The San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education (OECE) manages over $100 million to help lower-income families get quality childcare. The office was considering to open a contract for making the paper application process digital. Before taking this step, OECE wanted to learn more about families’ experiences trying to get quality childcare. As a people experience researcher in the agency where the office is housed, I led the project and did the research. This included training five OECE teammates to do interviews in multiple languages.
Role: Project Manager and Research Lead
Challenges: Childcare providers and community organizations had already shared with OECE about the obstacles people had trying to get subsidized childcare. OECE wanted to learn directly from clients to inform a contract. How could I help them by including a diverse group of people’s lived experiences with the application process?
Strategy: I shared my project brief template with the executive director and her team of about 15. They then participated in a facilitation I led to align on the brief’s details. Five of their colleagues joined me to do research in Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and English. We did two practice interviews using templates I created. They followed my sampling strategy to recruit clients and I did five of the interviews. We used an informed consent document I created, reviewed it with clients before starting each interview, and paid them for their time. I also asked two community partner organizations, which help people access subsidized childcare, to document every question they received in a week across languages. This was done to compare self-reported (interview) data with behavioral (observational) data.
Equity Considerations: The research team reflected the clients we interviewed, because they came from similar communities, spoke the clients’ language and could relate to their lived experiences. We held interviews at night with children in the room to accommodate parents and deepen our commitment to diverse representation in the data.
Outputs: (1) Six anonymized profiles of real clients who represented the range of 28 people’s experiences with the application process. (2) A full report of insights, recommendations, and the strategy we took to produce them. (3) A facilitated session for OECE and community partners to interpret the insights and tie them to actionable next steps.
Impact: (1) The research gave OECE the confidence to move forward with the digital solution and to remove a wait-list for homeless families. (2) Two childcare community organizations were contracted to provide more hands-on services to all San Franciscans needing help finding quality childcare.