So what do we do with the idea of helping parents prepare their children to have the largest possible vocab by 2? How do we use our knowledge that the best way to reach this goal is by having more interactive conversation and by using more touch to create more attachment?
The immediate response, drawn from our industrial conditioning, might be that we need to create new institutions to "help" parents. After all this is how we have organized schools and how we organize the support services for social services. We think that taking this route is a fundemental error.
We think that institutions as we "see" them today have had their day. They tend to evolve quickly into self serving monoliths. They accrue structural cost growth that exceeds their capacity to deliver the service well. So they bleed the customer interface. If you don't agree with me, then think of schools today with their huge "supporting" bureaucracies and a front-line that has become a battleground of stressed teachers and acting-out kids. Think of how we deliver healthcare where stressed-out healthcare workers hand out prescriptions but do not have the time to think about why we might be ill. Think about the service side of the private sector where you get the run around from the support folks such as when you last phoned the phone company for support and got the dreaded recorded voice telling you that we value your custom but all our people are on the line (or in meetings) and asking you to wait for someone in a cubicle in a call centre thousands of miles away. Conventional institutions have become authoritarian organizations that do not listen and have taken away the voice and the sense of control and hence worth of their employees. Everybody suffers including the customer.
A new model for organization is now evident and is destroying the traditional model. We can learn from this model and apply it in this work
Networks such as eBay are different. They involve the communities that they serve and set up the conditions where people can help each other. They listen intensely and they build trust by giving their employees and most importantly their customer significant control. They have exceptionally low direct costs in inventory because they don't push product out, they respond to client needs. They have exceptionally low indirect costs in that they have the internal responsiveness and flexibility to make good decisions very quickly when faced with changing circumstances or the advent of new ideas. This is the type of help and support I think parents find is attractive. This work is all about relationships and culture.
If we seek to shift parental relationships from authoritarian and permissive to Authoritative and Collegial, then the culture of the support mechanism has to be culturally aligned to also be Authoritative and Collegial. There is no compromise on this structural point.
So this then is the work that we are going to explore in the next few months.
1. Content - Words- What are the best methods that a parent can use to significantly increase the amount and the quality of their conversation with their babies in the first 3 years of life. How can we set up the habit of dialogue when the parent came from a family culture where their mother did not do this? How might reading help? What outside help for the parent works best? We know from the area of addictions, of weight loss of personal fitness that changing the habits of a lifetime on our own is impossible. What then might be the role of a personal coach? What might be the role of a local community support group of fellow parents?
2. Content - Touch. In our busy world where so many women work and where we have been conditioned to think that we are spoiling the child by holding them too much, how can we find practical ways of significantly increasing the amount of touch? How will seeing breast feeding in the context help? How might reading be seen in this context? What about co-sleeping with our infants - what are the real risks/benefits? How do you then make the break? What about the use of slings and pouches versus strollers and car seats in a busy world? What about mothers who have a year off for maternity leave?
3. Content - Attachment and Culture. What do we mean by Authoritative Parenting style? If a natural style is authoritarian or permissive - how can we make adjustments? How can we help parents notice and react instinctively to the cues that our infants send us - in effect, what is baby language? How do parents cope with the opposing cultural influences of their own parents and grandparents who may think that what they are doing is wrong?
4. Social Marketing There is no one message or one method that will fit every parent. The age of mass marketing is over. What then are the messages and the channels by which we will reach a wide range of parent cultures and families. How can we reach business and government so that they "see" what the stakes are and how they can best help. Can we use the lessons of the Tipping Point as a low cost high yield process? Who can help us here? How can we use technology, such as how eBay works, to connect parents in authentic community and to link parents to trusted coaches and information so that they can teach and help each other as peers and in communities of practice?
5. Training - Train the Trainers. Who will be the coaches and what will they have to know? How will they be Branded/certified? How will they remain current? How will their learning flow back into the larger knowledge pool so that we constantly build up the pool of Intellectual Capital that supports this work?
6. Research - Accelerating the interaction between action and research How will we link what we do in the field to the growing research effort on the Early Years? How do we do this without adding too much friction to the work? How can we get results that are meaningful quickly so that they can be fed back into the system and changes made?
7. Where do we start? We would like to start on PEI because we have the scale that enables us to see an entire society but where we are small enough to get something done. Because we have the foundation of infrastructure with community-based centres all across the Island. Where every new born's parents are already assessed as parents. Where research feeders are in place
8. How will we design and operate the network? Form follows function. We are fortunate in having some early exemplars of community based organizations such as eBay that are built on the platform of creating the right space for trusted relationships. If you want to know more please follow this link.