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MAP (Market, Mothers & Park) Alliance (Updated Jan 6)

The idea is to build community between an urban park which delivers multiple benefits to children, and a large marketplace where preschool children are with their mothers at work. Repurposing simple market goods like cooking paddles into playable preliteracy tools can be the entry point for infusing the market place with pre-k learning elements, and drawing the traders into a partnership between park and market which creates mutual benefits in both of these important community sites.

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(Updated 1/05/15) MAP (Market, Mothers & Parks) seeks to improve literary and cognitive outcomes for small children by building a partnership between two of the most important urban community sites - the market place and the park. How might we make this established resource of the market place a partner in regenerative development?
It is not the goal to set up formal early childhood centers ( A few of these have already been tried). Rather, we wish to seed the market with ubiquitous, intentionally designed items that will readily lend themselves to informal playful learning.


Why the market place?
- Market places in Ghana are key centers of economic activity in which women, many of them mothers of young children, control production, processing, transportation and distribution of foodstuffs and goods. The market is where thousands of 0to5 children spend their days, so it is a logical, even ideal, site for early childhood interventions.
- The urban market is a multi-lingual, mixed income, intergenerational, empowered productive space with many materials to inspire design with children in mind. It is also completely lacking in attention to the natural environment.(Updated 1/05/15 Every urban area in Ghana has its own market system.)
- Market mothers often have multiple and perhaps undervalued skills besides trading which could enhance the experience of parks for children. These include artisanship, oral tradition & storytelling, art, crafts, music, gardening, etc.

The "nature deficit" for young children who are increasingly growing up in urban/peri-urban settings is a real concern. In addition to this disconnect, average grade-level reading proficiency is poor, and less than 5% of low-income households have story books or practice leisure reading at home. Literacy is still a formal skill associated with classroom learning rather than playful cognitive development outside of school. Indigenous production of pre-reading visually rich books and materials is very low.
This post points to the pressures on land in fast-growing cities like Accra, which marginalize,override or overlook  child-friendly spaces. In these sprawling cities, environmental degradation and its attendant hazards impact all children (15 and under, about 40% of the urban population) and particularly those from low-income households.
(Updated 1/05/15) The way we live in cities, our awareness of environmental impact and the possibilities for placemaking, are urgent and topical issues today. MAP is at the intersection of all three.
Inspired by the foundational work of Efua T. Sutherland, the Playtime in Africa Initiative of Mmofra Foundation exists to explore, champion and accelerate the idea of the outdoors as a "third teacher".
(Updated 1/05/15) A two-acre pilot natural environment is being designed to offer children of all backgrounds, multiple opportunities for physical, cognitive and social development. It is the Mmofra Park in Dzorwulu, Accra. (Mmofra means "children").
It also functions as a collaborative maker hub, designing learning landscapes, play features and tools for playful education derived from local or repurposed materials. The park elements are tested by children, retooled when necessary, and are intended to be shared as widely as possible.
This "shared park" concept appreciates that the same physical space may not be replicable, but successful elements of creative processes in the park can be seeded in the community by direct invitation as well as using targeted toolkits.



 (Updated 1/05/15) For women in the marketplace, the most relevant toolkits may be those relating to learning activities that are possible within the confines of the marketplace, as well as health, nutrition and developmental information. These are practical mothers who must earn to look after their families, but who also can be encouraged to take ownership of the project when they see good outcomes for their children.

Below for reference are some actual and  potential uses of the re-imagined park which could benefit 0to5 children from all backgrounds including the market community in this prototype (proceed to User Experience Journey attached):

Playground:
-  This park model is literally a level playing field where children from different backgrounds interact. In cities with big gaps between rich and poor, it may be the only social space for unmediated exchanges between young children. In this sense, it serves a different but no less essential purpose than smaller playspaces within specific neighborhoods/communities.

Healthy Environment/Information Centre/Classroom:
- make trees, plants and nature in general a priority design element where possible. Name trees and plants in child-friendly script, and arrange for local horticulturists to give periodic tours.  Often, the people with the best local knowledge of indigenous plants are recent migrants from rural areas who live in low-income communities. This conveys to children the important message that their communities have value.

- Create and share an infographic based on local practice and experience, about the best child-friendly plants, trees and creatures for your local park environment.  What kinds of plants keep play areas clear of mosquitoes, or snakes, for example?  Which trees are fast growing or otherwise beneficial?  Which plants and flowers might be toxic to children? Can vines be grown on artificial tree forms to accelerate shaded areas?


- Sanitation is key! Open defecation or inadequate toilet facilities are a huge problem for rural and urban families globally. To accelerate awareness, adopt one or more of the workable toilet solutions that have been developed worldwide, to suit local conditions, and pair the physical facility with an effective hygiene education program. Develop simple science or STEM information/activities which explain how engineering and biological processes work in toilet systems. Prepare leaflets or cards with visual information about affordable home toilet solutions and disseminate to parents/caregivers.

- Design robust handwashing "plaza" as standard park entry/exit protocol (make it a fun but strict ritual which explains the importance of washing in health). Distribute (to parents) laminated cards with visual information demonstrating good WASH practice, which can be hung at home.

- Reliable clean water and power can be a challenge. Consider applying to a sanitation charity or development organization for a borehole if municipal water is inadequate or expensive. Ditto for power, if solar energy solutions are accessible.  Create STEM learning activities around these as well.  Inform parents about the availability of any local solar energy solutions and where they can be accessed.

