by John Hagerman, Habitat Communications Specialist
I recently received an invitation to share my ideas about “How might parents in low-income communities ensure children thrive in their first five years?” Here at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, we tend to immediately respond with, “Make sure the children live in a stable, affordable home.” To be sure, a stable, affordable home is a big part of the answer, but the question goes beyond a single answer, it goes to how we think about problems, and more importantly, discovering new ways to collaborate on solving problems.
The invitation came fromOpenIDEO.com. OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform for social good. It’s a global community that draws upon the optimism, inspiration, ideas and opinions of everyone to solve problems together. They’ve developed a process that starts with a Big Question, moves to shared research that gives the state-of-current-thinking on the topic, then starts collecting ideas from anyone and everyone on how to solve the challenge that was posed. These ideas are evaluated and the best 10 are shared with the community for further evaluation and expert feedback. Finally, the process moves to the Impact phase where stories of implementation results are showcased. Both big and small successes are shared.
I doubt anyone will question the impact living in a stable, affordable home has on helping children thrive, but helping children thrive is a complex issue with many moving parts. By asking the questionOpenIDEO.com provokes a conversation from which new possibilities inevitably arise. Even looking at the question from Habitat’s focused perspective, questions arise as to how to raise families out of the poverty? How do you insure full employment at livable wages? How do you build individual, family and community wealth among communities where knowing where your next meal is coming from is not always a given? How do you insure adequate nutrition for children to thrive physically and mentally? How do you insure every child has the quality education they need to thrive? How do you make sure every child has access to healthcare so they are physically able to thrive? How do you get rid of the overt and covert racism that holds children, families and communities down?
These are tough questions, but all of them, and more, need to be considered, and addressed, in order to answer the question, “How might parents in low-income communities ensure children thrive in their first five years.” I’m looking forward to watching this challenge evolve and seeing what solutions are submitted. I’d love to see some Big Answers to the question, but I’ll be happy with little answers that might help Habitat and other organizations make inroads into ensuring children thrive during their first five years, and beyond.