CPPR’s Child Care Planning Assessment Tool receives $25,000 Grand Prize

The University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research was awarded the $25,000 grand prize for their Child Care Planning Assessment Tool. The tool was developed in response to the child care crisis in Kansas and the United States through The Opportunity Project (TOP), an innovation program led by the Census Open Innovation Labs (COIL). The tool received the highest score in TOP’s Open Data for Good competition.

“We are thankful for the opportunity and TOP structure to develop a prototype for a Child Care Planning Assessment Tool. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed long-standing issues in the child care system, including labor participation. As a result, we’re seeing new local voices from the business and economic development sectors come to the table wanting to be a part of the solution,” said CPPR Director Jackie Counts. “Our CPPR teams work at the intersection of child care and community-level conversations, and this was a perfect opportunity to help formally bridge the gap. We look forward to co-creating a useful tool that leads to local solutions,” she added.

The Child Care Planning Assessment Tool taps into a variety of open data sources to help community leaders better assess and understand the connection between child care and equitable labor participation. The tool includes a snapshot of child care demand and labor data for every county in the nation, as well as child care supply data for each county in Kansas. Community leaders can then input their demand and supply data into a slider tool that calculates a base level of investment needed to meet those specific child care needs. The beta version of the tool is located at top.kucppr.org.

“Child care impacts all of us, and yet the challenges are unique to each community. This tool is a way to start that conversation at a local level,” said Sara Gardner, assistant director. “We invite community leaders to interact with the prototype, tell us what works well, what doesn’t, and what else they need to build child care solutions that meet the needs of their communities. We want this to be part of the solution,” she added.

The Child Care Planning Assessment Tool team includes CPPR employees from various disciplines and backgrounds including Sara Gardner, CPPR assistant director; Meghan Kluth, research project coordinator; Danielle Brower, research projector manager; Nathan Kuhn, assistant researcher; Adrienne Sadovksy, associate researcher; Greta Stuhlsatz, associate researcher; Shala London, creative director; and Cara Combs, creative director. The team partnered with Flow Immersive on some of the tool’s data visualization elements.

The team plans to use the prize money to evolve the Child Care Planning Assessment Tool over the coming months, building features and functionality based on user feedback. The team is currently conducting outreach with prospective users and partners, including economic development and community leaders across Kansas and the United States to help inform next steps and improvements. Future iterations of the tool will be based on user feedback, and may include additional data and variables, such as affordability of child care and demand for care provided during non-traditional hours. Child care supply data is currently available at the county level for Kansas, and the team is exploring ways to expand data for other states and communities.

TOP facilitates 12-week product development cycles—called “sprints”—focused on helping companies, non-profits, and universities build products with federal open data that help solve national challenges. TOP was founded in 2016 and is now scaling across federal and local governments. TOP brings together technologists, government, and communities to rapidly prototype digital products using federal open data. 

To date, thousands of individuals, hundreds of organizations, and more than 30 federal agencies have participated in TOP, leading to more than 175 open data tools and products including apps, websites, interactive maps, data visualizations, games, and more. These products are built by companies and universities such as Redfin, Mapbox, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, FitBit, LinkedIn, Harvard, Georgetown, Rutgers, small businesses, start-ups, and more. TOP is a tested model for effective cross-sector collaboration that rapidly results in real products, and puts open data to work for the public. This model is now available to any agency via an open-source toolkit.

About the Center for Public Partnerships and Research at the University of Kansas
CPPR’s thought leaders and change makers advance the well-being of children and families. CPPR brings a multidisciplinary team of researchers, evaluators, systems-thinkers, data scientists, and project coordinators to catalyze change and move things forward in measurable ways. With experience and expertise steeped in applied research coupled with a ventures mindset, CPPR accelerates the impact of partner organizations and develops its own innovative solutions to systemic challenges in areas like early childhood care and education, public health, youth development, child neglect and abuse prevention, and adaptive leadership.