- Design visually appealing receptacles for organic, recyclable and other trash... Develop playful programming to modify trash disposal habits. Plastic waste and indiscriminate burning are at critical levels in many cities.

-  Partner with highly effective local health delivery organizations for well child information and campaigns (e.g. dental care, deworming, vitamin A). (Updated 12/26/14) Thanks to Emmanuel Owobu for the link to Children for Health, which "focuses on developing children as ambassadors and communicators of essential health messages in their communities".

- Partner with proven urban gardeners to create a demonstration garden with nutritious, locally acceptable produce and other useful or therapeutic plants. To maximize efficient use of space,  consider vertical gardens.  Parallel activities can include children's participation in growing things and the capacity to take seedlings home (e.g. in recyclable water bottle planters)  

Maker Space/Incubator/Lab:
- A park can provide wonderful outdoor space opportunities for child-centered creativity by both adults and children.  At Playtime in Africa, we're making and testing new loose parts play materials and play structures all the time and it's incredibly rewarding for both makers and users.  We design with children in mind, but also with local cultural inspiration and awareness of best practices from other places (see last summer's study abroad design studio http://issuu.com/kofiboone/docs/playtime_in_africa_student_report_f/1).

Successful prototypes are intended to be shared widely.  Children are encouraged to be makers and to share their skills with other children (in our context, children from low-income households often make the best toys from recycled materials). Adults in the community draw on their own perhaps sublimated skills to contribute in the maker space.  They often find it therapeutic!  (Updated 1/05/15) This is where we are hoping to draw in market mothers.
 

"Classroom" for Literacy:/Numeracy
Parks can provide great culturally grounded outdoor learning opportunities.  Many children think of books as formal school-based artifacts in which they seldom see themselves or their lives portrayed. Literacy can be designed into the landscape and structures of the park in both words and pictures. It can be encouraged by providing cosy out-of-classroom spaces for reading. Theatre and drama in the park can be hugely effective in giving children confident of verbal expression. Similarly, there are many creative and playful ways for children to learn the fundamentals of numeracy outdoors.(Updated 1/05/15) Market traders are famous for their quick mental calculation skills and could be great partners for numeracy development.

 
 Placemaking:
As a focal point for children's wellbeing in a city,with equal access to girls and boys, the children's park can adopt such strategies as periodic children's festivals and events.  A Children's Market for example can be a calendar event at the park when children engage in role play and lead in interactive exchanges.




 

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

The pilot model park under the Playtime in Africa Project is a two-acre space in a mixed income/mixed use neighborhood in Accra, Ghana which is most accessible to several thousand children within walking distance or a ride (in traffic) of 30 mins or less. It is intended to be accessible to children 0 to 15 of all backgrounds. (Updated 1/01/15) The prototype specifically targets children and mothers in Malata, one of Accra's largest markets which is located about 6 miles from the park. There are several markets of similar or larger size in the city which could replicate the successes of the prototype. The market is approx 4 acres in size with a daily population of thousands. It has almost no trees. This model may be replicated in other cities in Ghana and in any urban area where public child-friendly green space is scarce.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

(Updated 12/26/14) Feedback this month from the Playtime in Africa Team in Ghana is that WASH strategies are already well in progress at the park. We have changed the prototype focus to exploring how the "shared park" might forge a relationship with mothers and 0to5 children (as suppliers of materials and end users) in the nearest large marketplace. Markets in Ghana are dominated by women , who produce, transport, distribute , process and retail foodstuffs and other goods and services. Their 0to5 children who are not yet in school spend their days in close proximity to their mothers' stalls, making the market place a promising test site. Malata is one of Accra's major marketplaces, about 6 miles from this children's park. Park and Market Cycle One: Defining needs and interests. In July 2014, we identified three vendors of wood cooking paddles at Malata Market. These items are commonly used for serving food and inexpensive, about 2 cedis (or 50cents) each. By purchasing a number of paddles from each, we began to establish a customer relationship with them, and each expressed an interest in the use we had in mind. We noticed small groups of young children playing in between market stalls and sometimes dangerously close to pedestrian traffic in the market lanes. None were playing with books or letters. We then took the paddles to the park maker space, where they were attractively painted and repurposed into "pre-reading paddles" with clearly drawn letters of the alphabet or drawings of familiar objects, animals and human characters. Children at the park readily helped to create these and played word games with them. Cycle Two: Return. In the current prototyping stage, we will return to the market with a set of the repurposed paddles and approach the paddle vendors to help us identify one or two sites in the market where between 5 and 10 children per site can very informally experiment with the new paddles and can be observed unobstrusively over a period of a week. These vendors will introduce us and be intermediaries in gaining the trust of the mothers. We will then make a larger order (100 - 200 paddles) from our vendors and invite them to personally deliver to the park. The purpose of this invitation is to introduce them to the space and initiate them as word-of-mouth ambassadors within the market place. Cycle Three: Sharing. We will formally request the market managers to allow us to develop at least one site within the market where our trained animators and play leaders can more intentionally direct playful acquisition of pre-reading skills over a period of one month. This "site" might be within a parent's stall, or a small space in between stalls (i.e. in the same spaces that the children congregate). Interviews with parents, caregivers and children at the end of Cyle Three will determine whether or not the prototype has made a positive impact with them. Did the children strengthen their pre-reading skills? Were there any challenges? Would the mothers like to continue the site activity or to help to create more features right within the market such as the micro reading nook recycled spools ? Would the mothers be willing to select their own chaperones (older siblings for example) to bring small groups of 0to5 kids to the park on regular excursions where both the young children and their older chaperones will be exposed to a much broader experience of nature-based play and discovery? The prototyping will prove whether cycles of relationship can be established between two place-based community sites for the benefit of children, and if the "shared park" is a viable concept.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

