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Webinar: Human Centered Design as an Equity Strategy in Early Childhood Policy and Development

On September 14, the Alliance for Early Success hosted a webinar about how human-centered design can be an equity strategy in early childhood policy and development. Our speakers included Erica Meade from the New Practice Lab at New America, Holly Low from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Ryan Pricco from Child Care Aware of Washington, and Reshonna Reynolds, early childhood educator and campaign assistant at MomsRising (WA). 

It was a fascinating discussion. Use the buttons below to see the recording or the slides, or read on for a summary of the webinar. 

Erica from New America started by providing an overview of what human-centered design (HCD) is and its application in policy. Her discussion included: 

    • The benefits of using HCD to inform both policy design and implementation  
    • How HCD is different from other stakeholder engagement activities 
    • How to implement HCD with equity at the center 

She also shared the following resources: 

We, then, showcased two examples of how state leaders are using HCD to inform their early childhood policy efforts.  

First, Holly shared her agency’s work with New America and the state’s Office of Innovation to use HCD to improve the implementation of paid family leave. Their goal was to increase understanding of how the benefit works for potential beneficiaries, and ultimately to increase enrollment, especially among underserved communities. By applying HCD strategies, like iterative design sprints, that centered how “end users” access and understand information, her agency created tools such as the Maternity Coverage Timeline Tool and new informational guides for parents in both English and Spanish. Holly believes that HCD will continue to be a key strategy at the NJ Department of Labor on a variety of policies beyond paid family leave, especially with support from the state’s Office of Innovation. 

You can read more about New Jersey’s story in this blog from New America and this discussion of lessons for implementing paid family leave that emerged from the use of HCD 

Next, we heard from Ryan and Reshonna from Washington State. Under the leadership of Child Care Aware of Washington, the state has been engaged in process, informed by Liberatory Design, that creates a space for early childhood educators and providers to lead in the design of state policies to increase compensation. (The idea originated from a team from Washington State that participated in the Moving the Needle Project, which was led by the Child Care Services Association/TEACH Early Childhood National Network, and funded by the Alliance.) Through a rigorous application process, they recruited 34 diverse members of the child care workforce in the spring to be part of a “design team.” (About 75 percent of them are people of color, one-third speak Spanish as a primary language, 15 percent are home-based providers.) Since this summer, this group has been discussing potential policies to increase compensation, with support from a group of policy advocates and analysts, who work with the educators and providers to translate their ideas and agreements into viable policy proposals. The goal is to develop a legislative proposal to advance in the 2023 legislative session. 

Reshonna also spoke from her perspective as an early childhood educator in the design team. She shared the importance of building trust and empathy within the group so that she and her peers can share their stories authentically. Facilitators also provided training on the legislative process and created an environment where the providers and educators saw themselves as experts. Finally, Reshonna talked about how empowering it was, especially as a women of color, to have a seat at the table, where they can “create something in our way, what we want, in our terms.” 

Child Care Aware of Washington is currently raising funds so that the design team can continue their work as advocacy leaders and serve as the face and messengers of the campaign to pass the policy proposals that come out of this process.  


For further reading: 

A Review of Human-Centered Design in Human Services, from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation at the Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services. 




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