Seeding the Future for the Development of a New Generation

What if children were successful in their first grade of school and develop their full potential?

Photo of José Luis Castro-Borrero
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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.

The project began with a group of leaders from schools, churches, businesses, government agencies, care centers, physicians and community members that convened to join efforts with Seeding the Future, an initiative that was conceptualized and developed by United Way of Puerto Rico as a new model of community impact based on five basic premises: Common Agenda, Shared Metrics, Mutual Reinforcement Activities, Consistent Communication and A leading Agency. Prior to its implementation, a comprehensive profile was completed identifying challenges and strengths of the Puerto Rican community that might relate to the work plan of the Project. Multiple individual and group visits were carried out in schools, churches, businesses, government agencies, care centers, and doctors. After exchanging ideas, all of them immediately began working to activate the different components of the plan. It involved the participation of day care centers in the workshops “Aprendo” ("I learn"), a series of workshops focused on children emotional development. On the other hand, public service campaigns were implemented about folic acid benefits reading, school readiness, breastfeeding, healthy eating and physical activity. Following the enthusiasm, a group of residents from municipalities of Dorado and Cataño developed a guide to gather information about schools, pediatricians, and other resources. Those communities later became participant municipalities of the Seeding the Future Pilot Project.

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

  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)

Website

http://www.fondosunidos.org

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Puerto Rico

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

San Juan

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

  • Puerto Rico

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

Since 2013, we have been working with a Pilot Project in underserved municipalities of Cataño, Dorado and Toa Baja, in the northern area of Puerto Rico. Other impact areas are based in San Juan and Bayamón, in the Greater Metropolitan Area of the island.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The weak awareness about the importance of a healthy early childhood development and the lack of resources to raise kids that arrive to school with the necessary knowledge, skills and socio-emotional health that would enable them to succeed in school and life. The barriers to be addressed by the project is the myriad of conditions and social determinants that impact the wellbeing of children in Puerto Rico, most of which start even before birth. Poverty, poor education and health, and other systematic disadvantages are cumulative, intergenerational, and associated with lower capacity for full participation in society. Addressing these factors through community mobilization, we aim to reduce the rates of children that fail first grade of school and its consequences, and provide an important foundation for children’s health and thus their well-being as adults.

The solution is the advancement and fostering of school readiness in Puerto Rico, ensuring that children develop the necessary skills to pass successfully the first grade of school, thus maximizing their chances to attain their full potential and have a fulfilling and healthy live in the future. We aim to achieve this through community empowerment and education. Seeding the Future is a program that strives for the development of a new generation, based on a comprehensive view of the child that includes cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development, as well as the ability of the family and the community to provide a supportive environment. Towards this end, we align community resources to ensure that all children in Puerto Rico, from 0 to 6 years of age, are raised in environments of care and with the support they need to reach their full potential and approve first grade of school.  We assume a prevention standpoint, connecting in one system different campaigns to develop educational programs that rises further awareness and advocate for cognitive stimulation, nutrition, physical and recreational activities, socio-emotional development, professional training, breastfeeding education, public health, and other related activities to encourage affirmative action through multiple sectors and stakeholders. The most promising aspects to ensure the attainment of our goal is that we  use a Community Impact Model to develop long lasting changes in the community.  We mobilize communities to understand their needs and projects, then measure and conduct evidence accountability to be able to identify and share the social changes that are developed, and finally uses evidence-based practices to ensure that the strategies utilized by the project have produced the results established by our objectives.  On the other hand, we also use a Collective Impact Model to unify the efforts of multiple sectors, a coalition of sorts, towards the same goal. This model is based on identifying common agendas and goals among different sectors of society; groups that must share measurements (statistics/impact, etc.); the development of mutual impact activities that avoid duplicity; continuous communication between all parties involved; and having us as the organization that coordinates all the efforts that are made by the interested groups. The core work of the coalition consists in community interventions that follow the "Train the Trainer" model, which seeks to educate a key person in the community, a leader who through his/her work or daily life influences others.








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
  • Mental Health

Year Founded

1966

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.

Seeding the Future encompasses different initiatives. Most of them follow a "Train the trainer" approach, which seeks to educate a key person in the community about a focus topic of the program. An example is the program APRENDO, a series of workshops that target Day Care facilities to train caregivers to offer learning experiences focused on fostering social-emotional development in early childhood. Through the trainings, caregivers develop the skills to share the information with families. They also learn to apply these principles at their own centers. The result is that the information is disseminated through a lot of persons that are putting into practice these principles, benefiting the children they impact on a daily basis.