- Funding partners - Strategic planning - how can such a place become self-sustaining without putting hardship on low-income families? - A co-ordinator and training for aa team of four volunteers - Landscape Architecture support - In-kind support -Expert advice feedback from Open/IDEO community

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.
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Team (6)

Amowi's profile
Bettina's profile
Bettina Fliegel

Role added on team:

"Bettina, lots of valuable links and thoughts that align very well with the park in Accra!"

jennifer's profile
jennifer compau

Role added on team:

"Jennifer's been a key discussant in thinking through the park and market connection. Welcome to this team!!"

Barbara's profile
Barbara Loste

Role added on team:

"Barbara brings to the team a strong international background in the stewardship and management of community spaces. Welcome!"

Scott's profile
Scott Halliday

Role added on team:

"Scott asks great questions which help to clarify the idea and context!"

Maddi's profile
Maddi Greenhall

Role added on team:

"Maddi's contribution reminds us how universal these ideas are!"

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Attachments (4)

Playtime in Africa Links.pdf

For anyone who might like more context for the broader park idea.

final_presentation.pdf

Example of design collaboration with research and analysis, between Mmofra Foundation and TU Delft team on park project.

77 comments

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Photo of Japhet Aloyce Kalegeya
Team

Hello, We want to have Alliance to a global community of food waste innovators and advocates.

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Stepping up market to park linkages: market mother now supplying healthy (and delicious!) akara bean cakes for Mmofra Place park events.

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Awesome Anowi! When will this start? Would love to try one!
Has this market mom been to the park yet with her children? How did she get involved with the market/park project?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Hi Bettina! We just had this market mom actually set up her akara operation outdoor in the park for an event! Her stall is closer than the large market place so we spoke to her directly and invited her to come as a way to support her business in the community. That's an important first step which allows her to see economic value in the relationship and to begin to consider the social value as well for her child. We think that individual linkages like this build a foundation of trust on which to base the project. We're taking painted paddles to Malata for a test run this week!
Try an Akara recipe! http://betumiblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/recipe-43-akara-bean-balls-or-cowpea.html

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Do you have any photos of the event?
.....and looking forward to hearing more after the test run with the paddles!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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I'm hoping to post some photos soon. Re paddles, the park has also sent a few samples to the US at my request. A parallel prototyping exercise with student volunteers in WA state begins this month. I'm keen on the universal application of the ideas in this challenge - statistics on low-income zerotofive kids in the US are sobering http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/every-child-deserves-a-fa_b_6446560.html
Try your akara as an appetizer with a dip. I can attest to its yumminess.

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Great linkage – and as you say, nurturing community trust is so important for this initiative.

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

And we've just got an amazing market-park connector on board with this idea! "Auntie" Ama is one of our most versatile resource persons at the park - a storyteller, cultural and horticultural consultant, performer as well as someone with great connections already in Malata market. She's going to be an important key to fostering a relationship. Excited!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Just checking in Anowi. How is the prototype going? Looking forward to hearing about the creative play the children did with the paddles.

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Photo of Irene Blas
Team

Great idea to get involved in such a dauly activity! it is a very good way to approach mothers in that community! Congratulations!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Irene, thanks, your contributions are very welcome as we continue to develop this proposal.

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Photo of Ayman Hanafi
Team

Hi Amovi. A lovely interactive idea. The open air is a great learning opportunity. Lots of space will provide wonderful activities and play experiences. To improve sanitation would be a healthy bonus. Well done!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Hello, how might the principles of collaborative "cake-baking" be applied in an outdoor setting?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Images added to show examples of other playfully repurposed market goods!

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hello Amowi! We've been having early childhood experts take a look at the ideas in Refinement and want to share some of their feedback with you. I know your idea has evolved a lot, but I think some of these points may still be relevant. A key issue around sustainability will be maintaining security of the park, ensuring it is a safe environment for families is important. Offering the park with no entrance cost is appealing and makes this provision stand out from others, moreover ensures those most in need can benefit. Have you considered income generating activities may encourage community ownership of the park, thus ensuring responsibility for its upkeep is shared and prioritized in the community?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

We're thinking the market mothers participation in planning children's market day may be one of several innovative ways to encourage community ownership for responsible upkeep. A Children's Market Day as a city event could spark income-generating activities, greatly increase awareness of the park and be planned so as to demonstrate community care of public space.

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Anowi.
Great UX Map! Love the photos!

The PDF with the links is also really helpful, providing background and the full scope of work being done supporting these efforts to provide open green space for children to play, explore, grow and learn! Thanks for providing these links.

I checked out the linked Pinterest page - and saw that you have a group pinned with solar energy ideas for children's parks. https://www.pinterest.com/mmofraghana/

You might find this Solar Tree interesting as it incorporates several functions into the design. I found it and posted in in the research phase for the Renewable Energy Challenge here on OpenIDEO.
"A man surfs the Internet on a tablet attached to a solar tree in Israel. This tree's broad "leaves" are solar panels, powering electric and USB outlets, a drinking fountain and Wi-Fi, all available to people passing by." (from an NPR article linked to the post below.)
https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/research/designing-community-spaces-using-solar-energy

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Bettina, fantastic solar power link, thank you!! Solar lighting will really extend the usable hours of the park, expecially if we find solutions for mosquito control after dark.
Are there other attachments or images that might be useful as PDF's? How can the user experience map be improved?

