Motivational Boost to Increase Parenting Program Engagement
Motivational Boost uses parents intrinsic goals to help them sustain engagement with an evidence-based parenting program.
Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)
The idea has continued to evolve during the Prize with input from our Prize mentor (thanks, Cambria!) and our user testers.
Name or Organization
Elliot Berkman, University of Oregon, Department of Psychology and Center for Translational Neuroscience
Lisa May, University of Oregon, Department of Psychology and Center for Translational Neuroscience
I am based in Eugene, Oregon. Implementation of Motivational Boost will occur worldwide.
What is your stage of development?
New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD
What is the stage of your proposal?
Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.
An automated text message that links a user's core values to engaging with the parenting program.
A motivational boost user contemplating her core values.
Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)
The #1 problem described to us by providers of evidence-based parenting programs such as Triple-P is the lack of parent motivation, leading to reduced engagement, low response rates, and attrition. Agencies are forced to spend precious resources such as staff time to increase engagement. We have a prototype tool, Motivational Boost, that readily layers on top of evidence-based parenting programs, that increases engagement, thereby improving overall efficacy and reducing costs and staff burden.
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)
Parenting interventions can effectively mitigate the deleterious effects of early adversity (experiences such as such as poverty, abuse, and drug use) on children's lifetime health and wellbeing. Furthermore, certain parenting interventions can be effective at scale, suggesting that targeting parents is a feasible way to improve outcomes at the societal level. For example, the Positive Parenting Program (Triple-P) is implemented in 25 countries and 21 languages; more than 75,000 people have been trained to implement it.
However, a major barrier to realizing the full potential of programs such as Triple-P is lack of parent motivation, leading to reduced engagement, low response rates, and attrition. We have developed a prototype tool, Motivational Boost, that readily layers on top of existing evidence-based parenting programs, to directly address the problem of low motivation to fully engage with a program.
In its simplest form, Motivational Boost begins with a 10-minute guided contemplation of core personal values, followed by a structured exercise wherein participants self-generate personal goals for parenting, connect those goals to course content, and then identify specifically how their parenting goals fulfill their identified core values. Content generated during this exercise is then relayed back to the participant throughout the duration of the parenting course, often in the form of highly personalized SMS text messages.
What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)
Several parenting programs are known to change parent behavior in ways that improves health and wellbeing for children. However, the overall effectiveness of these "evidence-based programs" is dampened by attrition and parent disengagement. In our numerous conversations with providers of evidence-based programs, the #1 problem they identify that limits the efficacy of their programs is lack of parent engagement in and motivation to complete the program.
Explain your idea (5000 characters)
The primary goal of Motivational Boost is to increase engagement in and enjoyment of evidence-based parenting programs. For example, a parenting program would be more effective if participants completed an average of 7.5 sessions (out of 8) instead of 4 or 5 sessions in a given time period. Motivational Boost is very low cost relative to staff time, so it provides a pragmatic way to increase retention that does not generate increased staff burden.
In its simplest form, Motivational Boost begins with a 10-minute guided contemplation of core personal values, followed by a structured exercise wherein participants self-generate personal goals for parenting, connect those goals to course content, and then identify specifically how their parenting goals fulfill their identified core values. Content generated during this exercise is then relayed back to the participant throughout the duration of the parenting course, often in the form of highly personalized SMS text messages. The messages are deeply tailored to the person, either by the user him/herself or by a machine learning algorithm (which is currently being developed by our team), to be highly relevant to the parent's core values, which increases engagement and prevents reactance and threat responses. Participants typically enjoy receiving the messages.
Motivational Boost is easily scalable because (a) it can be delivered anywhere in the world using mobile technology, (b) the content-generation phase is brief and can be done online, and (c) some content generation and all delivery can be automated by computerized algorithms. The low cost of text messaging coupled with its very high global prevalence also means that MB can be delivered across the worldwide socioeconomic spectrum.
Motivational Boost is in its second round of seed funding from the Bezos Family Foundation via the Frontiers of Innovation Initiative within the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. My team has developed a prototype and that has gone through several iterations of piloting, usability/feasibility testing, and revision in the target population of low SES / high stress parents of young children and in partnership with leaders of evidence-based programs including Triple-P.
Who benefits? (1500 characters)
There are two beneficiaries. First is parents enrolled in evidence-based parenting programs such as Triple-P. They benefit by feeling more energized and motivated to engage in the program, then benefit to a greater extent from the parenting program itself because of this increased engagement. Second is providers of the evidence-based parenting programs. They benefit by reduced cost and staff burden generated by increasing participation in the programs.
My team has extensive experience working with both groups. One of the co-developers of Motivational Boost is a clinical psychologist who has several years of experience delivering evidence-based parenting programs through the WIC program in Oregon. We have spent the last six months conducting focus groups and interviews with both parents (i.e., end-users) and leadership at agencies and other organizations that deliver the interventions.
What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)
Increasing engagement in evidence-based parenting programs will have long-lasting impact on parenting behaviors and the life trajectories of the children of our participants. Even more broadly, our theory of change and conceptual model suggest a low-cost, scalable tool that could increase motivation to engage in any number of health-related behaviors such as smoking cessation and dietary change.
How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)
Motivational Boost could impact low-income children by helping their parents get the most out of existing parenting programs. Evidence-based parenting programs such as Triple-P are applied most in low-income settings. Additionally, income is inversely related to attrition in parenting programs: low-income parents tend to disengage from parenting programs at greater rates than high-income parents.
