience with a sustainable community solution, there is the potential to address the intractable community challenges of disadvantage, adversity, and violence in new and important ways. The beneficiaries of this approach are first, young children. When supported with sensitive nurturing, children facing early adversities have a greater potential to gain the capacities underlying resilience. These critical "resilience-trajectory" capacities include strong attachment, self-regulation and executive function skills. Our approach also benefits individual parents who, following their participation, gain increased parental confidence, resilience, and family strengths, and reduced symptoms of depression. Finally, the establishment of SSL community leaders also supports community resilience. 2. Our team has more than 30 years of experience working with families from underserved communities. Our research program has focused on understanding the key targets for intervention and ways to promote sensitive and nurturing parenting. Across 5 years, in San Jose, we have engaged Latino families who have recently come from Mexico. Our team of engineers at SCU has expertise in AI, biomedical engineering and VR/AR app systems development. The mission statement for SCU includes the idea of 'engineering and technology for good' in the world. Our partnership on this innovation reflects our deepest values.

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

Our goal is to create a user-centered ‘contextualized' technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for continued training and individuation, etc.) to allow more communities to adopt SSL-RF and strengthen child, family and community resilience. Strengthening resilience will have a powerful impact. This program has the potential for systemic change as it allows more families from communities experiencing adversities and trauma to buffer negative impacts of stress on young children. In San Jose, more than 20 parents have become certified SSL Community Leaders (in-person training), and they are leading workshops at community centers, schools, libraries and churches. They are impacting the community as well as individual families in powerful ways. Following participation in SSL-RF, we have seen increases in parental confidence, family strengths, mindfulness in parenting, and parental resilience. Parents report that the program has transformed their lives and given them hope. Parents continue to volunteer to assist new parent groups in their communities. This is the picture of potential systemic change. It is very powerful to share information, neighbor-to-neighbor, about resilience, the developing brain, and practical ways to support young children. The community impact of SSL-RF has engendered interest from research scientists, early childhood educators, social service providers and health care professionals, locally, nationally and internationally.

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

The focus of this idea, and our previous research, is on young children from families experiencing adversity and stress due to economic disadvantage and community violence. Our solution to create a system of ‘contextualized' and personalized technology to expand the reach of Safe, Secure and Loved-Resilient Families would have great importance for all families, but our most critical and urgent task is to create ways to expand SSL-RF in communities facing economic hardship and early childhood adversities. The creation of a personalized solution will be guided, across all steps, using design-thinking approaches and solutions will be based on user needs.

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

There are multiple levels of innovation in our work and in the current concept. At a macro level we are working to allow communities to take over the power of healing the impacts of adversities and trauma. That is the first powerful innovation. We have created a parent education system that allows community leaders to become effective (and certified) facilitators. Neighbor-to-neighbor teaching interactions have a unique power to them. The second layer of innovation is how we have integrated the complex findings and implications from neurobiology, child development, clinical psychology and public health, into a memorable and user-friendly system of parent education. By incorporating practices of mindfulness and self compassion into the core of each workshop, we have provided parents with a early boost towards well-being. This has allowed parents (and facilitators) to better manage their own stress and more skillfully support their families and friends. The technological innovations allow a new way to employ AI to support training and technological tools/apps for specific parent supports. Each of these layers of innovation is exciting. However, we believe that the combination of these three levels of innovation will allow for some very major ECD changes in supporting parents and families.

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

Scale is our area of growth both in terms of the focus for innovation and our long-term financial sustainability. In order to move SSL-RF to scale, and reach a very significant number of end-users we need to have the infrastructure and training set such that more and more communities can benefit from discoveries from the science of resilience. Our innovation implements a user-centered 'contextualized' and personalized technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for adaptive learning and training). We have prototypes for some of the beginning components of our technological solution and we are working on apps to address three specific needs to support families (parent empathy app, wearable co-regulation monitor, and a daily text system to support mindful practice). The award from IDEO would allow us to more rapidly innovate with these technologies, complete many rounds of testing and revision, address the key barriers, and move to scale. We are highly enthusiastic as we believe that when communities can take over and provide neighbor-to-neighbor education to address the challenges of stress and early adversities, with practical and contextualized strategies that support individual, family and community resilience, there will be no limit to the number of end users.