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

In the past two years, we developed a Pilot Project in the municipalities of Cataño, Toa Baja and Dorado, to implement its strategies. These municipalities were chosen due to the many socioeconomic challenges they face. As of today, Seeding the Future has fully engaged at least 200 partners per municipality to the multi-sectoral coalition. We have also carried out different initiatives to train leaders about the importance of reading, socio-emotional development, best practices in care centers, nutrition, breastfeeding, and others. Seeding the Future aims to expand its reach and grow our initiative to further municipalities around Puerto Rico. We also expect to implement a program to foster developmental monitoring of children.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • over $5mil

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

Since its inception, we have established alliances with different organizations, such as The Spina Bifida Association of Puerto Rico, University of Puerto Rico, La Liga de la Leche, and Administration for Children Care and Integral Development. We also present grant proposals to federal and state government, foundations and individuals. In addition, we encourage businesses from impacted municipalities to contribute financially to the project.

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?

The work carried out by Seeding the Future is unique in Puerto Rico. No other non-profit organizations in the island provide similar services or have an early childhood development focus such as Seeding the Future. Our model is based on Collective Impact, allowing us to connect existing resources in the community. This differentiates our project from others.

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?

Its most promising shift is the capacity of a single program to adopt a holistic approach to the many needs that should be addressed to help children attain their optimum development. It promotes this principle even from the beginning of conception, encouraging the use of Folic Acid and breastfeeding; promoting school readiness, reading activities, nutrition, health and optimum socio-emotional development. The program promotes empowerment, developing in every adult a sense of responsibility towards children. This holistic approach is what makes our project different and versatile.

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

  • Email

Program Design Clarity

The main beneficiary community comprises Puerto Rican children from 0 to 6 years of age. However, most of the activities are directed to adults that, through their daily routine, impact children or families. This aims to develop a network of collaborative activities that in the long term result in that sectors of the community focus on early childhood care. Most of the activities include trainings, delivered in any venue that is needed. Their regularity depends on the availability of funds to implement them— at least one per month— and delivered by expert professionals within the field.

Community Leadership

The program follows the model of Collective Impact of Stanford University, which unifies stakeholders towards common goals. Before adopting the program formally, a panel of experts analyzed statistics and data that led us to select best practices and evidence-based practices. Then they were presented to people in municipalities, who made recommendations on the projects that could work, and even selected those in which they wanted to participate.

Age of Children Impacted

  • Pregnancy - 0
  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5

Spread Strategies

We use media campaigns in social media, regional newspapers, and others. Community leaders, such as faith- based organizations, are key in this effort. The program aims to publish results of its initiatives and disseminate research relevant to its mission. Also, it advises communities, governments, and other NGOs. Another strategy is the participation in public demonstrations and speaking engagements to share knowledge and raise awareness.

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

If we are to attain perdurable changes, one-off initiatives do not work. To cultivate children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose, it is necessary to address the complete context in which they are in. Through a complete system of support from many stakeholders, we can promote public policy changes. Adopting a preventive scope, we could contribute to eradicate the factors that prevent children from attaining their full potential.

Leadership Story

In 2011 the Board of United Way Puerto Rico gathered a group of leaders from schools, churches, businesses, agencies, care centers, physicians and community to shape a preventive effort focused on children. A profile of the municipalities was completed identifying needs, challenges and strengths of the communities through individual and group visits. Ideas were exchanged by leaders and an Advisory Committee to activate different components of the preventive plan. It was finally adopted as Seeding the Future in 2012, becoming a formal program and part of the Strategic Plan of United Way PR.

Organization's Twitter Handle

@FondosUnidos

Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

https://www.facebook.com/fondosunidos

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 25%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 50%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 25%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 0%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 25%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 75%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 25%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 75%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 25%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 25%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 33.3%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 33.3%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 33.3%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 33.3%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

4 comments

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Photo of Michael Auerbach
Team

Wonderful initiative. I believe you could be a leader in this challenge!

Photo of José Luis Castro-Borrero
Team

Thanks, Michael! As part of the philosophy of United Way, it has a Collective Impact Model, which leads us to be a  backbone organization and an entity that unifies and facilitates the work of the community, organizations and government. We believe that efforts are more effective if move together towards the same purpose.

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