“We are absolutely convinced that none of these problems related to poverty, or violence or maltreatment, none of them are unsolvable. We totally reject the idea that what we’re doing now is the best we can do.”
– Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Pediatrician and Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
With community support, The Family Place has taken steps to incorporate a new, science-based approach into our work with families, using tools and the latest brain science offered from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. The Center has convened a worldwide community focused on finding strategically powerful, practically effective, and feasible solutions for families with young children experiencing poverty and other forms of adversity.
In 2018, nine staff and three Board members received training in the Center’s Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) approach. FOI uses a framework that emphasizes the rapid design and testing of new strategies grounded in research on poverty and its effects on the developing brain. Learn more about this workshop.
In November 2018, a team from the The Family Place participated in the Center on the Developing Child’s three-day Innovation in Action Workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the follow-up workshop, our team developed a theory of change, program materials and an evaluation plan for Brain Lab, our facilitated parent-child playtime. This is the area of work in which we will begin practicing an innovation approach on a small scale. Learn more about this workshop.
The Family Place was pleased to welcome Dr. Melanie Berry, Director of Innovation Strategies at the Center, as the luncheon keynote speaker at our 9th Annual Force for the Future Luncheon on April 2, 2019. She is part of the team that developed the FOI’s model for program development and evaluation, the IDEAS Impact Framework. We were so pleased that more than 200 community members were able to hear Dr. Melanie Berry, Director of Innovation Strategies at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, speak about early brain development and the potential to transform the early childhood field through science-based innovation. Her keynote presentation, “Beyond Best Practices: How Can Science Fuel Innovation in Early Childhood?” addressed how early experiences shape the architecture of a child’s developing brain and made a compelling case for how both policy and practice might evolve to improve outcomes for young children facing adversity. If you would like to view Dr. Berry’s presentation and our Executive Director’s remarks, a video will be available to view on our website in a few weeks.
In April 2019, we received exciting news that the project developed by staff at The Family Place called “Brain Lab” was accepted into the Center on the Developing Child’s Frontiers of Innovation portfolio. Brain Lab engages parents in practicing the kinds of responsive interactions that help their babies and toddlers develop a healthy brain architecture. Over the next year, The Family Place will have access to the Center’s expertise and guidance as we begin to evaluate Brain Lab’s feasibility and effectiveness. We will also be connected to a community of Frontiers of Innovation affiliated partners from around the world who are similarly focused on learning and innovating.
We believe that integrating an innovation approach will result in more effective, targeted strategies and inform where to direct our resources to have the greatest impact on young children and their families in our community. We are eager to share what we learn with other community partners.