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

Our understanding of the feasibility of promoting resilience in underserved families by using a community-led model continues to grow as we have (1) widened our alliance of mindful and resilient communities leaders who are passionately committed to promoting resilience in families, and (2) collected more evaluations on the impact of SSL-RF on individual families. Our confidence in its feasibility has been further supported as we have seen how this community-driven and community-led framework (with a specific focus is on health and well-being in young children) has captured the imagination of communities, scientists, early interventionists and policy makers. The idea of creating a pipeline to support community leaders acting as healing coaches for stress management, resilience and hope is growing in strength. With this approach we believe that we can weave a culture of health and well-being into the fabric of our community. The pathways to implementation and financial support are not yet clear as we are only in the beginning stages of creating this ‘contextualized' and personalized technology solution. However there is tremendous interest in our new approaches to addressing the vast needs of young families experiencing adversity and trauma. At the recent Zero-To-Three national conference of early childhood professionals there were 645 people in attendance at our SSL-RF workshop. (The expectation was that 30-40 people would attend!) Since that presentation, several private and government agencies have contacted us and asked us to come to their community to provided in-person train-the-trainer workshops. We need to accomplish this goal of an effective, user-friendly, sustainable adaptive learning and training technology system in order to address the needs of our communities. There is no doubt that the field of early childhood is looking for new and effective approaches to support their families of young children. Using 'technology for good' and creating an adaptive learning and training system such that SSL-RF can be shared with more communities is viable. How quickly we can develop the platform, apps and tools is a function of how much dedicated support we hold. We have a very talented team in place and our engineers are eager to work hand-in-hand with specialists in child development, public health and psychology. This vision to transform communities facing adversity such that new cultural norms can emerge around the need to buffer babies from stress and violence using parental responsiveness and strategies from the science of resilience is growing daily. We believe that these efforts to strive towards new cultural norms centered on individual and community hope, resilience and stress management are at the center of significant change.

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

At this point, we have much more to learn about business viability but we can address this question of business viability in two ways and also identify our most salient foreseen barrier. First, we know that there is a very large number of community, public, and private organizations that are interested in finding parent education that addresses issues of trauma and resilience, provides significant outcomes, and can be implemented at low cost in their community. The identification of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a major contributor to physical health, as well as mental health and well-being, has revealed that there is a much larger need for early prevention. Managing stress in early childhood and promoting resilience appears to be at the center of the solution. Currently, there are many parent education/intervention models on the market (e.g., Positive Parenting Program, Parent Child Interaction Therapy, Strengthening Families, Incredible Years, Exploring Together, Early Risers, 123 Magic, etc.). Safe, Secure and Loved is not trying to compete with these programs. Safe, Secure and Loved is designed to be a sustainable universal prevention program that is community-led and personalized to each community. We know that by having the program facilitated by community members, we can strengthen community resilience while supporting child and family resilience. Safe, Secure and Loved provides the tools and strategies for communities to address a critical problem related to early childhood health and well-being. To promote early childhood health and well-being, parent, family and community stress needs to be managed such that young children are effectively buffered from toxic adversities. Again, Safe, Secure and Loved is not competing with the established therapies and proven interventions for 0-3 years olds. If it flourishes on the market, Safe, Secure and Loved will allow for an increased consciousness, at the community level, of the need for early childhood nurturing and parent responsiveness. This increased consciousness should effectively decrease the stigma of parent therapy and interventions, such that families can more easily recognize when further intervention from professionals is needed. Second, once the technological solution for creating 'contextualized' personalized training of community leaders is built the actual SSL-RF program is low-cost. The largest cost for parent education programs is the training and maintenance of facilitators. Most community organizations do not have standing budgets but they do have interested and committed community leaders. As we developed the parent education curriculum for Safe, Secure and Loved we continued to be impressed by the fact that most parents who completed the SSL program volunteered to become involved in some way. They asked how to become a facilitator, how to bring the program to their children's school or church, or how to help their neighbors to join a group. This level of response to the program showed us that the program was addressing perceived needs. It was engendering hope in the community. As we consider our business viability we also see that one of our greatest strengths is our most salient foreseen barrier. We know that, in order to be successful with a technology solution, we must take the passion and purpose generated from our 'in-person training' and make sure that is evident in all aspects of our user-centered ‘contextualized' and personalized technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for adaptive learning and training). We will work against this foreseen barrier by employing user-centered design approaches at each step in the process across pilot research and development.

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

We have used a human-centered perspective in all aspects of the design of SSL-RF parent education curriculum. The specific content of this community-led, trauma-informed, mindfulness-based parent education program was developed across many years of pilot experimentation and focus groups with families. To give a snapshot on how human centered perspectives have impacted our design development we have included in the image above, our theory of change model. The most effective framing of our theory of change for Safe, Secure and Loved came from user interviews, focus groups, and survey results. User-input has allowed us to clarify the goals of Safe, Secure and Loved. The image above shows the SSL-RF theory of change and the six workshops are represented with the anchor, glass, suitcase, heart, school bus and butterfly workshops. Each workshop focuses on a physical symbol and the ideas underlying the habits of resilience connect to that symbol. As part of the workshops, the participants complete small crafts to bring home as 'resilient reminders' of the workshop's ideas. The baby toys brought home each week also connect to the symbol. Using user-centered approaches has allowed us to be sensitive to how critical it was to create a program that was memorable but not simple. We have fine-tuned our curriculum, as well as our facilitator training, using community reactions from both participants and facilitators. As we work on creating the user-centered ‘contextualized' and personalized technology solution (tools, platform, AR/VR apps, AI and analytics for adaptive learning and training) we are using this same human-centered approach. At its essence, the human-centered approach is embedded in our vision of 'contextualized' and personalized technology. We recognize that we have a great deal to learn about how to translate our in-person highly successful and need-based training to 'contextualized' and personalized technology, but we have the team in place with expertise in human-centered approaches to address these challenges.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

