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Leveraging People and Places

How might we leverage neighborhoods and communities to create safe and engaging learning experiences for children at their earliest ages?


“We have never been to the kids museum. I mostly take my kids to the neighborhood's park." China Cristwell, mother of 18-month-old Moses, living in Oakland, California


As a child grows into the world, the safety and accessibility of their physical environment plays a role in healthy brain development and growth. Research shows that safe, responsive and nurturing environments are a crucial part of supporting the learning and development of children ages 0-3. Often, children and families are part of communities that may not even realize how equipped they are to support positive early childhood development. Whether the assets are physical spaces, supportive community members, or entirely unexpected resources, how can we broaden our understanding of who might be part of an innovative solution addressing this important challenge?

Whether considering playgrounds built for on-the-go learning, facilitating quality interactions at the local laundromat, or equipping a nearby community center to provide structure and promote engagement for early learning, communities and neighborhoods have immense opportunities to shape early childhood development. Although unusual and potentially surprising, a library, grocery store, green space, pediatrician’s office, or church may have the potential to impact a child’s earliest years in a profound way. As we consider the broader Prize question, how might we focus more deeply on designing neighborhoods and communities with very  young children and their families in mind, including those with the fewest resources? 

We are looking for solutions that leverage the rich assets of neighborhoods and support the safety, accessibility, and responsiveness of environments and communities surrounding children at their earliest ages. 

To further clarify this Opportunity Area, here are a few examples of initiatives aligned with leveraging neighborhoods and communities.

Libromat - Parent support for children’s early literacy through using time at the laundromat. 

Raising Places - Sparking solutions at the intersection of kids and place. 

Providence Talks:  How a city municipality is working to reduce the early childhood word gap.  

Note that these examples are not meant to be limiting, and successful proposals might look very different. Instead, it offers tangible cases that represents this Opportunity Area.



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We turn waiting into learning by providing subtle nudges to help parents leverage daily routines to increase their child’s language skills.

We turn waiting into learning by providing subtle nudges to help parents leverage daily routines to increase their child’s language skills.

Photo of John Nash
4 4

We use licensed, outdoor classrooms in city parks to make a high quality preschool education affordable for all families.

We use licensed, outdoor classrooms in city parks to make a high quality preschool education affordable for all families.

Photo of Andrew Jay
24 10

Pop-up human-centered design studios that are placed-based in neighborhoods to engage parents in creative problem solving with EC providers.

Pop-up human-centered design studios that are placed-based in neighborhoods to engage parents in creative problem solving with EC providers.

Photo of Nancy Lewis

EarlyEducatorSpace reimagines live/work housing to provide the best possible spaces for childcare entrepreneurs and the families they serve.

EarlyEducatorSpace reimagines live/work housing to provide the best possible spaces for childcare entrepreneurs and the families they serve.

Photo of Brenna
2 5