Neighborbaby Talent Squad
Transforming neighborhoods so that all babies thrive by rallying around neighborkids as everyday nurturers and community changemakers.
Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)
Over the course of this process, through consultation with my mentor and by reviewing other ideas and comments on the IDEO site, the ideas of this submission have evolved to (hopefully) better clarify the ways that a focus on neighborkids relates to babies, infant mental health and early childhood - the emphasis of this prize.
Name or Organization
St. Petersburg, Florida, beginning with the Lake Maggiore Shores neighborhood.
What is your stage of development?
Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years 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.
Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)
Imagine neighborhoods transformed to fully realize the power of early childhood. Where babies are respected as contributors and everyone in their lives is taking everyday action to nurture their developing minds, in surroundings rich with cherished assets. An ongoing, dynamic, human-centered co-design process where the system of focus is the overall community. Neighborkids have untapped capacities to provide everyday nurturing and to serve as community-builders and changemakers. When they lead the efforts, and neighbors and cross-sector professionals rally together around them…game CHANGED!
Select an Innovation Target
System design: Solutions that target changing larger systems.
Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)
Imagine a neighborhood transformed such that all babies are thriving – and it is happening because everyone is following the lead of neighborkids! Neighborbaby Talent Squad aims to develop a unique approach to place-based initiatives that is child-centered, resident-led, and focused on infant mental health. The overall goal is to optimize the everyday neighborhood experiences of babies that promote the core capacities of infant mental health (joyfulness and emotional regulation, relationship, exploration and learning, and contribution), and also to bring about well-synchronized systems changes relating to early childhood, so that all babies in entire neighborhoods are thriving. This approach aims to do so first by activating all of the talents and resources that already exist in the neighborhood, and then by neighbors inviting cross-sector professionals and systems in the related city and county to connect and synchronize their efforts with the assets and preferences of the neighborhood. AND…to do it all by following the lead of children up to age 10! In the Lake Maggiore Shores neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida, we are now witnessing this as it emerges in everyday moments, through neighborkid innovations, and in community-wide responses. By well-documenting and sharing how it happens, it will become possible for this new approach to early childhood development, systems change and community well-being to come to life in other places too.
What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)
What does it take to catalyze community transformation for population-scale infant mental health and thriving? The efforts of institutions are not yet synchronized with everyday efforts within families and neighborhoods, and while residents are increasingly “engaged in” place-based initiatives, they are rarely genuinely leading them. Children are talented as nurturers of babies, community-builders and changemakers but are under-utilized as change agents in collective early childhood efforts.
Explain your idea (5000 characters)
Neighborbaby Talent Squad aims to develop and refine a unique approach to place-based initiatives through continued focus on the Lake Maggiore Shores neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida (where I now live). This is a 0.4 square mile, primarily residential neighborhood of 2400 residents in 900 homes. Based on the U.S. Census count there are approximately 100 “neighborbabies,” from birth to age 3, and approximately 250 children ages 3 to 10. These babies, kids, and the growing network of involved adult neighbors are the primary “cast of characters,” along with an emerging group of cross-sector professionals invited by neighbors to join in.
Here’s how it works:
1. AMPLIFYING EVERYDAY NEIGHBORLINESS. It is essential to spot, document and share the many moments when children are already connecting with babies in everyday ways on the block. Children regularly nurture babies by delighting with them in play and exploration, soothing them in moments of distress, challenging and encouraging them. By intentionally spending free time with children on the block and tagging along with them in play, adult neighbors are able to notice the naturally occurring moments when children are interacting with babies. By taking cell phone photos and videos as “neighborhood paparazzi” and then sharing the moments and stories through social media, neighborhood newsletters, and a year-end “Neighborhood Baby Book,” it becomes possible to highlight the developmental milestones of babies and the “micro exchanges” through which children contribute to the mental health of babies. These then serve to acknowledge and affirm all the everyday ways of nurturing infant mental health and early childhood development (by people of all ages, not just by kids) without being “teachy” or “preachy”--encouragement that in turn inspires even more nurturing of babies. The stories also reveal capacities that are often invisible to people outside the neighborhood, which can help to facilitate a shift from a problem-saturated to an asset-oriented mindset among professionals.
2. NEIGHBORBABY TALENT SCOUTING AND ASSET MAPPING: Children will be encouraged to set out in the neighborhood with intention, to spot the talents and capacities of babies and to explore and discover the many assets of the neighborhood that contribute to the healthy mental development of babies. These can then be shared as described above, to inform collective early childhood efforts.
