Enriching community by connecting those who love to teach with those who need it most.
FORME is an app that connects retired educators with children and families in need of childcare and early education assistance.
Name or Organization
What is your stage of development?
New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD
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 your submission in one clear sentence
FORME aims to join retired educators with children and families in need of occasional childcare in order to help children and new parents learn.
Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)
Education is an exponential asset, meaning those children who start off in a safe, healthy, enriching environment are projected upward at a rate that will be exponentially superior to their peers who were not as fortunate. In our day, it is imperative that young children be given an equal chance to succeed. By connecting children who might not otherwise have proper education in their formative years with retired professionals in childhood education, these children now have equal opportunity to be projected upward at the same rate as their well-to-do counterparts.
Select an Innovation Target
Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources.
Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)
FORME is an app-based network that creates a community of volunteer-based caretakers by joining retired educators with new or struggling parents.
What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)
All parents struggle to find affordable, quality care and often times must sacrifice either their work or their resources to educate their young children. Those parents who are new to a community do not have the same support system of friends and family members to help them care for their child, or simply offer guidance in the early stages of their child's development.
Explain your idea (5000 characters)
FORME seeks to create a community of finding and meeting needs. In many cultures, it truly takes a village to raise children. Many new or young mothers struggle to find the support they need to give their child the best start possible. Consider a refugee mother, 28 years old and in a new city, let alone a new culture. She is without her familial support system and in a culture that values privacy above community. Beyond that, she herself is learning about the culture. How might she raise her child to understand the nuances of language or the social norms of this new place?
FORME could change that. FORME connects families with retired educators to offer them free, educational care when they need it.
The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that there are a little over 3.6 million currently employed teachers. Of those, 44% are over 40 years old. The average retirement age of a teacher is 59 years, meaning each year we see a large group of educators who have a wealth of knowledge, a passion for teaching, and a lot of free time.
FORME is fueled by volunteers who delight in seeing children grow and would love to find a way to serve families in need in their community. Refugee families would request to have an educator come to their house for a 1-2 hour time slot while they are home. The educator would care for the children in that time, allowing the mother or parents time to take care of things they may need to do around the house. However, this time could also be an opportunity for parents to learn alongside their children, watching as the educator employs methods or language that they have amassed over years of working with children. Ideally, these casual, familial interactions would bridge gaps, build relationships, increase empathy amongst neighbors and give children the early education they may not receive otherwise.
Who benefits? (1500 characters)
The primary beneficiaries of FORME will be new parents, families new to a community, or refugee families in need of additional childcare and teaching. These families and children will benefit from the available knowledge and care the retired educators can provide. Additionally, the retired educators benefit from an opportunity to continue their passion and after finishing their working years. Lastly, the community benefits from the increased interconnectedness and the empathy between individuals of differing social and racial classes.
My experiences working with the beneficiaries of FORME are varied in their contexts. I have personal friendships with many new parents who have also found themselves in a new city due to job transfers. I have volunteered serving single parents and have interviewed refugee parents for this specific project. I also conducted interviews with parents whose children are under three years old in order to understand how they care for and teach their children.
What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)
If implemented, FORME could catalyze positive change throughout entire communities.
The impact is far-far reaching in two regards. First, if children of low-income or immigrant families are given more resources early on, their chances of success are obviously much greater. Second, in most places neighborhood proximity might be the only way retirees come in contact with new parents and refugee families. However, at such different stages in life it's unlikely that these two families would live near one another. What reason would they have to get to know one another?
So, the impact is on two fronts: child development and community ties.
How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)
Ideally, low-income children would be the main beneficiaries of this service. While middle class families can pay for daycare for their young children, many low-income families cannot. Through a volunteer childcare service, low-income families would have nearly equal access to early education and focused care.
Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)
This concept piggybacks off of platforms like Uber and AirBnB in its network style but applies those benchmarks to a new user group. Young families are accustomed to engagement on social media, so FORME meets them in a space where they are already comfortable. FORME seeks not only to create an online community, but also to strengthen existing communities by bringing the online connections to life.
Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)
FORME is app based and smart phones are arguably the norm at this point, so accessibility will not be a scaling problem. A barrier could be the number of retired educators willing to offer their time and services as a volunteer. As for the market, this model could be desirable to middle class families who are new to a neighborhood, low-income families who need extra support, or refugee families who want to give their kids what they cannot offer themselves.
Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)
At this stage, I believe the idea is feasible to implement. Technically and operationally, the app design is the main obstacle.
My plans are to iron out the details of the product's limitations and potential hesitations towards adoption of the idea. Financially, this could be a one-time buy in service, but I believe non-profit sponsorship seems like the most viable option.
Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)
The barriers I imagine are less operational and more interpersonal. For example, will people feel comfortable inviting even a vetted stranger into their home, especially with their children around? AirBnB has already tackled this obstacle, though, so I believe the market is ripe to receive an app like this.
HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)
I have interviewed approximately fifteen young and new mothers about the ways they see and encourage their child's development.
For example, I asked young mothers questions like...
"In what ways have you seen your child growing in this stage of life?"
"Has your child surprised you lately? How so?"
"Is there any toy or game that you encourage your child to interact with?"
"Tell me what a typical day looks like for your son/daughter."
"When thinking of your child, what do you hope for them?"
In addition to these questions, I have attended playgroups and spent hours with stay-at-home mothers to observe their day-to-day activities, how they keep their child entertained, and what they do with their free time.
A user profile of a young, refugee mother who cannot afford to work because childcare is too expensive. She spends each day with her son at home, watching tv or letting him play with his toys. She spends his nap time studying or reading as she prepares for citizenship exams. She is hopeful of what the future might look like for her son and would do anything to give him a better life.
Tell us more about you (3000 characters)
I am inspired by the willingness that exists in people to give of themselves. With the current political agenda surrounding the refugee crisis, I have been so encouraged to see communities stepping up to make their neighborhoods more welcoming to new families. I hope that FORME can offer communities a tangible way to serve their neighbors, bridge the empathy gap, and create friendships along the way.
I also saw opportunity when I read about the social isolation felt by retirees. Wonderful people who, because have stopped working, are out of their prime and phased out of their social sphere. They still have so much to offer, though, and I hope FORME can provide a platform to connect their expertise with a real need.
I am drawn to children because I believe the foundation of a healthier society lies in the hearts and minds of our youngest generation. I am excited about the prospect of shrinking the education gap amongst children of varying social and racial classes.
As for my experience, I researched the play and learning behaviors of children 0-3 years for six months in order to understand their patterns and preferences. I spoke with parents, grandparents, experts in the field of child development, and observed children at play on numerous occasions.
Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)
I do not yet! In order to bring FORME to fruition, I would need an app/software developer and a partner organization or non-profit to help launch the concept.
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)
I could use anyone and everyone!
I could especially use people who understand application design, but I could also use psychologists, child development specialists, people who were raised by caretakers, retired educators, and new parents to offer feedback, support and critique. I would love to hear from members of non-profit organizations to understand if this sounds like something they see as a viable endeavor.
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).