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The I Can Stimulation Program

A structured play curriculum and product for children with disabilities that creates an inclusive setting and increases school readiness.

Photo of Lucinda Kerschensteiner
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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 continue to do market research which just confirms what we have already shared in this application.

Name or Organization

Uhambo USA is the applicant and the implementing organization of this project. We are based in Colorado. Uhambo USA is a 501c3 that supports a long-standing organization in South Africa, the Uhambo Foundation. The Ndinogona "I Can" program originated with the Uhambo Foundation in South Africa. We are working together to bring the I Can program to the U.S.

Geography

Uhambo USA is based in Fort Collins, Colorado. We will pilot the program here in Colorado.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year 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)

While research has shown that all children can benefit from inclusive settings, too few opportunities are available. In 2015, 6.5 million students received special education in US schools, yet many schools did not meet the educational requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Our “I Can” program provides a solution for those who care for young children with disabilities including family, child care or classroom teachers. Through structured curriculum and a kit, the program provides inclusive opportunities, accelerates development, equips parents and centers.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Providing children with disabilities with opportunities to participate in quality childcare and early education in inclusive settings in their early years reduces their need for special education and other supports later in life. The “I Can” Stimulation Program is an award-winning design originating in South Africa. It consists of structured curriculum (with adaptations for various levels of disabilities) that is easy to follow and implement, a well-packaged collection of toys and activities to promote play and stimulation (the “kit”) and an online platform / intranet that provides ongoing training support for the center. The program has been designed by occupational therapists and parents who are often searching for practical tools to advance the development of children with disabilities. Uhambo will provide three tiers of products for the market, offering a range of affordable pricing and support, as described later on. The “I Can” program will be developed as a social enterprise in the US that will benefit Uhambo’s African programs that serve children with disabilities in low-resourced settings.

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

Six out of seven states surveyed indicated a shortage of trained child care providers for children with additional needs. A shortage of inclusive programs and the perception that they are expensive; however, a study of the Colorado prekindergarten program found that investing in these programs early on, resulted in savings of $4.7 million over three years in reduced special education costs. Parents often feel isolated and unsure how to support their children.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Providing children with disabilities and other special needs with opportunities to participate in quality childcare and early education in inclusive settings can help all children and parents. Uhambo USA is a nonprofit that supports a long-standing organization, the Uhambo Foundation, of Cape Town, South Africa who are experts in the disability sector of Africa. Uhambo provides holistic programs in under-resourced communities of Southern Africa including the award-winning Ndinogona "I Can" program that builds the capacity of childhood care centers and parents to care for and provide developmental opportunities for children with disabilities. Uhambo USA is developing a social enterprise in the US by offering the ‘I Can” program to the US market of care centers and schools that serve children with disabilities. With the vision of developing a social enterprise, we plan to employ people with disabilities in various stages of the production/distribution of the kit. In addition, the business model includes contributing to Uhambo South Africa's programs. The program includes three important elements: 1. A well-designed product, a kit of over 100 activities and games to develop children’s abilities and promote inclusion; 2. A structured curriculum for the user (schools, educators, day care centers and/or parents) that includes modifications and adaptations; and 3. An online platform that will give anyone in the Uhambo community access to a global network of users to promote learning and advocacy for children with disabilities. The objectives for the “I Can” program include: 1. Increase access and inclusion for children with disabilities in an educational setting 2. Provide inclusive opportunities for children with disabilities at home and in their community 3. Provide centers and schools with a fun and useful tool for developing children with disabilities to reach their full potential 4. Help communities overcome the stigma associated with disabilities 5. Build the capacity and enhance the ability and effectiveness of early childhood and education staff to better serve children with disabilities 6. Build the capacity of parents to work with their children and help them develop their potential 7. Build a global network of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities using this product 8. Support Uhambo’s South African programs which directly contribute to the ongoing development of the Ndinogona program to keep it innovative 9. Empower children with disabilities and those who support them including their families, and communities with knowledge, skills, resources and a voice to make an impact Utilizing the Lean Start Up model Uhambo has conducted market research to determine that there is a market in the US for this program. We have held feedback groups and have received positive feedback from facilities / centers in the US that want and need the program. It is particularly important for children with disabilities to receive quality care and early education that responds to their needs. Our target market is early childhood day care centers, special needs schools/centers and respite centers in the US. Centers that specifically serve children with disabilities want this product because it is a standardized curriculum. The program is adaptable to children based on their level and type of disabilities. It helps increase the capacity of centers and better utilize their staff and volunteers. We train the centers to use the program and then provide ongoing training and support through an online portal. We are offering three tiers of products and pricing: -Option 1 is for centers / schools that have well qualified staff and need minimal training; they have the capacity to implement the program right away upon being trained. This option includes the kit(s), manuals and basic training videos. This training allows them to train others. -Option 2 is designed for those who do not have disability knowledge and need more extensive training. It includes kit(s), manuals, comprehensive training and online follow up. -Option 3 is designed for schools / centers that need more customization. The full package includes kit(s), manuals, and training + ongoing mentoring. All receive various forms of access to the online platform, offering a place for connecting, learning and exchanging ideas around the world and locally.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The primary beneficiaries are the children who participate in the program. We are also serving their caregivers and teachers who benefit by learning new skills to develop children with disabilities and become more efficient with their limited time; parents who are craving new resources and tools to use at home to continue to develop their children. Additional secondary beneficiaries include the wider community which will benefit from educated, well informed individuals who understand how to include children from a young age and also how to be a resource on disabilities to others in the community. With the online platform, we will be able to increase who benefits and reach wider circles of people. As a social enterprise, people with disabilities will benefit from the employment opportunities offered to them to assemble the kit. And taking the model one step further as a social enterprise, children with disabilities in Africa benefit as the business model provides for contributing a portion of profits and delivering the “I Can” kits to programs in South Africa.

