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Introducing the Philadelphia Parent Innovation Institute

Human-Centered Design +

Built on the belief that early childhood services created with families instead of for families are much more likely to meet their needs, the Institute will bring together teams comprised of staff and parents from each organization. Together, they will learn human-centered design and create new solutions to strengthen family engagement in early literacy and language programs for Philadelphia’s youngest learners.

I am very excited to introduce the incredible organizations joining the initiative over the next year and share an update on how we’ve recently reimagined the Philadelphia Parent Innovation Institute.

The Teams 

The Lab team and I worked in close partnership with the Philadelphia PII advisory committee, to select organizations who share a range of common interests and skills including: a focus on literacy and language outcomes for children ages 0-8; their commitment to meeting the needs of neighborhoods they serve; openness to learn; potential to get the most out of learning and applying human-centered design; demonstrated leadership buy-in; equity and the opportunity to support leaders of color.

We could not be more excited about the final four participating organizations—all of whom share a commitment to learning new ways of working with families and a passion for serving their communities. Each team also brings diverse voices and talents that will contribute to a culture of learning and growth within the institute and, beyond this year, help shape the future of how families are supported in Philadelphia.

Here’s more on each of the organizations: 

FathersRead365 encourages fathers to read daily with their children and wants them to be committed to their literacy from birth. They have created a platform where men feel free to interact in a playful and joyous manner with young children while inspiring them to love to read. 

Akeiff Staples
Brent Johnstone

ParentChild+ engages early in life, using education to help toddlers and their parents access a path to possibility. They provide not only early literacy and school readiness supports, but most importantly early opportunity. For families living in underserved communities, they are a first step on the ladder to success, working to close the equity gap and utilize education to provide opportunities.

“The opportunity to be part of the Philadelphia Parent Innovation Institute provides a unique opportunity to learn from and elevate the voices of the individuals and communities that we are trying to impact.”

– Malkia Singleton Ofori-Agyekum
Pennsylvania State Director of ParentChild+

Philly Reading Coaches is a program that combines early reading support, access to books, and community volunteers to boost reading skills for our city’s children. Their mission is to increase the levels of literacy success for children in grades K-3 as well as the level of civic health in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

“This opportunity gives our team the support that is needed to deepen our impact and empower the families of our young readers. We are very grateful to be selected as participants.”

Johniece R. Foster
Director of Philly Reading Coaches,
City of Philadelphia Office of Children and Families

Small Wonders FCCH is an early childhood education program whose mission is to close the gap between at risk children in the Logan section of Philadelphia between the ages of birth to 12 years old and their counterparts. They seek to aid in the development of grade level fluency in literacy, math science, cognitive development, fine motor and gross motor development as well as social emotional development. In addition, they seek to support parents in gaining access to resources to help them make meaningful gains in all developmental appropriate domains.

“Being a part of this institute allows me to network with other leaders who have similar goals. In addition, I will be able to learn from others and grow my knowledge as a leader.”

– Latonta Godboldt
CEO of Small Wonders FCCH

Re-envisioning the Year Ahead

Philadelphia PII was just weeks away from its inaugural in-person training when we along with the world had to confront the reality of a pandemic. Since then, we’ve also been moved by the calls for racial justice across the country, and have been discussing what we can do in our work to uplift Black children and families. 

We decided to take this time to slow down, step back, and rethink how we could evolve our human-centered design (HCD) process in Philadelphia. We engaged in conversation with the teams, advisory committee, and other stakeholders to reframe the goals given the current realities on the ground.

In addition to building a learning community for HCD as a strategy for engaging families, we modified our curriculum to include the following five pillars:

  1. Family engagement to family partnership: On our call with our participating teams we heard that our current reality is requiring a deeper more intentional approach that builds authentic relationships with families. 
  2. Trauma-informed: Providers, parents, and children are all traumatized by the reality of the pandemic and unrest across the nation. Any approach that is not trauma-informed will simply not be enough right now. 
  3. Equity at the center: The dismantling of structures of oppression and movement for racial justice has further emboldened our ethos of keeping equity at the center of whatever it is we do. 
  4. Ecosystemic approach: With systems of childcare in flux, the need to have an approach that builds an ecosystem of working together to understand the system from multiple views is essential. This will be a core element of the PII experience. 
  5. Designing in uncertainty: The usual HCD approach to problem-solving needs to be further complemented by tools that can help our teams navigate uncertainty. We will be building the curriculum by blending HCD with behavioral science, systems thinking, and a novel methodology that I call Regenerative Innovation.

I’m eager to embark on this year of learning with organizations and families united by a deep commitment to improve the lives of young children in Philadelphia. Together, we will create an innovation-driven community where family voices will reimagine the way we create early childhood programs and services.

Please stay tuned for updates from the Philadelphia Parent Innovation Institute over the next year—we are excited to share what we learn along the way.