The childcare challenge

Talk to parents and most will say their number one priority is their kids – so why has there been so little innovation in childcare in the last 20 years?

We have seen massive disruption in many markets driven by the application of science and the use of new technology. Netflix has transformed how and what we watch. We no longer hail a cab on the street but Uber one instead. And we can order freshly-made meals straight to our door step at the click of a button.

Childcare, however, is still difficult, complicated, and expensive. So to coincide with International Women’s Day, we at TVE, a strategic marketing consultancy specialising in branding and innovation, decided to tackle this rather dusty category. Through a week-long digital ideation session, we crowdsourced ideas to help generate a new vision and solutions for the future face of childcare. Here’s our start at transformation.

If you would like to learn more about our approach to digital ideation or crowdsourced innovation for your organization, please contact Krishna Kabra (Krishna.Kabra@thevalueengineers.com) in the US or Simon Stokes (Simon.Stokes@thevalueengineers.com) in the UK.

Four key themes

At a higher order, we identified overarching themes that are very much in line with many of today’s trends (the Marie Kondo movement, the rise of more evolved work/play spaces, the development of millennial community living, and the like). The themes were intelligent tech, radical work flexibility, it takes a village and the start-up model. Ultimately, they build up to so much more. By masterfully repurposing technology to serve us, our vision for childcare is a renaissance of ‘back to basics’ – a combination of the human connection and purposeful living.

 

  1. Intelligent Tech

Tech-led ideas included using intelligent technology to monitor the health and well-being of children and to manage the organisational nightmare that is planning everyday family life.

One of the group’s favourite ideas was even more forward-looking, and involved autonomous vehicles. ‘KIM - Kids in Motion’ combined play spaces and classrooms with the known educational benefits of travel and the potential of self-driving cars. Staffed by childcare specialists, these mobile spaces would provide a safe environment for learning and play, and would have regular stops at interesting destinations (zoos, aquariums, parks) and workplaces so parents can pop in and see their child during the day.

  1. Radical Work Flexibility

Radical work flexibility also saw great traction. Rather than conforming to a rigid work schedule, people would be productive entirely on their own terms and timing. Companies who put family first would attract the best talent – making it good business.

Ideas here included the 4 day work week, childcare in every office, and We Work – flexible childcare and office spaces so childcare would literally be next door to work. The idea of flipping part time hours on their head also drew interest – giving parents the option to mirror their work hours to the school day.

 

  1. It Takes A Village

Combined with the push for tech and disruption, there was an equal desire to return to basics and leverage the power of the community. Ideas in this space included Intergenerational Care – co-locating daycare in retirement communities to keep older folks feeling younger, and encourage younger children to learn from generations before them. Incidentally, this is already being piloted.

Other ideas included 4 Day Work Week Baby Buddies – having three or four couples each take a different day off during the week to look after their kids, and their friends’ kids too. Another was Timeshare Childcare – having families take turns volunteering at the local daycare, both to build a local support network and keep costs down at the nursery. Parenting Communities, similar to 50+ communities, were also pitched.

  1. The Start-up Model

Last but not least was applying the start-up mentality to childcare. This included everything from a PA 4 Kids – outsourcing all the mundane tasks of planning (think summer camp choices, payments and enrollments) to an assistant service so parents can spend more quality time with their family – to Empty Nester Uber Moms – a convenient after-school pickup and drop-off service run by empty nesters.

Other ideas included Plated for Kids to encourage healthy meal options, and Class Pass for Kids – a system that would allow littles ones to explore their burgeoning interests and parents to avoid the hassles of last-minute scheduling. Nanny sick today? Not a problem – off to forest preschool with you! Reading Madeline last night? How about a French class tomorrow?

More on the How – A Week-Long Digital Ideation

We leveraged the expertise and creativity of our colleagues and clients from the US and UK, via a trans-Atlantic virtual hub powered by our partners at Crowdicity. Many of the ideas harnessed new technology to deliver more expedient, high quality services and support. Interestingly, the smart ideation process itself is another example of how technology, creativity and vision can be harnessed among a collective to challenge broader issues that affect us all.

We have used this interactive digital hub as a platform for ideation and innovation with a number of clients. It allows for creative contributions to happen over time, leaning into the natural order of creativity which takes percolation – versus a singular event or moment such a conventional workshop. It allows for more introverted people to contribute more. It allows for a breadth of people to participate, share, build and even vote on each other’s ideas; an iterative process where the strongest ideas will not just rise to the top of the list, but will also be optimized along the way. With inspired briefs, it presents a great space for divergent thinking, encouraging participants to lean into novel ideas (be it tech, business model or otherwise) from adjacent categories. It uses gamification techniques, and therefore our innate competitive nature, to encourage participation. In a nutshell, it’s crowdsourcing at its best.

 

BY ENGINEER Irina Ikonsky

irina.ikonsky@thevalueengineers.com