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

We expect our program to have an impact at multiple levels: Children: Special Needs Care Centers will see an increase in school readiness of children. Research shows that providing supports to children with disabilities in their early years reduces their need for special education later in life. Workforce: There is a shortage of trained staff at care centers. Centers will experience a reduction in turnover by providing the opportunity for training in this structured program. The centers will also be able to engage volunteers in a new way by training them. The online platform will allow for ongoing training, support and development; staff can connect with other professionals around the world who are using the kit in creative ways. Parents: Parents will be more equipped and empowered to support their children at home and to interact with them in a manner that promotes their development. The online platform also provides a way for them to connect and not feel alone, overwhelmed or ill-equipped. Schools: Schools that are interested in being more inclusive will now have the opportunity to serve a different population or better serve children with disabilities who are currently enrolled. The program also meets the educational requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Systemically: Uhambo’s vision is to create an inclusive society, to challenge people’s thinking about inclusion and provide an opportunity where children of all abilities are included.

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

The I Can program originated as a tool designed for low-resourced settings in South Africa. In the US, our product will serve schools and centers that serve a diverse population including low-income families. In developed countries such as the US, disability tends to be linked with poverty and is both a potential cause and a consequence of disability. Research shows that low-income children are more likely to have special needs. Disability can be a barrier to education even more than socio-economic status, rural location, or gender. In 1997-1998, 41% of families with infants and toddlers who received early intervention services earned less than $25,000 a year and another 29 percent earned $25,000 to $50,000 a year. Head Start, a federal Department of Health and Human Services program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families, provides early education services to nearly 1 million low-income children up to age 5 every year. Federal requirements require that children with disabilities comprise at least 10% of its enrollment. There are 39 Head Start and 20 Early Head Start programs in Colorado alone. Through Head Start in 2016, 1,686 low income children were identified with special needs.

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

Providing children with disabilities with opportunities to participate in quality childcare and early education in inclusive settings in their early years reduces their need for special education and other supports later in life. The “I Can” Stimulation Program is an award-winning design originating in South Africa. It consists of structured curriculum (with adaptations for various levels of disabilities) that is easy to follow and implement, a well-packaged collection of toys and activities to promote play and stimulation (the “kit”) and an online platform / intranet that provides ongoing training support for the center. The program has been designed by occupational therapists and parents who are often searching for practical tools to advance the development of children with disabilities. It is innovative in the following ways: 1. Impact - it creates long lasting developmental outcomes for children; it catalyzes positive changes in lives of families and communities 2. While there are other kits on the market there are none that focus on care providers and provides online curriculum and community 3. The tiered approach of training and service 4. Providing an online platform to create a global community and network by connecting people with common challenges and interests 5. Impacting the system and creating an inclusive society 6. A social enterprise that hires/trains people with disabilities and serves children with disabilities