Motivational Boost has been created with low-income parents in mind. It can be completed entirely on a smartphone. The initial session requires only about 30 minutes of time and does not need to be completed all at once. The subsequent contacts are very brief (1-2 min) and occur via text messaging.
Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)
Motivational boost is innovative in two ways. First, it builds from a strong evidence base in social and clinical psychology about self-affirmation, construal level, and motivational interviewing to create a robust technique to increase parents' motivation to engage in a parenting program. Second, we are developing a machine learning recommender system to generate additional content that is customized to each user's personal "motivational profile," developed from the user's responses during a brief initial intake session.
Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)
Motivational Boost has been developed from the very earliest stages with scalability in mind. The program can now be delivered entirely via smartphone. The first part involves a guided, values-based exercise to orient parents to how their core values are connected with the content of the parenting program. This takes about 30 minutes and can done on most smartphones. The next phase is all delivered by text messaging.
Both phases can be automated so they require very little human input on the provider side. The technological challenges and costs to scaling are minimal.
The main challenge to scalability is cultural adaptation. The program currently is optimized for low-income English speaking North Americans. We are currently adapting the program for Latinx users.
Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)
The team includes myself as PI, a full-time project manager, and a full-time clinical psychologist with expertise in evidence-based parenting programs and motivation. My team has developed a prototype and that has gone through several iterations of piloting, usability/feasibility testing, and revision in the target population of low SES / high stress parents of young children and in partnership with leaders of evidence-based programs including Triple-P. The next step is to implement a mid-size efficacy trial within the Triple-P system, and we have the contacts and expertise to be able to do that. After that, full scale implementation in a larger set of Triple-P users will require additional technological resources.
We are also working with a group of collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania who are developing the machine learning algorithm.
The main feasibility challenge for the long run is to identify a partner or set of partners who can help us develop a stable front-end platform as well as the automated text-message delivery service. We have a working prototype for feasibility/usability/acceptability testing and small pilot tests.
We are also lacking entrepreneurial expertise on our team, so we are seeking help in the business planning and marketing sides of our product as well.
Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)
The viability of our business model is based on its scale. The majority of the operating costs are front-loaded, with the greatest effort and most resources going into design and implementation. Once implemented (and we have an operating prototype), the Motivational Boost system requires only web hosting, SMS charges, and some personnel. The ongoing costs of Motivational Boost are very low compared to the potential savings related to increased participant retention and program engagement.
HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)
We have been running iterative focus groups and user testing with actual parents from the very earliest stages of the project. Parents have provided input on the theory, conceptualization, design, and now are actively engaged in prototyping. We have been particularly focusing on individual user testing to earn a detailed and nuanced understanding of how parents interact with the system, what they like, and what they would like to see changed.
In a broader sense, the entire concept of Motivational Boost was developed to be maximally accessible and usable for parents. The intervention component can be completed in brief periods of time, at times that are convenient for parents, and on parents' own smartphones. Our user group is people who have difficulty completing intervention modules - often because of time limitations - so we designed Motivational Boost from the ground up to be extremely convenient, easy-to-use, and human centered to cater to the needs of busy parents.
Tell us more about you (3000 characters)
The idea for Motivational Boost grew from the work in my lab on behavior change. We have looked at a variety of ways to increase motivation to help people change their behavior, mostly in health-related domains such as exercise and smoking cessation. In attending meetings put on by the Frontiers of Innovation Initiative (FOI) at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, we learned that motivation is also a key missing piece in many parents enrolled in parenting programs. The FOI generously funded the initial two rounds of studies to build the evidence base behind the intervention; we are now excited to move to the next phase and begin to launch Motivational Boost as a stand-alone product.
I love the creative and optimistic spirit in the early childhood space. Rather than shying away from the challenges we face, people in the field are inspired by the scope of the impacts that are possible through relatively small interventions. I also love the idea of using psychological theory to generate meaningful improvements in people's life trajectories.
My experience in this area is focused on research with parents. I have run several studies that revolve around the idea of helping parents to make a connection between their core values - the high-level concepts, principles, and ideas that make them who they are - and good parenting behaviors. I am deeply focused on finding ways to help parents connect good parenting with their core values in a low-cost and scalable way.
Lisa May, Project Manager
Elliot Berkman, PhD
Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)
We have partnered with the Frontiers of Innovation Initiative in the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. We are looking for technical partners interested in developing the web-based front-end as well as the automated text messaging system. We are also looking for entrepreneurs to help us identify customers and market the idea.
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)
The main feasibility challenge for the long run is to identify a partner or set of partners who can help us develop a stable front-end platform as well as the automated text-message delivery service. We have a working prototype for feasibility/usability/acceptability testing and small pilot tests, but we need to pay our "technology debt" by developing a more robust, stand-alone system.
We are also lacking entrepreneurial expertise on our team, so we are seeking help in the business planning and marketing sides of our product as well.
Would you like mentoring support?
If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)
Entrepreneurism, business planning, marketing, product design / user experience
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).
Elliot Berkman is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Lisa May is the Project Manager and holds a doctorate in biology. Their research is about the motivational and cognitive factors that contribute to success and failure real-world goals, as well as the neural systems that support goal pursuit and behavior change. They are also part of the Center for Translational Neuroscience. Their websites are http://sanlab.uoregon.edu (lab) and http://ctn.uoregon.edu (Center).
[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.
Automated text messages from the system.
A Motivational Boost user tests a prototype.