Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Nobel

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What is the name of your solution?

Community Parenting Helper Platform

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Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Creating a community-based parenting and child-care platform to tackle the barriers preventing mothers from returning to work

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Japanese women face barriers to continuing work after having children and achieving financial independence. According to traditional beliefs, mothers are expected to take responsibility for raising their children until they are three years old; women take on five times as many chores as men on average. Furthermore, average government spending on child-rearing is the lowest among developed countries. Existing daycares often prioritize children of parents who are employed full-time. So women who work part-time and temporary shifts and/or seek jobs lack flexible and accessible childcare options (44 % of employed women work part-time vs. only 12% of employed men do so). Furthermore, vulnerable families with no or low-paying jobs need more than just daycare or babysitters; they need access to a safety net in society to help them achieve economic and social self-reliance.  

As a result of these patriarchal practices and lack of institutional support, 50% of women quit their jobs after first childbirth and 50% of single-parent (mostly single-mother) households live in poverty. 

Women's precarity has only increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic not only in Japan but also worldwide. According to an OECD study, school and childcare closures during the pandemic forced parents, especially women, to take on additional unpaid care work, reduce paid-work hours, and leave the workforce.

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What is your solution?

Nobel has provided reliable and flexible in-home childcare in western Japan since 2002. To scale our impact nationwide and potentially to other countries, we are now developing an online platform of Community Parenting Helpers (CPH) that enables a new childcare model that is flexible, affordable, and community-based. Through the online platform, Nobel will recruit, train, and certify CPHs, who will 1) provide in-home childcare as a flexible and affordable option, especially for single parents, low-income families, parents working nighttime/weekends, or are seeking employment; 2) offer consultation to parents on parenting, financial concerns, and lifestyle issues, and refer them to local support resources when needed; 3) promote the healthy development of children by developing age-appropriate online curricula.

In addition to improving access to childcare for vulnerable households, the CPH program will also be a job opportunity for women with parenting experience and/or those who once worked as childcare workers, who will be trained not just as mere babysitters, but as skilled professionals with expertise in early child development. The online platform will connect CPHs to share and learn best practices and lessons about childcare, relationship building with parents and children, and supporting parents’ work-and-parenting balance.

Parents seeking childcare will be able to look for CPHs in their neighborhood using our platform’s database. In case there are multiple CPHs working for the same family, the platform allows the CPHs to share the child’s development and other necessary information to provide consistent and quality service.

Furthermore, Nobel cooperates with local municipalities to strengthen the safety net for parents, especially mothers, letting them easily reach out to the community when needed. For the most disadvantaged individuals, single parents, and/or low-income families, Novel provides discounted or free services by creating a fund.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Our solution serves both CPHs and families who need childcare services.

As for CPHs, there are approximately 950,000 people, mostly women, who are certified childcare workers but unemployed in Japan. Most of them once worked for nurseries and kindergartens, but left their job because of the long working hours and demanding work environment. Many left because they want to take care of children one on one. Furthermore, in rural areas of Japan, female carers in their 20s are preferred culturally, so nursery teachers tend to and/or are even forced to quit as they get older. Nobel will provide additional training and connect them with families in need in their local communities so that they can utilize their expertise and experience to advance their careers.

Another target population for CPHs is mothers whose children are grown up. 50% of women in Japan quit their jobs after giving birth to their first child, and it is very difficult for them to find a job after a career gap. Nobel’s platform will provide an opportunity for them to use their childrearing experience to find meaningful work to help mothers who are in the same situation as they once were.

As for the families that need childcare, our main target is middle to low-income families with children. Even as women increasingly enter the workforce, the entrenched belief that men should support the family while women do chores and parenting remains intact. Many mothers simply grit their teeth, working while continuing to take on all household tasks. Existing childcare centers and nursery schools tend to be inaccessible to parents who work part-time or are unemployed, and babysitting is expensive, thus accessible primarily to high-income families.

Nobel’s service empowers families to have children when they want to, choose childcare options that fit their needs, and rely on others for parenting support. In this way, they can take on new challenges and live to their fullest potential even after having children, rather than gritting their teeth and accepting the status quo.

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Nobel is well-positioned to deliver this solution because of our past achievements in catering to the needs of parents and children in western Japan with quality service, strong networks and reputation in the childcare industry, and passionate team members who represent and listen to the voices of the community.