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

With a presence in southern Africa already, we are adapting the I Can program for the US. Simultaneously, we have a team in the UK who are also launching the program. In the US, Colorado will be our pilot site where the team has a strong network. Here we will focus on training our US team by our SA practitioners, further testing the product, building our brand and business development. With multiple delivery methods, including both in person and online, the I Can program can reach a diverse set of customers. An online platform provides the ability for end users to connect with other parents or caregivers of children with disabilities, learn from our training videos, find community resources and exchange ideas on how to further use the toys and activities. Our train the trainer program will reach caregivers, teachers, parents and professional practitioners (PTs/OTs) who then have the ability to train their staff and community members on using the kit in their centers or in communities. We also know the power of referrals and networking among the disability communities. Initial market research in Colorado alone, our pilot region, shows that there are 39 Head Start and 20 Early Head Start programs, 21 facilities for intermediate care for families with children with disabilities, 33 facilities for Home and Community Based Services for autism, 114 respite care centers and 24 schools that specifically serve children with disabilities.

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

The product has proven to be successful in South Africa after over five years of delivery to numerous low income communities. For example, in a six month time period this year in South Africa, the program was delivered to 675 children at centers, 68 caregivers were trained and 22 centers have received training for a total impact of 765. To evaluate its feasibility in the US, over the past year we have engaged in a formal business planning process, conducted focus groups with child care centers and disability agencies, held formal feedback meetings with health care / educational professionals, worked with the UK team to understand their market, and worked extensively with the South African team to discuss modifications and adaptations to our prototype product for the US market. In focus groups, we have received very positive remarks including: “It’s perfect for our staff! We love that it is color coded!”; “We like the Africa references and introducing the kids to other cultures.”, “This program provides independence for parents. Parents with kids that have multiple disabilities spend a lot of time being told by medical professionals what to do. The kit would give parents a tool to help them interact with their child more naturally.” Utilizing the Lean Start Up model, our plans include: -Conduct Train the Trainer and equip a core team of US trainers -Identify early customers to pilot the program -Make adjustments to program based on feedback -Ship initial inventory from South Africa -Identify product vendors to build kits in the US -Build online platform for training support -Build basic website for product information -Develop social enterprise model Our US team consists of all volunteers - a volunteer Director, three volunteer board members and an intern who are all able to dedicate hours on a regular basis to the enterprise in this initial start up phase. Our South African team consists of a program manager who is dedicated to the I Can program delivery in SA and supporting the efforts in the US and the UK.

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

Our business model is based on proven models in the educational and curriculum field. While we know that the business climate is different in South Africa, the model is also based on testing it out in South Africa and modifying it for the US market. We have qualified business professionals on our start-up team, including a professor of design engineering who has started and successfully managed several product-based companies.

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

We strongly believe in the human-centered approach. We have used interviews and prototyping, feedback sessions. As a graduate several years ago of Colorado State University's Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program, this approach was integrated into our studies and practice. Our partner organization in South Africa is also versed in it and practices its principles.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