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Glad you like the Solar Tree! I emailed the CEO when I posted it on the Renewable Energy Challenge inviting him to comment there as it is a solar energy company. His team didn't comment, but he did tell me that everyone that sits under the tree " has smiles on their faces." He also said they are hoping to expand....... so who knows? Are mosquitoes terrible everywhere after dark?

I will look at the other images and see if there are some that I think jump out.

I think if you can embed the UX MAP into the text, or add it to the images that are above, as well as attaching it as a powerpoint that would be great! I think more folk will look at if they see it somewhere easily. (Can you make the images in the first image slide bigger? the one with the drawing (great drawing!) Also, when I open it in powerpoint slide 7 has a blank text box in it - not sure why.)

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi. I would think about linking the article - "Children Fight for Space in An Overcrowded City" directly to the post - or using some of the images from it, linking them above. How far is this area from the park? Seeing the conditions in which impoverished children are playing in Accra, in contrast to what this type of urban renewal/ park development project can afford them is striking. The article points out that there are organized teams and community efforts in the slum which is great. Imagine what the possibilities are once your park is developed and can become a prototype for others?
What do you think?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Suggested tweaks underway. I certainly see the power of contrasting images, though I'm hesitant to use the word "impoverished" without explaining that when it comes to accessible and thoughtfully designed green space, urban children of all income levels are *impoverished* - consider the "privileged" child in the gated, burglar proofed concrete townhouse who has even less connection to nature than the "poor" child outdoors. There is an interesting discussion to be had on the nuances of "low-income" and "low resource", don't you think?

The area mentioned in "Children Fight For Space" is in a very heavily polluted part of the city where electronic waste is dumped, about 12-14 miles away.

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Mosquitoes are a huge issue for a children's park here, for health reasons but also b/c of the enormous bite (pun intended) they take out of usable time on site. This summer our work teams had slow wood fires burning (smoke is a deterrent) but that of course can only be done when there aren't small children running about. We're trying out plantings of lemon grass and another plant whose name we haven't discovered yet. Recycled tires are a great resource but also very problematic as mozzie hideouts. Any strategies anyone?

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Yes it is an interesting discussion. Thanks for pointing that out! Seems that lack of green space makes the city low resource in terms of nature for all kids in Accra. Where do kids who are not living in slums play sports for example?
( For me the images in the slum show what is, at least in some areas and for some children, and the images of the developing park show what could be. As you point out this would be for ALL children, as green space is so limited. So in this scenario since that link is one of all the "low resource" spaces maybe don't link it? The article is on the PDF so that is a good resource with all the others as well......)

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

The vast majority of children play sports on school grounds which may be fully or patchily grassed, or "bare parks" ( a term describing bare earth sites, coined by one of our research teams for the 2012 urban spaces for children charrette). Perhaps contextual words will clarify the images?

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

The UX Map in PDF format looks great!!!
(...not sure how you had it set up before but I now see the article discussed above linked to your "research post" - directly linked to this post. Great idea and format.)
Bettina

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

I've enjoyed the feedback driven evolution of this idea from the Ideo community!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Great! Update with all the info (q & a etc.) so the evaluators have everything you want them to review.
Good luck as you build the MAP project!
Please post follow up to your prototyping as you have it! Excited to hear how it goes!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Will do! Fortunately we have already made a headstart and I'm eager to see what the market mothers think of the repurposed materials! There is the challenge of ensuring that loose parts don't get lost easily - we're still thinking how to solve that one.

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Photo of jennifer compau
Team

Great discussion and so many wonderful contributions to consider... the systemic issues such as security and safety, mosquitoes, free and 'for trade' admission... one of the ideas that we have been considering was --for "admission" that children would collect and recycle their water sachets for entrance... the sachets would then be recycled again into creative functional products such as bags and shade quilts ---positive results all around...less sachets floating about, new ideas about recycling and the children would play in the wonderful green space...

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Heloo, could you clarify this for me in two or three questions so that the responses can be as much to the point as possible? Thank you!

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Zero to Five Challenge Refinement shortlist, Amowi! We like how your idea is creative, community based and educational. It’s great that you have begun working on the park in Accra and interested to learn more about your idea. You mention that toolkits are the key to your idea – why is that? What would your toolkits be on? How would you ensure that they utilized by the parents and children that take them? Can you tell us a little more about how community members are engaged in the existing park? How have you attracted families to participate? There are many components to your idea – and you indicate that handwashing is the first area that you’d like to focus on. How did you come to this determination? Why is a park uniquely well placed to spread messages and behaviour change in this particular area? How could a park like this be sustainable? How might you incentive local residents to maintain and improve it? What other uses are there for the park that might help maintain it? (e.g. markets, events, etc.) We encourage you to create a User Experience Map to help explain how children will interact with this idea http://ideo.pn/0to5-map. We also think you might draw some inspiration from this idea: https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/ideas/playpod-play-coming-your-way, particularly how they have suggested colour-coding activities appropriate for different developmental stages. Perhaps there is an opportunity to collaborate? Check out tips for Refinement http://ideo.pn/0to5-tips-refine.

