Project Playdate: Changing Lives through the Power of Play.

What if all children had access to an education that celebrates kindness, curiosity and community?

Photo of Amanda Raposo
2 4

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

I spent my first two undergraduate years back in 2007 trying to understand all matters involving family homelessness and female oppression in NYC. I met with representatives of organizations in both the public and private sector. I volunteered in a shelter and worked as a mentor for at risk youth. I had the privilege of meeting leaders in the field and of seeing, first hand, how they were changing the world.
 
After working for several non profits, then trying to start my own, I was unfulfilled and down-right frustrated by the inefficiencies and funding-based restrictions that paralyze this sector from accomplishing its goals. There had to be another way. I discovered the world of social entrepreneurship and was blown away by the innovation, opportunity, profitability and purpose driving this growing field.
 
I realized that there is a problematic split between those helping and those being helped. This gap fosters misunderstandings of need. It also disempowers those being served by identifying them as individuals that cannot help themselves. I was determined to fill this gap by shifting my focus to a market-centered approach. The organization would be called Powerhouse NYC. The business - Project Playdate.

I had no idea Project Playdate would “explode in popularity” (NY Post) the way that it did. It started as a one-off fundraiser. Now, it’s an award winning experiential child care service that hosts educational and leadership-building playdates for kids.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

Website

www.projectplaydate.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

New York City.

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

New York.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Tier 1: We operate in the child care and education space. In school, children are being stripped of their play time and creative subjects in order for institutions to keep up with a highly regulated education system. Outside of school and extra-curricular activities, the gap in child care needs is currently fulfilled by babysitters. Project Playdate fills this gap by providing children with a social and enriching alternative that focuses on play, diversity, creativity, and personal development.

Tier 2: We use the resources and proceeds from Project Playdate to empower mothers in poverty. One of the primary obstacles to financial security is an inability to focus on long term career development while obtaining affordable and trustworthy child care. We provide these moms with access to basic goods, career mentorship and free child care so that they can achieve economic empowerment.

We believe that facilitated social play-time contributes significantly to a child's healthy development. While schools shift their structure to be "more academic in nature", these play opportunities couldn't be more important.

We believe that the child care market needs to be disrupted and that children deserve a more enriching alternative to babysitting.

We believe that parents need a guilt-free reason to take some time off, knowing that their children are having a safe and fun experience, so that their time for self-care translates into a happier and healthier family dynamic.

Project Playdate is an innovative, experiential and award winning approach to child care that hosts social & educational playdates with NYC's most exclusive venues, most celebrated attractions and most talented specialists for kids. With enriching drop off pajama parties, entertaining wedding or private group care, and cultural daytime playdates, we have just the experience for any kid! Through these safe, fun and enriching experiences for children, we specialize in using the power of play-time to foster children's social, creative, motor and leadership skills.

We practice these skills because we are passionate about cultivating a new generation of self-aware, ambitious, and compassionate leaders. Studies have found that kids who develop these skills are not only more likely to do well at school and at work but also grow to have healthier relationships and achieve a higher level of overall happiness.

Project Playdate operates as a 501(c)3 organization. Through proceeds and in-kind goods from Project Playdate events, we can support organizations helping women and children in need. By the end of 2016 we will be launching a series of career-development workshops for select moms in need while providing our educational child care services for their children at no cost.The ultimate goal: to serve all families across communities and to help moms in need achieve financial security by using Project Playdate as a platform for funding, mentorship, entrepreneurship and employment. 

We value social impact, education and shaping the next generation of leaders and changemakers. We believe that nurturing this behavior starting at a very young age is the best way to inspire good.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded

2009

Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Project Playdate primarily serves children 2-6 years old. However, when children started aging out, they were so eager to keep coming back. So, we launched a child-generated solution called the Big Kids Club. BKC is designed to be both fun and educational for our young participants and rising stars. Our Big Kids learn how to take on responsibility, care for others and develop the confidence they need to be a good leader. Responsibilities include: leading story time, leading arts and crafts, organizing games during free play, rewarding positive behavior with stickers, & making sure younger children are safe. We see huge potential in the ability for children to experience the empowerment of actualizing ideas & taking on a leadership role.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Project Playdate became profitable in 2011 and expanded by 400% in 2012. There was an additional 56% increase in revenue from 2013 to 2014.
Collaboration with over 50 businesses and sponsors, expanded to 10 locations, established exclusive Kidville partnership and built a network of over 1000 families served.
Launched private event services in 2013, SummerPlay and daytime playdate services in 2014, scaled up 2015 & 2016
Features in the New York Times, New York Magazine, New York Post, DNA Info, and more. Winner of Red Tricycle's Totally Awesome Award for "Best Drop off Child Care Service in New York".
Obtained a 501(c)3 status and started reallocating funds/goods to helping NY mothers achieve financial security.
Partnered with New Women New York to launch first LEAD professional training program for mothers with free child care by end 2016.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

After winning the Ashoka "Be a Changemaker" Challenge Grand Prize in 2009, I was able to launch this project and it quickly became profitable. Since then it has been sustaining its own growth and supporting its multiple social impact goals.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Rather than competing, we support others in our space. We hire babysitters to staff our events so that our families can connect with them for private care. We bring together the best child care specialists as our featured workshop leaders to support the great work they do to enhance the wellbeing of children. We use the most celebrated child care spaces to host us so that we can bring potential new customers through their doors. Our unique value proposition: collaboration, not competition, with leaders in our space so that the kids can have the most valuable & enriching experience possible.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

I am very excited about the growing Reggio Emilia movement that is being adopted by many early childhood educators. This approach pulls best practices from the Waldorf and Montessori theories and combines modern technology to optimize a child's educational experience. It is dedicated to enhancing a child's curiosity and love for learning through visuals, their environment, child-directed learning, and community/parent collaborations. An ideal educational program would combine the Reggio Emilia approach with best practices in children's social, leadership and emotional development.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Word of mouth

Program Design Clarity

a) New York Families
b) Playdate, Childcare, Childcare development
c) Our Pajama Parties happens every weekends night. We also offer Seasonal Camp and Daytime Playdate when there are school off.
d) Project Playdate maintains a 1 child care provider to every 4 children ratio. This way, we can ensure that every child is receiving the attention they need and every playdate maintains the highest level of safety and care.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Playdate helps to shape a new generation of self-aware, ambitious, and compassionate leaders. Kids who develop these skills are not only more likely to do well at school and at work but also grow to have healthier relationships and achieve a higher level of overall happiness. We believe that modeling this behavior and nurturing this behavior starting at a very young age is the best way to inspire good.

Leadership Story

Our founder, Amanda Raposo, an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School, has been designing, evolving and piloting this idea since 2009. Her dedication to the organization is rooted in her passionate belief of its potential to make a massive social and economic impact, both nationally, and abroad.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Features in the New York Times, New York Magazine, New York Post, DNA Info, and more. Winner of Red Tricycle's Totally Awesome Award for "Best Drop off Child Care Service in New York".

Organization's Twitter Handle

@projectplaydate

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

https://www.facebook.com/projectplaydatenyc/

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/amanda-raposo-b2736618

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Tambra Raye Stevenson
Team

Congrats on scaling your project to this level! You are well on your way of becoming a national model. So proud of you! I am sure it would be a success in DC too!

View all comments