Eight years ago at the age of 40, I returned to school to complete an MBA in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprises (GSSE) at Colorado State University. This degree changed the course of my career and I become passionate about the social entrepreneurial field. Prior to GSSE, I had been self employed for 10 years as a business and career coach. I had worked with hundreds of clients in helping them define their purpose and passion in their careers, transition to something more meaningful and navigate change. I was 27 years old and was often coaching people 10-20 years older than me. I was one of the first coaches in my area of Northern Colorado. I became tired of all the business development activities that are required to maintain a thriving practice so I joined our County’s Workforce Center and coached individuals in our community in career loss during our recession. I learned a lot about federal workforce programs, which I knew nothing about and I enjoyed helping people every day. I eventually contributed to developing and managing new programs and with a knack for business, I developed the agency’s first fee-based services, allowing the Center to generate its own revenue. My GSSE team focused on the business challenges of the mobility device industry in Africa. After meeting the founder of Uhambo Foundation, Shona McDonald, during our semester abroad in Southern Africa, she and I stayed in touch and determined that I would start the US-based nonprofit to support their work in Africa. Uhambo USA is a small nonprofit that raises funds through grants and donations in the US to support programs in Africa. Along the way, I witnessed the Ndinogona program during one of my visits. I was so impressed, I began wondering if there was a need in the US. My board and I started more intensive research this past year and have dedicated time to developing the business model here. Since I am a volunteer director for Uhambo, I do need to work and am gratefully employed with a Florida-based company that supports nonprofits with in kind and financial resources. As such, my employer is quite supportive of my work with Uhambo and I am able to dedicate time to Uhambo. In this role, I am surrounded by nonprofits and direct numerous other projects in the social sector to help them launch and expand. I am also an active Rotary member and participate in many committees and community projects. Outside of my work, my husband and I live in one of the best small cities in the US, Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University, entrepreneurs, craft breweries and people who have a love for the outdoors and are appreciative of our environs. I love to travel and take advantage of playing in our Rocky Mountains whenever I can. I am known as a connected person who invests in relationships and cares deeply about people. Lastly, over the past year, I started horse riding and jumping again (after over 25 years) and am so excited to have found my next “thing”.

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

We could also use more people who have more time available. Our team is great and yet we all have jobs and busy lives. Our South African partner is fabulous and we work closely with them. We definitely need more partners to carry out all that we intend to do. (See next answer.)

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We could use assistance with: -Supply chain guidance; do we continue to import the kits from South Africa or source the products in the US -US toy regulations -Internet distribution -Online platform development for global community -Navigating the federal system for department of education funding at a local level

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

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

In any of the areas mentioned above. Thank you!

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).

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucindak/ www.uhambousa.org www.LucindaK.com http://www.4socialchange.org/about/staff/

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

This video provides an overview of the challenges of people with disabilities in Africa and is the basis for the work of Uhambo and Shonaquip in South Africa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvJudx4r8hk

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

We never heard from anyone about being mentored. I would have really appreciated that opportunity.

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

We continue to do market research which just confirms what we have already shared in this application.

Name or Organization

Uhambo - legal name of applicant The Uhambo Foundation - Partner organization in Cape Town, South Africa

Geography

Lucinda Kerschensteiner, Founding Director of Uhambo is located in Northern Colorado. I have two board members in my area. We are planning to implement our pilot in our region - Front Range of Colorado.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year 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 your submission in one clear sentence

Uhambo's I Can Stimulation Program is a structured play curriculum and product for children with disabilities that creates an inclusive setting and increases school readiness in US day care centers, special needs centers and schools.

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

While research has shown that all children can benefit from inclusive settings, too few opportunities are available. In 2015, 6.5 million students received special education in US schools, yet many schools did not meet the educational requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Our program provides a solution for those who care for young children with disabilities including family, child care or classroom teachers. Through its structured curriculum and kit of activities, the program provides inclusive opportunities, accelerates the children’s development, equips parents.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.

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

  • Yes, share my contact information

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Iliriana Kacaniku
Team

Dear Lucinda Kerschensteiner ,
Welcome to the Early Childhood Innovation Prize. We're thrilled to host you and your idea here, and help it grow further. I enjoyed reading your solution for specialized education needs, and how an idea that had succeeded in South Africa can create a value elsewhere, especially in the United States. That's truly inspiring. I'm curious to learn more about the feedback that you've received during focus group discussions. Beside the highlights of color coding, learning about other cultures, and fostering a more natural interaction between parents and children, did you get any insights that would require adjustment of the I Can Stimulation program and its content to the US beneficiaries?
Again, thank you for sharing your idea with our platform, and look forward to hearing more about it.

Best regards,
Iliriana

Spam
Photo of Lucinda Kerschensteiner
Team

Hello! Hope your holidays were great! I have several pages of notes from the sessions we have conducted and just included some highlights in our application. I went into the sessions assuming that we would need to reformat the kit for the US market (and we all know what happens when we assume! :)) but was pleasantly pleased to hear that those who have seen it so far find it valuable as is. Of course, some editing would need to happen in the training material for US English. Otherwise, the developmental principles, activities and toys are universal, We do have some ideas for tweaking it for other specialized segments but for this particular general market, so far, it seems to meet their needs. We recognize that we have more testing to do!