3. TALENT SQUAD SESSIONS: Group gatherings that incorporate the restorative circle process will be facilitated to provide opportunities for children to strengthen their identity as a network of neighborkids, and to generate strategies to increase their everyday presence, contribution and availability to babies as sources of nurturance, as well as strategies to increase the baby-friendly features and opportunities of their neighborhoods. Talent Squad members will be provided with GIS neighborhood/community mapping resources as well as communication resources to further equip them as changemakers in the lives of babies and their neighborhoods. So far through this type of process, neighborkids have started some incredibly inventive practices including “neighborbaby welcome baskets,” “reading telegrams,” and “neighborbaby brunch.”
4. MONTHLY AND QUARTERLY MEETUPS: The discoveries, inventions and efforts of Neighborbaby Talent Squad will be shared with the broader neighborhood through monthly meetups so that child and adult neighbors can collaborate in clarifying priorities and action plans. Together with their neighborhood, the Talent Squad will also share them on a quarterly basis with the emerging cross-sector network of professionals and systems that influence early childhood development and neighborhood well-being as well. The cross-sector network of professionals will be invited to join together with children and their fellow neighbors in advancing the efforts led by the children of Neighborbaby Talent Squad.
Anticipated achievements will include the following:
a growing number of babies who have an increasing number and diversity of others (including children) who are attuned and responsive to them in everyday ways and an increasing number and diversity of opportunities in their neighborhood to experience mental health;
a growing number of children who increasingly experience themselves as agents of change in the lives of babies and in their neighborhooods;
an increasingly baby-friendly neighborhood as evidenced by visible and felt changes in the built, natural, social-emotional, learning, economic and political dimensions of the neighborhood;
cross-sector networks in the broader community that are increasingly attuned and responsive to the experience and preferences of babies and their families;
an overall community where the dynamics of thriving are experienced and felt across sectors and across scales (micro, meso, macro).
There are so many everyday moments when kids connect with babies on the block in the neighborhood!
Who benefits? (1500 characters)
Beneficiaries include babies, children, families, neighborhoods, organizations / agencies, networks, the community as a whole, and other communities who are interested in developing similar neighborkid-led place-based initiatives focused on early childhood.
Babies benefit through increased nurturance from neighborkids and fellow neighbors, and the creation of neighborhood landscapes of increasing opportunity.
Children benefit through increase acknowledgement and self-awareness of their capacity as nurturers and changemakers, which in turn influences their own mental health.
Families benefit through increased opportunity to share wisdom and actively contribute as co-creators of neighborhood and community approaches to promoting early childhood thriving.
Neighborhoods benefit through increased information made available about their neighborhood in community context, and increased opportunities to lead early childhood / community change efforts.
Professionals benefit through increased opportunity to partner with children, families and neighborhoods around efforts to promote the thriving of babies and young children, neighborhoods and the community overall.
I have gained experience interacting with beneficiaries of this approach through the establishment of neighborhood-specific place-based efforts and initiatives focusing on infant mental health in the neighborhoods where I have lived over the past decade. (Through which I have personally benefited as well!)
What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)
The idea could lead to long-lasting outcomes in terms of increasing the nurturing networks and environments available to babies and young children in their neighborhoods, with implications for their overall development and thriving, which could ultimately manifest in the elimination of disparities associated with the determinants and outcomes of early childhood development, mental health and well-being. It could change the ways that children think about themselves as changemakers, and how they are recognized and supported by others in their neighborhoods and broader communities too. It could change the ways neighborhoods take up their power to lead community change efforts, particularly in relation to the promotion of thriving in early childhood. It could change the ways professionals across sectors orient to babies, children, families, neighborhoods, and other professionals. It could change the extent to which communities reach their full potential to thrive overall, as relational networks strengthen, information and emotion more freely circulates, and efforts become better synchronized on an ongoing basis across sectors and across scales.
How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)
The places in our local community where children are already clearly evidencing their ability and interest in contributing as changemakers also happen to be neighborhoods where the majority of families are of low-income. As such, the babies of these neighborhoods will be impacted, as will the children who participate in Neighborbaby Talent Squad. The involvement of adults who participate as neighbors and/or as professionals from various sectors will likely generate insights and changes in practice that are relevant to efforts impacting children and residents of low-income in other neighborhoods as well.
Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)
Neighborbaby Talent Squad is original because it is an effort to integrate the key concepts of infant mental health, community change (especially Asset-Based Community Development), complexity science, and place-based initiatives.