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Meena, will do. Is the protocol to get the ok from contributors before adding them to a team?

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Check out the link in the Teams section which explains more. Many folks add people to their teams who have just given great feedback. Others create teams of committed members of their implementation team. It's really up to you – though obviously if you're keen on dedicated, ongoing input, it'd be great to ask to be sure the person you're keen on is up for it.

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

We also hope that you'll find the time to look over ideas by others here in Refinement and weigh in with your questions, feedback and suggestions. OpenIDEO was created in the spirit of collaboration and iteration – so we value the missing of diverse perspectives from across our shortlisters to improve our collective impact for children former to five!

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Awesome to see all the updates and vibrant discussion here! Amowi – do be sure to convert your Q&A from Word into a PDF and upload it again (you can then delete the Word file currently uploaded to your post)

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Photo of Scott Halliday
Team

Hi Amowi- congrats on making it to the next stage. I've enjoyed reading your updates as you build out your idea.

It looks like the initial pilot park is well-underway with a suite of projects aimed at helping children thrive in the first 5 years of life. Your project's comprehensiveness is impressive.

I'm curious to learn about your interest in scalability of your project. Besides the initial pilot park, do you have plans to build more parks in Accra or in other parts of Ghana (even other parts of Africa)? If you intend to build more parks, what is your strategy- do you aim to acquire land that is not currently in use or existing parks? What partnerships do you need to help your project reach scale? Lastly, what does success look like at the end of your project? I imagine you could select indicators for success based on the WASH project, but what about usage of the park overall?

Keep up the good work and update us regularly!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Great questions, Scott! I'll be adding this to the Q&A document attached.

We've played a leadership role in advocating for the revival of children's parks in Ghana (a national children's park and library system established in four locations in the 1980's had virtually collapsed by the 2000's). FYI we hosted the first ever Tweetchat on parks in Ghana last month and will continue to do so periodically

Our experience with this pilot park puts us in a position to share what we've learned / exchange ideas with others in Ghana and around Africa - there is very little documentation of the benefits of a natural learning environment in urban African contexts. We are not intending to acquire land for more parks - our focus is on the thoughtful design of our current project so that its successes can be shared in new parks or to revive existing ones. As an example, we were recently contacted by a road construction company about the possibility of collaborating on playground design in some of the communities they will be impacting.

Informal conversations have taken place between us and a few like-minded start-ups around Africa like the Play Africa Children's Museum in S. Africa and ImagiNation Africa in Senegal.

The partnerships most likely to help us reach scale will be with corporations, donor agencies and foundations who have a bold, culturally sensitive commitment to community development and are willing to sustain a relationship over a period of time. This year, for example, a German Embassy grant to host a climate education exhibition on our site has enabled us to put in basic infrastructure in a starter solar power unit, a borehole water source and filter system, water tanks and a set of bio-digester toilets.

The successful park will attract children and families of all backgrounds in the city and will be at least 50% self-financing. It will be run by full-time staff including a program coordinator, plus a committed corps of volunteers, and will be open at least 5 days a week. It will have elements of a botanical garden and a children's museum, in flexible outdoor and indoor spaces where the arts and science intersect. Its features will clearly be inspired by local culture but will also incorporate best practices globally. Hopefully, it will always be a work in progress!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Great conversation guys!

Anowi - During the Creative Confidence Challenge, last fall, several great contributions were posted by Yann. He works at ImaginationAfrika.
https://openideo.com/profiles/yhirlimann
Being likeminded OpenIDEO contributors might be someone to reach out to?
or perhaps you have already met? The Creative Confidence Challenge had so many amazing research posts and ideas. Check it out sometime. Might be some inspirations there for your work.

As your project has been building here, and more and more information has been revealed in the post above and in the comments, I was thinking that in addition to the toolkits you plan to create to share with families in the park creating a toolkit based on your experiences building the park might be a fantastic contribution for others who would like to learn from your experiences. Has your group considered this?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

We've "met" Yann and his colleague at ImaginationAfrika via social media, and we admire their work! The Creative Confidence Challenge does have great overlaps with our mission. I've been looking for someone/team who might help to create a toolkit (with beautiful botanical drawings!) on planting for play in Africa - in our environment what plants are best suited for parks? What grows fast? Which plants repel mosquitoes and snakes? Which are toxic for kids? How can plants mitigate high salt content in soil? Which plants might fascinate children (e.g. the huge fruit of the calabash tree, or seeds that explode when they come into contact with water). How to recognize medicinal plants and trees like mahogany and neem?

Some documentation is happening through the academic design/build studies we've engaged in with two teams of the Technical University of Delft Masters Project students(2012/2013) and this year's NC State undergrad studio (see their report in the attached pdf titled Playtime in Africa links).

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Photo of Scott Halliday
Team

Great dialogue here! Thanks Amowi for your detailed response. Its nice to read about your partnerships to help further your project as well as your ideas to further develop your park. I like the staffing plan and your commitment to improving your existing park before prematurely making the leap to other areas. Keep up the great work.

I work primarily in rural Nepal so these issues of natural urban parks are not always pressing on a daily basis. But the capital city of Kathmandu, like other major worldwide cities which are experiencing rapid population growth, there's a tension between constant construction of built environments versus preservation and development of natural environments. How do these two interact? What should our goal be in a large, expanding city? Certainly each city has to grapple with these issues to find out what's best and of course, what's right for Kathmandu may not be a good fit for Accra.

