We here in the Innovation Lab recently launched our second “Innovation Challenge” to CAP employees. These challenges are meant to leverage the creativity of all of our staff so that we can identify problems and solutions that would never have occurred to us in the safety of the group cube. Our last challenge sought ideas about building strong connections among the people we serve: What challenges do we face that could be solved by building better connections between the people we serve?
The motivation behind the latest challenge was T.J. Sexton’s research into social networks and “co-production.” “These relationships build connections among families and enlist them as partners to contribute their creativity and ambitions in achieving our shared goals.”
Upon my recommendation, T.J. ordered a book I’d heard about called Unanticipated Gains, which reviews the benefits of social connections at child care centers. Since I suspect he’s taking his time wading through it (T.J. being a very busy innovator), I thought I’d help out and link to a video interview with the book’s author, Mario Small.
Allow Early Ed Watch to provide you the summary:
In the video, Small says that he found that mothers with children in childcare centers were less depressed and exchanged more information about child rearing. They also found out about resources like health clinics and museums that catered to children. Instead of being thought of as simple drop-off spots for babysitting, Small argues, “the centers have quite a few benefits for the social networks and social well-being of the mothers.”
Small talks, too, about how certain characteristics of centers can encourage or discourage parents to get to know each other. For example, he says, child care centers that set specific drop-off and pick-up times are better at enabling parents to meet, talk and compare experiences.
Small mentions that parents with children at child care centers had more friends than other disadvantaged parents. I’m not sure of the extent to which this is really true within our own early childhood program, based on some surveys I’ve conducted, but that’s the point of the innovation challenge: we want to identify problem areas that would benefit from stronger connections between parents. If you work for CAP, read about the challenge on InsideCAP and submit an idea to us. (Soon! The deadline is tomorrow.) If you don’t, you are always welcome to contribute your ideas as comments right here.