Our founder and 80% of our senior leaders are working mothers who have experienced the challenges of raising children themselves. Many of them have expertise and experience working on women's empowerment. For example, Aki Ko started Nobel after witnessing many of her female friends leaving their work to raise their children. Aya Yoshida, Vice President, joined Nobel as a manager in 2010 after working in the sales and business development of a for-profit company and struggled to balance her work and childraising. Yuna Kaneshiro, a manager and childcare specialist, is also a mother and combines her experience in childcare and listening to parents with excellent project management skills to design and manage user-centric services. Hirofumi Yamada, Curriculum Development Manager, develops the CPH curriculum with his extensive experience in K12 alternative education to cultivate children's curiosity and inquiring minds. We also have experts in various fields including policy making, corporate executives and advisors, community organizing, academic research, and social work.

Since 2010, Nobel has provided 15,000 in-home childcare sessions for sick children in over 4000 households. For vulnerable populations, including single-parent families and families with children with special needs, we have provided affordable or free childcare and referred them to other support organizations and local governments, so that those families have a community-based safety net. In 2020, Nobel launched new in-home and at-facility childcare services for non-sick children. Furthermore, we publicly advocate for community-based childrearing in Japan and have been featured in media outlets around 200 times. Nobel has trained 178 women with child-raising experience to be our childcare providers so far.

We have extensive knowledge and experience in providing in-home sick care services. More than 95% of our customers are satisfied with our service (4 or 5 out of 5 ratings) for our entire eleven years of operation. Our strong team of mission-driven childcare providers has allowed Nobel to earn the trust of local communities in the Kansai region as a trustworthy and dependable service for mothers.

We have a strong brand and presence as a pioneer in the in-home childcare industry and the nonprofit sector. We became the first in-home sick care service to partner with local governments in Japan in 2014. This reputation has helped us to recruit quality talents and acquire other resources.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Enabling new models for childcare or eldercare that improve affordability, convenience, or community trust.

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Osaka, Japan
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Our solution's stage of development:

Prototype
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Why are you applying to Solve?

Technology: As we are currently developing the prototype of our CPH platform, mentoring from someone with technical expertise including software and app development, online education and training courses, AI and online community management, and user matching would be critical for our impact.

Public relations and resource mobilization: Support from MIT SOLVE would enhance our credibility, which would accelerate our marketing efforts to reach CPH candidates and user parents, and help us raise funds from other sources to make the service affordable to mothers of low-income households.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Aki Ko

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

First, existing daycare services in Japan are subsidized by the government and generally affordable, but they prioritize children of parents working full-time and often have waiting lists in urban areas. Thus, they tend to be inaccessible to parents who work part-time or are unemployed, i.e. those who are most economically insecure. In addition to daycares, babysitters are also available, but mainly only accessible to high-income families. All the above options provide a basic level of childcare, but do not provide holistic support or account for the varied circumstances of parents and family as a whole.

The CPHs we train will support disadvantaged mothers that fall through the gaps of other childcare options, such as those who work odd hours, have multiple jobs, or are unemployed. CPHs will be available to care for children when they are sick, when families are on the wait-list for daycares, and when parents are working late nights or early mornings, going to doctor's appointments, taking breaks, studying, or applying to jobs.

Second, there is no existing peer-support and peer-learning online nationwide platform for childcare providers. Since the training system is completely online, it is accessible regardless of the population density -- whether it is in the urban area or rural area, or in other countries. Other organizations in related fields can use our program in a way that advances their missions as well. For example, the support program for mothers could be valuable for other childcare facilities, which often don't have specialized knowledge on how to support mothers. In addition, social service organizations for senior citizens and people with disabilities could use our CPH training platform as a model to train caregivers regardless of their locations effectively and efficiently.

We are committed to transforming the culture around parenting and childcare in Japan by creating a new model of childcare that is community-based, accessible, affordable, and reliable. We expect our platform to become an enabler for parents to choose their own work-and-parenting balance.

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

In the next year, we will launch the beta version of the platform and train 100 CPHs, who will provide childcare to 300 households. We will recruit CPHs from our existing networks of childcare providers and also partner with corporations to deploy CPHs for their employees. 

We will also launch our unique work-and-parenting balance scorecard to assess how parents are achieving work-and-parenting balance. We will have CPHs use the scorecard to better understand their clients’ needs and situations. Nobel will use the scorecard results to track the impact on the work-and-parenting balance. 

In the next five years, 3,000 CPHs will be trained and using our platform to provide childcare to 10,000 households. As more women are freed to work, their earnings and quality of life will increase, and society will come to accept that women can achieve a healthy work-parenting balance. We aim to improve the work-and-parenting balance score, for example, by 3 points out of 10, among the user households, in five years.

We also plan to expand our CPH training platform outside of Japan with similar gender issues, especially in Southeast Asia. In the next five years, we will conduct research to expand the program overseas and identify strategic local partners in other countries.

