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On Friday we visited Community Action’s Family Center where we met with Bekki Craig, the head of the Family Center Programs. Bekki Craig explained to us the some of programs offered at the Family Center and the support they provide for the local community. The family center has roughly 500 families enrolled into their programs each year, which is an estimated 1,000 kids. The family center works to make sure families of low-income are not only fulfilling basic needs, but also that the parents and children are forming healthy relationships with each other to ensure the best development for children.

To better demonstrate the importance of why parents and children should be forming healthy bonds with each other, Bekki Craig showed us a video called “Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change”. The video explained children at the greatest risks when they get older are children who come from low-income. This stems from the overload of burdens they feel subjected to from infancy. The video goes on to explain the way to combat this is by beginning with the adults, rather than the child; work on the development of the adults to become better parents, to construct solid homes. Building on adult capabilities will directly affect child life development. For this reason the Family Center offers a variety of programs both for children and the adults in their lives. Different programs are tailored to meet different needs; some are for very low-income families, others are for young parents, and some are open to everybody.

As much as the center is able to do, it was also interesting to learn of the limitations of the struggles that the program faces.  First of all, as with all non-profits, we talked about the issue of money. But beyond that, a big obstacle for them is transportation.  There is no public transportation available to most of those who come to the Family Center, and even taking the time and energy to walk across town to the center is not feasible for some people. Recently, they purchased a van and are excited to use it to offset some of this difficulty. Transportation is a huge barrier for many organizations, especially in rural America.  It got us all thinking about the possibility of building an enterprise that had to do with transportation, or at the very least incorporating transportation into our enterprises regardless of their main focus.

This visit also reaffirmed the importance of creating accessible solutions. In talking about the programs offered by the family center, Bekki mentioned many different scenarios about what families might be facing, and what services would therefore be most helpful. The Family Center tackles this by tailoring different programs to meet different needs. For example, they offer play groups and lunches at the family center for those able to get there, but they also understand that there are people who need help but cannot make it to the center, which goes back to the transportation issue. For that reason, the Family Center also has house-visiting programs. Even if a service is provided, people may not be able to take advantage of it because of their particular circumstances. Bekki talked about how she and some colleagues from the family center tried to start a playgroup at an apartment complex. They advertised and showed up weekly for seven months all ready to go, but nobody showed up. Bekki hypothesized this is because people were already so busy in their lives, the concept of attending a playgroup was overwhelming.  This ties back to the importance of understanding accessibility; to best help people and solve problems the solutions must be accessible, both physically and mentally.

Talking with Bekki was valuable to our understanding of both the needs in Greenfield and of social entrepreneurship in general because Bekki talked about the application of many of the things we discuss in class, like limitations, and solving problems at the source. One big takeaway from the visit is the need for perseverance and self-criticism. Not every program idea worked out and more often than not, events hosted by the program struggled to draw in a large crowd. However, Bekki stressed the need for understanding failures and coming up with solutions. No system is 100 percent effective nor do they always get desired outcomes. This is where hard work and determination comes into play. Building and improving based on feedback, like the Family Center did, is the best way to tackle an issue.

Blog Entry by Abby Mihaly, Tyric Bostic, Iiyannaa Graham Siphanoum, and Lydia Smith