Mississippi Early Learning Alliance
What is the name of your solution?
Sharing Services to Lower Cost of Care
Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
Providing Health Benefits to multiple providers through a web based platform can help retain teachers, lower costs, and ensure care quality increases
What specific problem are you solving?
Expanding childcare online shared services platforms to include Benefits and HR support
What is your solution?
Currently, our organization, Mississippi Early Learning Alliance hosts the Mississippi Early Learning Resources website, a shared services platform through a partnership that utilizes the CCA Global web-based platform that is a one-stop shop for relevant support and meaningful cost savings opportunities for child care professionals.
In short, we have a web-based platform that 1200 Mississippi Childcare providers have registered for (using CCA Global's Technology) where they can find useful videos, order necessary items in bulk at a lower cost, and stay in line with state regulations related to their work. We are working to expand the services and cost-savings that our site offers to include options for healthcare, 401Ks, and other HR Benefits much like a Professional Employment Organization (PEOs). This will allow childcare providers to save costs and create a safety net for their employees who are underpaid and can be left with nothing at retirement.
By partnering with PEOs and possibly subsidizing the cost of their service, we can increase the quality of early care by retaining qualified staff, and make high quality care more affordable for families.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Black women between the ages of 18-70 account for the vast majority of the Mississippi childcare workforce, including providers and teachers. As the workforce in childcare is underpaid and undervalued, and many leave the profession for higher pay or the option of health care benefits, our solution will dramatically increase their quality of life. Women of color, specifically black, low income women in our state also often have less access to affordable and high quality formal care for their children, and by helping providers lower costs while retaining their staff, we expect care quality and affordability to increase.
MELA is driven by four women with specific expertise and skills: Executive Director, Dr. Angela Bass; Deputy Director, Biz Harris; Coalitions and Programs Director, April J. May; and Communications Director, Chloe Lake. The team has over 30 years of combined experience working in Mississippi's early care and education sector. Our deep roots in Mississippi give us a nuanced understanding of the culture, history, and people that shaped education and childcare thus far in our state. We also have the technical and academic expertise to shape Mississippi's future - we understand national, evidence-based best practices in early education and remain up to date on innovative strategies, tactics, and policies emerging around the country and the world. Our team is personally invested in this work: most of the MELA team was born and raised in Mississippi, and half of us are raising young children here.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
MELA is driven by four women with specific expertise and skills: Executive Director, Dr. Angela Bass; Deputy Director, Biz Harris; Coalitions and Programs Director, April J. May; and Communications Director, Chloe Lake. The team has over 30 years of combined experience working in Mississippi's early care and education sector. Our deep roots in Mississippi give us a nuanced understanding of the culture, history, and people that shaped education and childcare thus far in our state. Our team is personally invested in this work: most of the MELA team was born and raised in Mississippi, and half of us are raising young children here and personally know families struggling with finding or keeping care because of cost. We are a diverse team lead by an African American woman, and have a former childcare teacher on our staff.
Most importantly, our work is grounded in the experience and perspectives of our users. Over the past two years we have interviewed and hosted focus groups with childcare providers, teachers, and parents of young children to gather their perspectives and develop solutions aligned to their direct experience. Most of the people with whom we connected were women of color. After the interviews, we have also hosted feedback sessions and coordinated events for childcare providers to weigh in on the strategies and solutions we've designed based on their initial perspectives. Our Steering committee also has childcare representatives as members to ensure that we are always in touch with our practitioner experience.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Improving access to training & certification, portable benefits, and labor organizations for care workers.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Jackson, MS, USA
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
How many people does your solution currently serve?
Why are you applying to Solve?
In order to fully realize our vision of decreasing the cost of benefits for childcare providers we are looking for funds to help us pay for the cost of the partnership with a Professional Employment Organization.
Additionally, we want to ensure that our shared services platform, specifically health benefits offered on shared services, makes a positive impact for childcare providers. We do not have a data or evaluation expert on our team, so support around that area would be invaluable.