Across 30+ years Burns has worked in university-community research partnerships have studied children’s attention regulation, temperament, and school readiness. Her work has always involved multiple partners and this has allowed the initiative to learn from parents experiencing economic hardship, trauma and adversity. Before knowing about ‘human-centered design’, we were employing informal strategies to explore and identify the needs of parents facing domestic and community violence and economic hardship. It was apparent to us that our traditional approaches of early intervention and parent education were neither effective nor welcomed by many members of the community. Even the most skillful parent educator could put community members on the defensive. There was often a lack of excitement and hope around learning about early literacy, attention skills, and (especially) parenting styles. Across many years working with families enrolled in Early Head Start-Head Start programs we learned first-hand about the realities of poverty. Each year we gave many workshops to parents, teachers, administrators and staff about brain development, children’s school readiness needs and ways to promote educational experiences during daily routines. The discoveries from neurobiology regarding the early development of stress regulation and public health regarding adverse childhood events and life long psychological and physical health outcomes created a new urgency in program prevention. Combining this with the discoveries from clinical psychology on the significance of mindful and self compassion for healthy brain functioning and the identification of specific enrichment experiences which promoted children’s resilience (e.g. self regulation, executive function skills, attachment) provided us with a ‘neon-lit’ road map for the creation of a new type of prevention/intervention education which could support the very early capacities of young children and their parents. Based on our community experiences, we were sure that to be successful the prevention/intervention education program had to be led by the community. It also had to be exciting, highly engaging, and based on learning sciences. Finally, it had to deal with the realities of parenting stress and provide ways, such as mindfulness and compassion practices, for parents to relieve their stress and be strengthened with hope and peace. The current project is an attempt to authentically translate the science of resilience to community practice. Because our colleagues at Santa Clara University share this passion for social justice and using technology for good, we have been able to create the partnerships needed for potentially powerful innovation.

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

Our SSL TEAM includes: university faculty and students from Engineering, Child Development and Public Health; community professionals with expertise in Program Development, Policy, Community Organizing, and Education; and a large group of SSL Community Leaders. Our team membership will soon open to the world as part of a hackathon led by Santa Clara University in spring 2018. As one of our engineering colleagues said —‘we need to recruit young minds from around the world to solve problems of young minds can solve problems’. Our team is impressive and ready to partner with others.

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)

Our SSL-RF team is working to create prototypes of the technological platform and tools needed for online contextualized training. As a team we are using human-centered design thinking protocols to align the user needs to this initiative. As we think about next steps the main area to address is the continuity of partnerships. That our team to build our platform and technology is made up of primarily students is an amazing gift, but that gift has some inherent time commitment limitations. Our senior engineering students, from all fields of engineering, are working on specific components of our initiative as part of their senior design project. We are currently recruiting master’s level students to take on other components. Our child studies, psychology, sociology, women and gender studies, and public health students work on this as part of research credits. Supervision by faculty on each of these components is highly enthusiastic and but time limited. The support that would be most helpful would be a full-time project manager with human-centered project design experience. A full-time on site person could help all members of the team (university, nonprofit, and community) be more closely connected as the human-centered design work unfolds.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

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

Mentoring in business development Mentoring in expanding international development

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).

Barbara M. Burns (PI) is currently a Professor of Child Studies at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University and completed a NICHD postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California. Prior to coming to Santa Clara University, she was a Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Louisville. See for more bio and a list of relevant research publications and presentations.

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

We continue to be grateful to Michelle Lee who generously met with us for a detailed discussion of this work. The mentoring session led to a clearer framing of the innovation and this led the identification of some additional and highly valuable partners.

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

We have learned new ways to explain our goals and vision such that important collaborators and partners are increasingly joining our team. We have appreciated that some of the central power of our idea is embedded in user centered research. This is critically important to understand as we begin a new phase of project development. Finally, our own vision for a more resilient community through the use of neighbor-to-neighbor groups has continued to expand.


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Not every child wants to be a developer or IT specialist. It is clearly not the most interesting profession for children, but when they grow up everything changes. Of course, becoming a developer is a lot easier than being an engineer. The IoT engineers: have a high salary but the level of difficulty of their task and responsibility is also extremely high.

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