People Experience Research

San Francisco Office of Early Care & Education is written in black text with it's logo" OECE" to the left. The 'O' is red, 'e' is blue, 'c' is green and 'e' is yellow.

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

Years: 2016-2017

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.

Screenshot of a presentation with the following text: How Might Our Services Better Meet People Where They Are? Align OECE internal processes (and contracts) to support the critical phases of families’ childcare journey. 
The visual outlines five phases: 
(1) Before Starting Childcare Process. (2) Discovery Phase (Becoming Aware & Finding Childcare). 
(3) Commit Phase (Comparing Providers & Applying). 
(4) Success Phase (Onboarding & Maintaining). 
(5) Next Steps. 
A Discovery Team handles the first two phases. The Commit Team manages the middle phase and a Success Team the last two. These teams are supported by a Management, Data and Tech and Branding/Communications Team. These ideas are based on the work of Jim Kalbach, Figure 3-10, Mapping Experiences, (60:2016)

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.

Black and white, fake photo of a client. The photo is of a woman with dark hair and a darker complexion with large hooped earrings. The pseudonym of this real client is "Luz." She is: a 27 years old who received asylum. Mother of 5- & 14-month old. Oldest child is in El Salvador. Completed high school. Has lived in the U.S. for 4 years Experienced discrimination from employers. Interviewed in Spanish. 
Key Quote: I couldn’t pay for childcare so I lost my job staying home with my baby. 
Before Starting Childcare Process: Started thinking about childcare shortly after giving birth in order to return to work. Housing is tough to find so she rents a room. 
Discovery Phase (Becoming Aware & Finding Childcare): Her CalWORKS Employment Specialist referred her to one resource & referral (RR) organization.
Commit Phase (Compare Providers & Apply): RR provided minimal info about provider options. Was on a wait-list for 3 months and never heard back from RR so found unlicensed provider for $30/day. Voucher can’t be used for this provider.
Success Phase + Next Steps (Onboarding & Maintaining): Can no longer pay for childcare so loses job. Is very worried because she only trusts this provider since she’s seen nannies mistreat others’ children. How might OECE help?

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.