Sensemaking Elevates Families’ Voices

Change Makers: CPPR’s Our Tomorrows team gathers stories from Kansans. The experiences they share can help shape policy and programming decisions in our communities and across the country. In addition to collecting and sharing, the team hosts sessions to discuss trends and patterns revealed.

Change Makers  

CPPR’s Our Tomorrows team gathers stories from Kansans. The experiences they share can help shape policy and programming decisions in our communities and across the country. In addition to collecting and sharing, the team hosts sessions to discuss trends and patterns revealed. 

“We have been blessed with the opportunity to get an iPad with wifi and a data plan. We are so grateful for this. It has changed our lives and allowed us to continue home visits to support our child with a disability by using Zoom, and we don’t have to worry about exposure to COVID-19. And we can still get support! Totally awesome!” 

As they gathered for a virtual sensemaking workshop on Dec. 8, 2020, grantees of the Technology for Families and Remote Learning Support grants discussed trends revealed from the 277 stories like these that were shared by families and providers about the impact the technology grants had in the lives of Kansas families and those who serve them.  

Funded by federal CARES act dollars, the Technology for Families Program provided connectivity, equipment, and devices to support virtual access for families receiving home visiting services. The Remote Learning Support grants were awarded by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund to programs that addressed the need for alternative care and education for families adversely impacted by remote learning situations during the pandemic. 

CPPR’s Our Tomorrow’s team supported grantees in collecting these 277 personal stories, then analyzed them to spot trends and key information that would be useful to understanding the lived experiences of families, as told in their own words. The stories were added to the statewide Our Tomorrows StoryBank, a collection of personal stories of the lived experiences of Kansans today to help shape a brighter tomorrow. 

The Our Tomorrows StoryBank both informed the creation of the Technology for Families grant and was an integral part of the continuous effort to listen to Kansas family voices about their experiences and needs through grantee story collection. The stories revealed that 13.7 percent of respondents experienced a lack of access to internet and/or technology as a major disruptor.  

During the sensemaking workshop, the Our Tomorrow’s team facilitated discussion among the 46 participants who considered story patterns and shared emerging ideas. Participants shared that the stories collected through Our Tomorrows illustrated the critical needs families faced accessing technology during the pandemic. 

The stories revealed that families were using the technology to meet critical family needs in general, not just in conjunction with home visits, which was the intent of the grant. The new technology allowed them to access health care, connect with medical providers, apply for jobs, and spend time with family members and friends. The stories also showed that as families tackled and mastered the new technology provided through the grant, they acquired new tech skills.  

In the workshop, the Our Tomorrows’ team also helped participants look to the future and use what they learned from the stories to better serve families. Going forward, participants said they wanted to address that gaps in services that were identified by the stories, begin to let family needs guide services, provide more virtual services for families, and provide family-friendly instructions in multiple languages.  

Key Findings from the Our Tomorrows Stories 

  • Overall, the Technology for Families and Remote Learning grants were successful and helped address a critical need for families during the pandemic.  
  • Providers said they realize that internet access is required for family success at all time, not just during a pandemic. 
  • Spanish speaking families have a particularly high need for technology and, moving forward, providers want to deliver more services and connections virtually so they can reach more people.  
  • Adults built confidence and gained marketable skills as they mastered the new technology provided to them through the grant. 
  • Families used the new technology not just to support home visiting, but to also access health care, apply for jobs, and to build community by connecting with friends and family members.  
  • Providers see how important tech is to their long-term service delivery model, especially in remote areas. 
  • The grant provided a learning experience for staff in terms of working virtually with families, onboarding families, and using technology as part of their job.  

Share Your Moments 

We need to hear from you. The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is steadily moving forward and bringing hope. Unfortunately, many Kansans are experiencing renewed stress, isolation, and fatigue while waiting for safety and relief. A new phase of challenges calls for new funding and new solutions built on your lived experiences. Family and provider experiences can help drive decision-making as new funding becomes available. Please share your story here.   

About Our Tomorrows 

We all have something important to share about our lives and interactions. We know there’s much to be learned from all kinds of stories, with all kinds of outcomes. The stories Our Tomorrows collects will be used to shape policy and programming decisions in your community and across the country. Through Our Tomorrows, you get the opportunity to share and reflect, and we get to hear your unique perspective. Using a story-based research tool called SenseMaker®, we will examine the patterns and stories in-depth, allowing us to gain new understanding about what families need to thrive.