I look forward to reading more about your park.

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Questions of urban planning and balance in designing the built environment are getting a lot of attention these days Do you follow any blogs on urbanism / cities? What parks exist in Kathmandu, and do ordinary families get to use them?

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When I'm back in the United States, I live in Seattle and follow the Seattle Transit Blog (http://seattletransitblog.com/), which frequently addresses issues of urbanism. But in Nepal, I don't specifically follow any blogs- I do frequently read the newspaper for local issues relevant to urban development and growth.

In Kathmandu, there are many multi-use spaces used by the public: temples, community water taps, and squares come to mind. There's very little green space or parks though. Tundikel in the center of Kathmandu is a large open space that is used for informal football and cricket games. Basantapur/Kathmandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square (Durbar referring to royal), while not parks, are probably the most frequently-used public spaces in the city for families and individuals alike.

As far as urban development is concerned, I believe the focus in Kathmandu is on expanding access to public transportation, developing infrastructure, and addressing the increasingly strained electrical and fresh water supplies. Developing green spaces and parks is important and deserves special attention!

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Thanks for the first hand account. The strain on public utilities is a familiar problem. This is why we have been determined to have off-grid infrastructure (borehole, solar) at the park and use it as an opportunity for STEM learning!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Hi all!
Happy New Year!

Anowi,
Regarding the toolkit you mention above - is there a local art/design college where you might recruit artists and/or graphic designers who can do the illustrations? I wonder if there is a way to include children in this process using their drawings of these plants, snakes, fruit, seeds?

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Oh children's participation in toolkit production is a must! We can even make it a facilitated art project for our regular monthly kid sessions at the park. The curators of the Foundation for Contemporary Art in Accra are amazing park partners and would certainly be able to find artists to help.

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This urban park project can significantly change the face of Accra, and by extension other urban areas where children's play & cultural discovery have been overlooked, forgotten, ignored, or sidelined in the face of poverty or urban pace. The use of an urban green space to easily enhance play, learning, social interaction and health by repurposing local resources is both urgent and welcome on many levels for 0to5 and beyond!

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Barbara - welcome on board! You've articulated the importance of green space and the need for its inclusion in this challenge very well indeed!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Great project Anowi! Congratulations on being selected for the shortlist!
I really like your "Share" pilot described above utilizing the park programming, and interacting with children and their parents in the Malata Market. One thought I had to add is how this can be an opportunity to show young children where vegetables that are being sold in the market actually come from. Many children growing up in urban environments here in the US have never seen a vegetable grow in the ground. With the development of school and urban gardens this is changing. Is this similar in Ghana?
An inspiration on urban gardening/schools/health and much more - when I read your idea about vertical gardening I thought of this TED talk - amazing! http://www.ted.com/talks/stephen_ritz_a_teacher_growing_green_in_the_south_bronx
I love the idea of learning literacy and numeracy in the park. A former classmate who is the founder and director of a school in rural Haiti told me how they are teaching numeracy, literacy and science in the school's garden (which also feeds the children and teaches them to garden/as well as their parents.) They are also training teachers from other schools in Haiti how to use gardens in this way. http://matenwaclc.org/
https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/research/school-haiti
Another link I found which discusses "learning landscapes":
http://www.sproutbydesign.com/#!portfolio/chn5
Although these examples are primarily for school aged children there might be learnings here that can be applied to younger children as well.
Have you thought about using this park as a learning lab to educate teachers or facilitators who can then reclaim other urban lots, perhaps in slum areas, to use in this way?
Do you have any thoughts on commercial ventures in the park that can be developed to help sustain the project? markets for children's products?, hosting children's parties?, sleepovers in the park? (there are children's sleepover parties in museums and zoos in some cities - kids love them.)

Would love to hear about the WASH programming that you mention is up and running in the park. Do you have any photos?

Excited to see this project develop!!!

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Anowi,
Check out this "Grow Truck Program" - lending and delivering tools, plants, gardening advice to communities though out NYC. This brought to mind your "Park to Market" prototype pilot - moving within the city - creating opportunities for collaboration, learning and development. http://www.grownyc.org/openspace/growtruck
The website has lots of info on the GrowNYC program, including a toolkit which has information on re-harvesting rainwater. I read online that there is an initiative in Ghana looking at this. I wonder if things like this can "extend" your park program by providing onsite education and info in your toolkit for parents, who can implement ideas at home enriching the lives of their young children. http://www.grownyc.org/openspace/green-infrastructure-toolkit

Thank you for adding me to the team!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Bettina, thanks for this valuable contribution, and yes to all the above! The WASH solutions are possible b/c of the 80 meter borehole recently dug on the site as a water source independent of (unreliable) city water. Ground water in Accra at even up to 10 meters is generally thought to be contaminated with raw sewage. With a reverse osmosis system, the brackish water will be potable and can be used for site irrigation - hooray! In the meantime we are using hands-free "Tippy Taps" which are working well, and artistic too. You can see a photo here: http://goo.gl/D3tmz5.
Commercial ventures must be a necessary part of strategic planning. We envisage a Children's Market as an annual event on the city calendar, and also hosting paid events like the ones you suggest but also perhaps compatible adult events (with solar power on site and mosquito control strategies) . The art elements of the park are being carefully designed with a view to programming themed tours of indigenous and contemporary African art traditions - these may be selectively fee-based.
Urban gardening learning labs for teachers/facilitators will include commercial gardeners from low-resource communities as leaders - we showcase the skills and knowledge that exist within slums but are often undervalued....most urban market gardeners are rural migrants. See here and also here .
Urban children in Ghana are experiencing many of the same deficits as children in developed countries (e.g. detachment from food sources) but very little attention is paid to redressing these.