A place-based initiative (PBI) is a specific strategy to promote positive change in individual, family and community well-being in an entire neighborhood or geographically-defined community by concentrating resources and efforts in the identified area. It emphasizes comprehensive, coordinated approaches to improve the physical, social, and economic conditions that influence mental and physical health and well-being (Fulbright-Anderson, 2006). It is a systems approach with the ultimate goal of “catalyzing transformation” of an entire community, beginning with a particular neighborhood. It is characterized by combined efforts in: community building, programs/services, policy/systems reform, and data/evaluation. Over the past three decades, PBIs were launched in many U.S. cities and federal initiatives were established, including Promise Neighborhoods. Corresponding research is substantial and the total investment in PBIs now exceeds ten billion dollars (Kubisch, Auspos, Brown & Dewar, 2010).
This place-based initiative to promote community-wide Infant Mental Health is promising because it is led by families and neighbors who are coming together around neighborbabies and following the lead of kids to form a strong neighborhood social network in order to generate a felt sense of abundant community, and then also to extend invitations to professionals to partner in long-term efforts. PBIs usually start when the professional community indicates it is ready to begin. By contrast, this effort honors the reality that families are the primary decision-makers and contributors in the lives of their children and neighborhoods, who must be not just "engaged in" but actually leading if collective efforts are to be successful. By emphasizing kids as primary community changemakers it also attends to community power dynamics that can hamper efforts if not addressed from the start, and it responds to the legitimate critique of collective impact and place-based efforts to date (Chadburn, 2015).
This initiative is also unique because it truly starts at the neighborhood scale. Comparable initiatives often address an area much larger than a single neighborhood, typically in response to pressures from policymakers and funders. However, this can significantly limit the prospect of success. By starting with a single neighborhood it is possible to bring current realities into clear focus. This enables families and professionals to notice what is already available and working, not just what is missing, dysfunctional, or needed. It clarifies the inter-relationships among people, groups/organizations and efforts that are promoting or compromising child and family well-being. It establishes a local “pilot” of sorts that makes it possible to conduct rapid-cycle testing of modifications and innovations. It makes it possible to reach that tipping point when networks are sufficiently robust and resources/supports are sufficiently plentiful and high quality to induce a phase transition in the community such that all children and families in the identified geography are thriving.
Finally, this effort is different than others because it invests in children up to age 10 as significant changemakers in the lives of babies and neighborhoods. Neighborkids are naturally inclined to be curious, playful, friendly and joyful, and they are great story-tellers and boundary-crossers too. These are the very qualities that make for talented community changemakers and social innovators. This effort is figuring out ways to cultivate and harness these capacities for the sake of population-scale infant mental health.
Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)
Once there is compelling evidence that this approach works and it is well-communicated, then training and technical assistance could be offered to other communities so that they could try out and further develop the approach as well. Anticipated barriers to scaling include: sufficiently documenting and communicating the approach and shifting the mindset of neighborhoods, professionals, agencies /systems / sectors, and cities to invest in children as changemakers.
Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)
I have devoted the past decade to evolving these approaches in the neighborhoods where I have lived, with prototypes now developed. Many of the strategies were first developed with the neighborkids of Central-Cocoanut in Sarasota. Over the past 18 months, I have directed a preliminary effort in the neighborhood where I now live in St. Petersburg in order to cultivate readiness for a resident-led place-based initiative focused on promoting infant / early childhood mental health - although the emphasis over the past year was primarily on adults, rather than children, as changemakers. Through these efforts, a growing number and diversity of individuals who are interested in further developing the approach have been identified, including neighbors, community data specialists (including GIS mappers), communications specialists, and practitioners in the emerging field of place-based initiatives. Professionals from various local institutions (including the school district, health department, lead childcare agency, and children's services council) have become involved as well. The proposed effort could in some ways build upon these earlier efforts.
Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)
How realistic? That is certainly the question for the ages! The business model to develop these efforts has certainly morphed and evolved over the years. When it first got started through efforts in Sarasota back in 2009, I individually funded the efforts by providing infant mental health clinical consultation to communities across the U.S. and then using the funds generated through consultation to fuel the neighborhood work. Next I joined a non-profit community engagement organization as director of Neighborhood and Community Data Initiatives, in order to develop certain aspects of the efforts in broader county context while continuing to foster neighborkid-led innovations in own my home neighborhood. I then left that organization with my partner (who was the executive director) and we established Sarasota Community Studio (now dba Community Studios) as a neighborhood-specific and neighborhood-led non-profit, assuming we would be able to find private investors and secure grant funding. After 18 months we discovered that was not the case, however – so we each took a self-imposed sabbatical of sorts, and tried again one year later, this time up the road in St. Petersburg. I took a position in the local university in order to develop the efforts further, and through a partnership with that university secured a large one year grant from a newly established local foundation, along with several private investments. The foundation grant recently ended and it became apparent that different business model is now warranted in order to navigate community dynamics. All to say - the way it has been possible to continue developing the efforts over the past decade has been to stay flexible and adaptive, and to be clear-eyed about issues relating to goodness of fit. Hopefully this will continue to be the case!
