Since its founding in 1996, KaBOOM! has catalyzed over 16,000 playground builds, served more than 7.4 million kids, and helped make volunteer-led builds a standard in the playground industry. KaBOOM! has also been an innovator in cross-sector partnerships, bringing together communities and corporate partners to work toward a common goal of building great places to play.
KaBOOM! knew it had an impact increasing play opportunities for the kids it served. Despite their accomplishments, the organization’s leadership realized that it was not solving the problem at the magnitude it exists. While they had achieved success by many measures, they came to the recognition that “good was not good enough.”
In 2013, Community Wealth Partners worked with KaBOOM! to set a bold, long-term goal and build a national strategy to ensure that all kids—particularly the 16 million kids growing up in poverty in America—get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. Together, we helped KaBOOM! to reposition the cause of play as a key part of the solution to societal imperatives such as building 21st century skills (problem-solving, collaboration, empathy, creativity, etc.) that drive national economic competitiveness; revitalizing communities; and addressing childhood obesity. Read the original case study in its entirety here.
KaBOOM! today looks different from KaBOOM! one year ago. Community Wealth Partners helped KaBOOM! thoughtfully and intentionally map out both the impact that it wanted to have and the people and behaviors it needed to influence in order to have that impact. The organization has successfully extended to embrace and support the bold goal through intentional influence. Below is an update on some of the key changes that have taken place at KaBOOM! since our work together.
With this emphasis on influence, KaBOOM! realized that it needed to focus on driving cities to create kid-friendly, family-friendly communities that benefit all kids. Cities are critical to achieving society-level scale because most play-related infrastructure investments, policies, and programming happen at the local level and because cities are becoming hotbeds of innovation to solve intractable social problems. To drive change at the city level, KaBOOM! is now positioning itself as a standard-setter. It is not pushing a policy agenda on cities, but rather creating a national platform for cities to implement their own big ideas for using play as a solution to their pressing challenges. Playability—the extent to which cities make it easy for all kids to get balanced and active play—can take many forms and address many challenges. For example, Brownsville, Texas, is bringing play opportunities to low-income neighborhoods in order to improve economic prospects in struggling neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Spartanburg, South Carolina, is planning to harness its under-utilized waterways as a competitive advantage to attract and retain families of all income levels who want abundant opportunities to play.
KaBOOM! also realized that investments in play will not be successful unless they lead to widespread behavior change. This realization has led the organization to partner with experts previously not connected to play. To inspire cities to generate solutions that overcome behavioral bottlenecks that keep kids from getting the play they need to thrive, KaBOOM! partnered with ideas42, a nonprofit that uses behavioral science to solve large-scale social problems. Insights from ideas42 have led KaBOOM! to push cities to put play everywhere, integrating play into dead time and dead space. In addition to playgrounds, KaBOOM! is encouraging cities to reimagine how everything from sidewalks and bus stops to grocery stores and health clinics can be filled with play, making it easier for families to prioritize play for their kids. These are places where low-income families are already spending significant, often frustrating time together. By embedding play everywhere, cities can turn these moments of frustration into moments of play-filled joy.
As KaBOOM! has set its sights on city-level change, it has been intentional about ensuring that it does not veer from its focus on kids growing up in poverty. KaBOOM! has studied similar movements that have failed to address inequity, such as walkability and bikeability. For example, of the 70-plus miles of bike lanes in the organization’s hometown of Washington, DC, zero are in Anacostia, the part of the city with the highest concentration of kids in poverty. Consistent with its mission, KaBOOM! sees a responsibility to ensure that cities do not follow a similar path when it comes to play.
Like all good influence strategies, KaBOOM! has not just identified who it needs to influence; it has defined a path that makes it easier for key individuals, groups and communities to support efforts that will lead to all kids getting the play they need to thrive. Learn more at kaboom.org/playability.