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Improving literacy outcomes for children

In Del Norte County, Northern California, 66% of children are starting school unprepared and many families are struggling to build their children’s literacy. The School Systems Implementation Team (SSIT), educators and community leaders wanted to change this, by understanding what was really going on for families.
Client
Del Norte County
Service
Community engagement and co-design, Complex human experience sensemaking, Empathy research
Project Team
Karyn McLean's profile'
Cate Shaw's profile'
Jess Lunnon's profile'

We set up a design team of educators and key community agencies to engage with families and teachers to build a deep understanding of what was impacting on a child’s capacity to learn.  The empathy research had a strong focus on the cultural inclusion of Native American, Hmong and Hispanic people. 
 

We learned that there were families under pressure in a world that feels unsafe and chaotic; families where day-to-day living was the focus; through to families with huge aspirations for their children, where learning was a priority.

175 parents, educators and community leaders came together to understand the research insights and design a new literacy experience for Del Norte families. The authentic insights have galvanised the local community – both at a systems and individual organisation level.  The community has signed up to an audacious goal: that all third graders will be reading at third grade level by 2023.

ThinkPlace’s co-design approach with families and educators has been critical to the success of the project.  The design team went back to some of the families who were involved in the research to get their ideas on what a new future would look like for them.  The impact of continuing to engage and co-design with families who were interviewed has been powerful.  We also identified the key system shifts needed to make the literacy future experience for families a reality.

Our human-centred design approach has connected with a wide variety of stakeholders in Del Norte.  Its provided a method to turn ideas into meaningful change resulting in real systems changes and improvements in the lives of families in a rural, under-resourced community.

We’re continuing to support SSIT and the local design team, who are leading several co-design initiatives with families and educators. Progress will be shared at the second literacy symposium in May this year, and you can follow the movement on Facebook at 3Read23

Quote
“The turnout at the symposium was ridiculous. The testimonies given by core design team members and community leaders tonight was that of raving fans. They spoke eloquently about the deep shifts that occurred in their thinking about their work due to the deep research and their involvement with real people. Their worlds have been rocked. Their testimonies heartfelt. And the combination of design thinking and collective impact now means that they have identified quantitative goals that are rooted in the insights from the research process.” - Client