At this point several individuals continue to invest in the efforts, and I am resuming a private practice in infant and child psychology in order to support myself financially while continuing to develop the resident-led efforts in our neighborhood of Lake Maggiore Shores. In addition to seeking future grants, the plan is to begin offering training and consultation on the approaches that have developed so far, which could be helpful in professional networks relating to early childhood, children’s mental health, community development, complexity science, and evaluation. With regard to the staffing pattern – although the team included a data lead and a communications lead during the grant-funded cycle, we will now turn to community partners to contribute this expertise when needed. The adult neighbors (beyond myself) who will be involved in Neighborbaby Talent Squad – along with the neighborkids – will continue their involvement on a voluntary basis, rather than as paid employees.
HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)
This approach to resident-led place-based initiatives focused on infant mental health has continuously evolved out of the wisdom and perspective of residents - both kids and adults, as well as input and feedback from cross-sector professionals involved along the way. For some example of how this happens you can check out the latest example here:
These are some earlier examples as well:
Tell us more about you (3000 characters)
This proposal integrates key ideas and approaches from the fields of infant mental health, complexity science and community change. Inspiration comes most from the time I have spent on the block as a neighbor, bearing witness to what kids do naturally to contribute to the mental health and thriving of babies, children and their neighborhoods.
Working in the early childhood space is exciting because babies are the ones whose mental capacities and consciousness are developing at warp-speed relative to any other stage of human development - as such, babies are role models for us all. Investing in children up to age 10 as the changemakers and neighborhoods as the places of influence relative to early childhood development is exciting because it means recognizing and harnessing the significance of everyday networks and environments in the lives of babies.
I am a licensed clinical child psychologist with a specialization in infant mental health and a background in complexity approaches to community change. After earning a Ph.D. at UCLA, I served as training director in a Los Angeles community mental health center and established an infant mental health clinic there. Upon moving to Tampa in 2004, I joined the faculty of the Florida Mental Health Institute, providing consultation to communities across the country seeking to develop Systems of Care for children’s mental health. I also worked in the local children's services council, facilitating early childhood community change efforts throughout the county. I served as Principal Investigator of the "Communiplexity” Initiative, a collaborative established to develop complexity-informed resources for community sustainability. After moving to Sarasota in 2008, I established a private practice of child psychology and community well-being focused on my home neighborhood. I was also contracted to design and direct the Community Data and Neighborhoods Initiatives at a local non-profit community engagement organization, through which I established a Resident Community Changemakers fellowship as a means of equipping residents with the resources and capacities to effect cross-scale, cross-sector change. In 2012 I co-created Sarasota Community Studio with fellow residents, a nonprofit organization focused on neighborkid-oriented, resident-led place-based change. In 2015 I moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, teaching courses in infant-family mental health and systems transformation. Most recently, I developed and directed Lake Maggiore Shores Initiative, an effort to ready the neighborhood and broader community for a resident-led place-based initiative focused on the well-being of babies, children and whole neighborhoods.
Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)
Some individuals who would be great to recruit for the team to do the proposed work emerged in previous phases of the efforts, both in Sarasota and in St. Petersburg. It will be helpful to find additional people to work directly with children up to age 10, to facilitate community-building and convening, and to develop the data, communications and policy aspects of the work. Ideally the majority of team members will be local and / or culturally congruent with the neighborhood of focus.
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)
As mentioned above, it will be helpful to find additional people to work directly with neighborkids up to age 10, to facilitate community-building and convening, and to develop the data, communications and policy aspects of the work. Ideally the majority of team members will be local and / or culturally congruent with the neighborhood of focus; however, it would be great to hear from others who resonate with the orientation and have skills and capacities to offer!
Would you like mentoring support?
If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)
It would be great to receive some mentoring to help figure out how best to frame and communicate the proposed efforts; how best to represent and communicate efforts and accomplishments to date; how best to discern goodness-of-fit in developing a team to do the work; how best to identify others with whom to collaborate; how best to identify, approach and recruit investors in the efforts.
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).
[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.
Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)
The consultation with my mentor was very helpful in clarifying the need to tell the story of these efforts in a clearer and more compelling way! She encouraged me to tell more stories - and I realize that although I have been doing that more in my real-time communications with people about these efforts, I don't know that it translated into my revisions to this IDEO submission! That is something I will need to continue to work on, and to seek out support to do better. I also realized through the mentoring session that I needed to more clearly emphasize the overall focus of these efforts -which relates to resident-led place-based initiatives.