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

We use the following KPIs to measure our impact:

1. The number of beneficiaries (households that we support)

2. The number of caregivers who participate in the CPH training program and are certified as CPHs

3. The total number of childcare sessions provided by trained CPHs

4. Work-parenting balance score. Our work-parenting balance ideal encompasses three components: feeling confident working, feeling confident entrusting children with CPHs, and feeling at peace in both body and mind. We will decompose this ideal into different factors, and conduct surveys to determine parents' self-evaluation with regard to each factor. We will quantify the survey results and measure how parents' work-parenting balance score improves from year to year.

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What is your theory of change?

Activities: Nobel recruits, trains, and certifies Community Parenting Helpers (CPHs) who provide reliable, flexible, and affordable childcare, and help parents achieve work-and-parenting balance. We connect the CPHs and nurture a peer-support and learning community. We map the locations of CPHs for parents to search for childcare options in their neighborhood. CPHs visit the parents' homes to take care of their children and offer necessary parenting support including consultation on the children’s development, household finances, and work-and-parenting balance, and refer them to other support resources in the community.

Outputs: An increased number of households have access to reliable, flexible, and affordable childcare. An increased number of childcare workers have access to continuing professional development opportunities, a peer-support community, and a platform to find and connect with customers. 

Outcomes: Increased number of parents, especially women, continued or returned to work after having children. Increased work-and-parenting score among parents. Longer and sustainable career path for childcare workers. A shift in culture and people’s mindset from childrearing relying on mothers to community-based child-raising.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Our solution uses software and mobile applications with the following components: 1) Online training courses for CPHs, 2) a database to list and match CPHs and parents who need the childcare service, 3) a crowdsourced database and bot support for CPHs to share knowledge and practices about age-appropriate plays, seasonal play toolkits, case management, risk management, and more, 4) an online community for CPHs to discuss best practices and lessons learned and support each other, 5) a secure system to share client information among the CPHs who serve the same households.

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals
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Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

Five full-time staff and 16 contractors

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How long have you been working on your solution?

1 year

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What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

Nobel is committed to being a workplace that supports and is supported by women. Our founder and 80% of our senior leaders are working mothers who have experienced the challenges of raising children themselves. Many of them have expertise and experience working on women's empowerment. 

We also believe in providing inclusive service that is available to all. We have made our childcare service affordable and accessible to underserved families, including single parents, parents with special-needs children, and/or low-income households by offering free or discounted prices. Moving forward, we plan to create a fund to further support such populations.

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Our direct key customers are certified childcare workers who no longer work for childcare facilities and mothers with child-raising experience. They want to work using their expertise and experience in a flexible working environment. Nobel provides them with online training courses and certification, matches them with clients who need childcare, and connects them with fellow childcare providers for peer-support and learning opportunities. 

The beneficiaries are parents raising children, who fall through the gaps of the existing childcare options and struggle to balance work and parenting. CPHs trained by Nobel will provide them with flexible, affordable, and reliable at-home childcare. 

Our key partners include municipalities, nonprofits, and other support institutions in the local communities, which CPHs cooperate with in order to provide holistic support for families. We can also partner with companies, having them introduce our platform to their employees to promote a family-friendly workplace.

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

We will make the project financially sustainable by making the CPH platform a freemium model; the basic CPH training program will be free, while advanced courses with more in-depth and broad content will be available for a fee. For example, CPH training to take care of children with disabilities or households with economical and health challenges will be charged, as special nursing, social work, psychology, and other knowledge will be required. We will also introduce a membership community where CPHs connect and learn from each other to keep improving the quality of their parenting support. 

Although we will primarily use a B2C model, we will also explore a B2B model, in which private companies pay fees to Nobel for their employees to use the CPH service.

After establishing our funding model, we may consider setting up a for-profit social enterprise entity and raising investment capital.

We would also like to create a charitable fund that accepts foundation support and corporate sponsorship in exchange for advertising opportunities, so that we can offer discounts and/or free services to families from low-income households.

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Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

We have maintained sustainable business operations through a monthly subscription model. Our funding model has been sustainable since the first year of operation.

In addition, we have raised funding from foundations, corporations, and governments. Past fundraising amounts include about $840,000 from Google Impact Challenge 2021, $500,000 from Google Impact Challenge Japan, $300,000 to support nursery schools across Japan under the pandemic, $100,000 from Mixi’s Mitene Fund, $60,000 from the Dormant Account Fund of Japan, and $40,000 from Salesforce.

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Solution Team

  • Aki Ko CEO, NPO Nobel
  • Ms. Mio Yamamoto Global Coordinator, Nobel
 
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