We are also looking to be a part of a network connections to other organizations who are working with care providers to make care more affordable, accessible, and higher quality. Our team is relationship-driven, and know that the more people we connect with who have great ideas, the better our ideas and our leadership will be. We want to engage with new, innovative ideas for this sector so that we can be sure that as we tackle the childcare crisis in our state we are not relying on the same old ineffective solutions.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Dr. Angela Bass
What makes your solution innovative?
Currently, if a provider would like to offer health care to their teachers or other employees as a benefit, they cannot because the cost is prohibitive. Since the pay for childcare workers is $9.50 to $13.00/hour in Mississippi, the teachers rarely can afford to pay for it individually. This means that often employees are left requesting low salaries so that they can continue using Medicaid and other government benefits, or they must pay out of pocket for care if their salaries put them over the financial threshold. By providing an avenue for many providers across a geographic area to purchase health coverage for their employees together (just as we do with other bulk services on the platform) we believe that it will decrease teacher turnover, increase the health and wellbeing of the teachers, AND illustrate to our state agencies and our other providers how health care can stabilize the childcare workforce and increase quality for children.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
80% of our 1400 providers using our shared services site weekly for cost savings and benefits.
At least 4 childcare providers have signed up for healthcare benefits through a PEO partner for their employees, and 80% of employees enroll.
90% of teachers receiving heath benefits through shared services report that they stayed because of the health benefits
What is your theory of change?
We believe that Mississippi can create a state-of-the-art childcare system that provides a livable thriving wage for teachers and providers, is affordable for families, and encourages early childhood development. We know that no single organization, legislator, or advocate can do this alone. We at MELA are working to build and leverage a powerful network of early childhood professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders to turn this vision into reality over the next 8-10 years.
Frequently, discussions about childcare don’t focus on what we could achieve, but on what we’re willing to sacrifice: do we trade quality for affordability? Or do we reduce provider compensation to preserve both? Do we prioritize standardizing quality measures across the state and risk losing the unique contributions of home-based providers? We at MELA see each of these questions as false dichotomies. We can eliminate the need to choose between two unacceptable options if we share resources, expertise and strategies to maximize our efforts and our impact.
Offering health benefits on our Shared Services platform is one aspect of helping providers collaborate while increasing quality of care while decreasing costs.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Mississippi Early Learning Resources partners with CCA For Social Good. CCA For social good provides a web-based platform designed for our organization and early childhood education (ECE) centers to manage their businesses. The platform (integrated password-protected websites) deliver a set of powerful tools and shared resources resulting in more efficient and successful operations.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
What type of organization is your solution team?
How many people work on your solution team?
How long have you been working on your solution?
What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?
MELA has a stated value of Diversity and Equity. It states, "We hold the conviction that only from diverse backgrounds and divergent points of view can we find the best solutions. We acknowledge that current social and economic systems and structures benefit some groups while harming others. We leverage our resources to encourage equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. As we do so, we actively examine our roles in perpetuating inequitable systems."
Additionally our team is lead by an African American woman, and 1/2 of our staff is African American while the other 1/2 is white. All of us our women.
We developed principles in addition to our values, one of which is "Balance Power. It states, "We elevate the voices of parents, caregivers, community leaders, and direct service providers by intentionally seeking their input and recognizing it as expertise. We hold the conviction that only from diverse backgrounds and divergent points of view can we find the best solutions."
By operating with this value and principle in mind always, we work to ensure that we are working toward Diversity, equity and inclusiveness in our work.
What is your business model?
By providing access to high quality resources like health benefits, our clients (childcare providers and teachers) are able to do their job more efficiently, are able to save money, and will increase the quality of their own offerings of care for children.
Our Grants cover the cost of the service, ($20,000 annually). While we do not charge providers for the service, we get continuous communication with them through messaging and any advertising on the platform. We have acess of 1400 eyeballs, and can impact many children.
What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?
We have a two 3-year commitments from family foundations to fully fund our work, in addition to a rainy day fund that will keep our work going for an additional 12 months. We also have a fundraising plan and pitch that we are executing over the next 12 months.