Keep them safe. Deliver quality programs. Find good team members. Get Legislative Support. Build community partnerships. Consider budget constraints. Increase Enrollment. Reinforce academics. Teach life skills. Don't forget to PLAY.
Whew! Easy, right?
The multifaceted roles of youth-serving organizations can be rough terrain. Yet we must find innovative ways to help people understand that while PLAY is our work, it is indeed serious business.
Play has the power to create positive outcomes, change trajectories, and inspire and unite in a way little else can. Youth-serving organizations are able to create impact because of the efforts and passion of the people working in them. When the efforts of the best and brightest are positioned to collaborate, versus compete, each organization has the opportunity to efficiently expand reach and influence the way key stakeholders value and contribute to our programs.
Pop Up PLAY Days™ have emerged as a valuable and creative way to propel this sort of collaborative impact.
Pop Up PLAY Days are community events hosted at local youth-serving organizations, schools, community centers, popular festivals and sporting events. Each event is designed to position stakeholders as "game-changers," igniting a movement that celebrates play, highlights the benefits of physical activity, and fights childhood obesity. The events get families active with a variety of themes: mini sports clinics, dance battles, nature fun, old-school games, interactive activities. Nothing creates more excitement than seeing the mayor or alderman hop in the jump rope, a grandmother laughing as she teaches a dance from "back in the day," or the local team mascot turning flips, slapping high-fives with dad or leading a shooting challenge.
These events are a powerful platform—allowing programs to join forces and showcase their individual strengths, legislators to support their communities, businesses to align contributions with their missions, and community members to donate resources and time that help our organizations long after the play day has ended.
Getting all parties together takes work, but also provides rare opportunities for people to get to know one another and develop a sense of ownership in the community. The social capital gained is as much an asset as the required financial capital to keep our programs going and is more likely to lead to additional community action and continued involvement.
Pop Up PLAY Days break barriers by providing unique opportunities for youth-serving organizations to grow and give back.
Expanding and strengthening professional networks.
Connecting organizations, families, legislators and business owners, during the special event and beyond.
Educational, professional development and resources sharing opportunities.
Spearheading knowledge-sharing of best practices and programmatic efficiencies and creating opportunities for cross-training and cross-promotion.
Creating seamless ways for business owners and community members to plug back into the community organizations and make an impact by funding, donating or volunteering as Pop UP PLAY Ambassadors.
Pop Up PLAY Days build bridges, creating alignment among stakeholders and highlighting their commitment to transforming the lives of youth today—and into the future.
Kids and Families: Have fun—together—and gain access to tools, resources and a one-stop shop for finding programming that helps to bring out the champion in every child.
Youth Serving Organizations: Create an environment built on shared core values and resources, propel adult participation in a way that is fun and unforced, and create opportunities for every program involved.
Local Businesses: Showcase their brands, demonstrate their corporate values, and directly affect kids and families in a fun and memorable way.
Legislators and Health/Wellness Leaders: Demonstrate support of programs that provide safe access to recreation, which in turn thwarts adverse behaviors during out-of-school times and reduces the rates of obesity.
When we give up our silos and play nice, together we cultivate positive change in areas such as social-emotional skills and youth development and physical health. We get the opportunity to highlight our deep commitment to helping kids be better not only on athletic fields and courts, but also in their classrooms, communities and homes.
Pop Up PLAY Days create an infrastructure for cooperation, teamwork, and community-wide success that will resonate with children, parents, youth development organizations and community members alike. The events remind us that we are all stakeholders.
And they help everyone to stop overdosing on technology, if only for a few hours, by bringing back good old-fashioned fun. PLAY: There's no app for that!
Written by Tiffany Y. McDuffie, Founder, Purposeful PLAY.
This article originally appeared in AfterSchool Today.