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Wow! I love the "Tippy Taps". Will forward the link to my friend, Director of Matenwa School, Haiti. Maybe they can adapt that there. They have a different system in place in front of their latrines. Are all the other photos of the same park? If yes link some of them above. I think everyone here would be interested to see the park in action! Will read your entire above post soon! Very exciting!
I hope you can update your post with all of these details!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Yes, all photos are of the park in action unless otherwise noted. Will link for the community here - thanks!

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I love all the ideas in your comment above. The photos help as one sees some of the ideas put into action and how much joy there is going on there! The link to the blog with the small boy and his father in the garden is great!

Are small children able to operate the "Tippy Tap"? Are there some that are scaled for small children? Is the water flow controlled? Is there an educational component to this experience? Can you write "tippy" or "tip" somewhere on the bottle or pointing to it as it "tips" and "tap" on the footrest? These words are great for young children - short, one syllable. Perhaps invent a rhyme or song so kids go home singing and the activity is remembered in this way?

A wonderful activity for small children in an urban community garden that I experienced was when a creative mom placed cards hanging from strings on tree branches for her daughter's third or fourth birthday. She brought her daughter and a few friends to this small garden where they "discovered" these "angel's notes." Each note lead them, through questions and discovery, to a spot in the garden - they were clues as part of a scavenger hunt of sorts. The cards were beautiful. It was such an unexpected imaginative activity. Something like this could be a great activity for play/ learning in the park. Have you thought about scavenger hunts?

Looking forward to seeing the user experience map! Have you started to mock up part of a toolkit? Great stuff here! Keep going!

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What we like is that the adult in the Garden Play blog post is actually an unrelated gardener in the community, and not the child's parent! Yet see how gentle and caring he is with the child. The point being made there was that the park values resource persons who may not have been to school but have skills and knowledge to contribute.

We have only just set up the tippy taps in the last six weeks for a climate education exhibition for older children, so they are as it were in beta! Modifications will certainly be made for small children if the structures prove to be sturdy and safe. Thanks for the language learning and scavenger hunt ideas!

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The update/infographic and photos look great Anowi. Can you change the update "date" in the title so that it is clear that there is something new to find here?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Bettina, yes I will thanks. This idea needs a new snappy title too - any suggestions from anyone?

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thinking about a title..... great idea!
and share the photos from the comments above either linked to text or with the other photos - they highlight the initiative so well!

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Photo of jennifer compau
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Other programs have held these names, however, I still like them...
...Food for Thought.
...Edible Education...
..Mind Garden...
The intersection of thought development and children and nature and food is delicious indeed!
Thanks to all for such inspiring thoughts!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Jennifer, those are all definitely going into the name database....how about some suggestions that tie the park to market idea as well ....

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Good job! We are wondering how you will ensure continuity of participation of the people such as mothers who are obtained from the market place? How do you plan to sustain this idea?

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Hello and thank you for pitching in! In the first instance, we will rely on direct connections to gain trust with key individual women in the marketplace who have some influence. Markets as you may know, are highly organized, despite appearances, and trust matters. Continued participation is expected to be at both the market and the park. Our experience over almost two decades is that positive experiences carried by word of mouth can result in very solid loyalty to our programs, and this should be no different. Some strategies we are considering are:
- Taking the project to where the traders work - a key factor, since their children will be there anyway.
- Making participation profitable. In the user experience map we are preparing, the vendor becomes a supplier of materials to the park. Can you help us with any ideas for incentivizing the mothers?

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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Hi Anowi and IYEN.
Would it be possible to include mothers in your trips from the market to the park? Recognizing that they need to work perhaps suggesting to them or asking them if they ever cover for each other at the market - a cooperative of sorts where a mom can leave her post for a few hours in the care of a colleague? If they plan in advance might this be possible? In the US parents participate as "class parent/mother" when children go on class trips. I would think that in the case of very small children parents would find comfort knowing that an adult that is part of their group will accompany the children. You had mentioned older siblings as chaperones. I like that idea as well but I also wonder whether a mother would be excited at the prospect of inclusion in this.

Another incentive might be if you provide healthy snacks for the children on the trips. We have breakfast programs in public schools here even when school is not in session for families that are food insecure.

Including mothers in brainstorming on projects that could include their wares might also be interesting for them.

What do you all think?

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*Inclusion of market-based parents(vast majority are mothers)* - the 3rd cyle aspiration is to "create place together". Therefore, it will be very strategic to have at least one trader, possibly two, deliver the order we make for their wares personally to the park (cycle 2) where they can see for themselves what is possible, and carry the story back to the market.
The process is likely to reveal skills that the mothers have but need invitations to express. A great example would be the tradition of mural-making on household walls which is a women's art in Northern Ghana where many of the traders at Malata have migrated from. Also, many are probably wonderful storytellers in their own right. How fantastic would it be to ultimately put the art of the women of the market into the park!
We're sure some mothers would love to be chaperones, but we suggested the older sibling otion in order to be sensitive to the economic realities - these are after all micro - to - medium business owners and even a few hours absence might make a difference to their bottom line. A practical option would simply be to ask the liaison trader to find out who might be able to chaperone, and on what terms that might be possible. Also, the kind of chaperone may determine which age group goes on the field trip. Absent a mother, the best age range for the test run may be 3 - 6.
*Healthy snacks* - important! This could be another business opportunity for someone in the market to supply yummy healthy snacks like akara (fried black-eyed bean cakes) or groundnuts or millet drinks.
Thanks for these great prompts!

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Photo of Emmanuel Owobu
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Simple and elegant. Its obvious social interaction is important in child development. You visit childrenforhealth.org and see what they are about, it'll give good insight to mixing your current project with health education

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Thanks for the link to Children For Health! Their approach is very compatible with this park idea. Are you involved with this organization?

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No but I know the founder. She's currently out of desk till January 5th.

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Photo of jennifer compau
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I am very excited about the project, it builds and spirals through the community...connecting young and old with creativity and education and play!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Jennifer, it's great to have you and your young thinkers on board! Love the brainstorming sketches - I'll upload them.

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Thanks for your patience, all! UX map, Q&A and other info pdfs on their way!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Thanks to the OpenIdeo community for giving us all the opportunity to explore in more detail the many roles that parks might play in bettering the lives of #zerotofive children and their families! My appreciation and invitation to all the ideas that harmonize with this theme, especially those built upon. Time to refine!

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Photo of Natasha Abadilla
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Hi Amowi,

I love this idea of making public places (parks) an educational place for children to learn and grow. I'd love to learn more about what prototypes of playground equipment are being produced, as well as if there are any activities that encourage critical thinking and creativity that may be easily set up and encouraged in rural communities, as I am currently working with an NGO in rural Kenya, and we are thinking of implementing structured play as part of our mother-child wellness clinic. I think we could learn a lot from your idea!

If you have the time, I'd love to hear your comments on my team's idea, under the Parenting Information mission: Maternal and Under 5 Health and Education Clinics. (https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/ideas/maternal-and-under-5-health-and-education-clinics) Any ideas you may have to help us improve our idea would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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Photo of Amowi Phillips
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Hello Natasha, Lively Minds is another good org you could follow for inspiration on structured play - http://www.livelyminds.org/play-schemes. Our Bead Play prototyping has worked well (see the little video in my post and here http://goo.gl/5j7oGf ). The loose parts or "beads" are simply sawn off branches about 3 to 5" in diameter that would otherwise be burned as firewood. To make them versatile, we drill holes in them and paint them in patterns and colors that connect with the culture of the community. These work beautifully for hand-eye coordination, large and small motor, foundational numeracy, color identification, language and communication. Hope this helps?

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Hi Amori, allow me to heartily sympathize with ALL ministers of Land in these parts of the world!!! unfortunately for kids...the struggle is never getting a SWEET solution, at least in my country, and of course Ghana!!!

I am happy that you are actively thinking about the squeeze on slum kids. At times solutions in favor of slum kids have been quit expensive. In Tanzania, the World Bank has to intervene with direct funding support just to open up a few streets/areas NOT so much OPEN SPACES were recovered. What is the experience in Ghana with World Bank support to urban /slum improvements?

What I see again here is the use of ample spaces at public schools and partially with agreement private land (say that owned by religious institutions and private schools). Can we explore more into opportunities presented by these public open spaces? can it work in Ghana? Cheers.

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Hello, John. There is definitely a case to be made for making better use of existing community spaces like school yards. A recent article on this http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/victoria-okoye/298751/re-imagining-accra-s-public-spaces. I don't have information on World Bank activity in slums. However we have a few examples of excellent home grown slum revitalization initiatives in arts and culture for children.

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Yes Amowi. Victoria Okoye is making good points. Now we all know the pace at which our might governments walk towards great suggestions and ideas. Lets be prepared to cheer up and emulate glittering visions from people like Victoria, identify friendly private initiatives and breed with existing public initiatives, as you've done. there are always spots of best practices here and there in our public land on which we may optimize for better futures. There are good examples from the private for profit too. Lets explore ALL potentials to hybridize our ways forward. should you invite Victoria for a kind discourse specifically on your area of this challenge? she has nice visions in the area you have chosen. stay blessed.

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Hi Amowi - great idea! What elements of your first park are currently underway? Are you interested in replicating your original park elsewhere, or building on your current idea? What kinds of other organizations/people are supporting your efforts?

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Chioma, Mmofra Place (name of the park) is very much a pioneering work-in-progress, so yes, we're building on the current idea.. Some of what I have described, such as the maker space for designing play features and objects, is already happening as the pictures show. A borehole, a small solar installation, composting toilets and a mini-aquaponics system are underway and are an opportunity for fun hands-on learning of how things work.
Most likely, there will be take-away elements that can be replicated or adapted to a variety of environments, manyof which are likely to be smaller spaces.
This is an almost wholly volunteer run effort on the ground so far, with technical and in-kind support coming from some local educators, artists, engineers, architects and construction companies. We 've received a few donations from a partner org /individuals in the US. The German Embassy in Ghana is giving a boost through support for climate education.
With 3 graduate level and 2 undergrad projects in design or ECD completed, the park looks like it could become an important site for studying ECD in natural learning environments in our part of the world. This has been a crowd-sourced project from the start - http://mmofraghana.org/playtime-in-africa/playtime-in-africa-and-the-power-of-we/