Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico is a vibrant space of possibilities for families, nested within a small residential locality in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a part of Feedback+San Juan, a group of professionals from across the world visited the club to sit down with staff and help them solve challenges related to feedback loops.
The airport-like architecture of the space built to create a sense of curiosity in children, charmed the visitors alike. Symbolic of ‘checking in’ tiny tots into a journey of aspirations, the design worked its magic and served as a wonderful introduction to the two generation economic mobility model Vimenti uses. After a short tour conducted by Wilfredo Damiani of Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, all participants settled into a colorful wing of the building, which was creatively furnished like a hotel to train parents of the enrolled children and other adults from the community for jobs in hospitality. A glimpse of the space manifested the thought behind the club for all participants: right from the bright colors to a wardrobe full of clothes for adults to wear to interviews, multiple aspects of the space and engagement were deliberate and interlinked.
Barbara Rivera, the Director, introduced the organization and their ethos of wholesome community participation through a two-generation approach. She succinctly mapped the child poverty dynamics across Puerto Rico, standing at 58% in Puerto Rico, and 98% in their intervention community, reflecting the magnitude of the task of economic mobility that they had set out on. For maximum impact, Vimenti adopts the family, rather than just the child into the club to work on academic, social, and economic development. They conduct entrepreneurship, finance, and job readiness training for parents, and parents are encouraged to map year long family action plans in the social space. During her presentation, Barbara stressed the varying and ever-emerging needs of children and families, as the relationship and scale of their work grows. Though Vimenti is excited to become more deeply rooted, they are facing new challenges of change management and tracking students and parents effectively as they move through the program. In particular, Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico wants to better understand what the community thinks of their work, and how they can translate the community’s feedback into action. LabStorm attendees collaborated with Vimenti to work through these challenges. Here are the main takeaways from the conversation:
Vimenti understands the community holistically. In order to make multi-generational change, understanding the community is the first step. LabStorm attendees validated that Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico has already done a great job engaging and integrating the community through their holistic approach. Participants noted that the club had put in place successful participatory methods of engagement to create a vibrant sense of involvement and community. In order to develop a successful feedback system, Vimenti should continue to build and foster this aspect of their programming.
Trust-building is essential. When it comes to building relationships to collect feedback from parents and kids, trust matters. Vimenti has been building this rapport for years through informal family retreats. Attendees were quick to point out that the club should be proud of the trust that they have established, reflected in the community’s culture of gratitude. In order to continue building this trust, attendees suggested participatory budget planning and allocation processes which could make the community feel more involved in the processes of choosing what matters more to them. Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico could also consider using a tool such as Loomio that allows co-creation and democratic decision-making. Attendees also suggested using participatory orientation and recruitment processes with the community as proxy indicators of what they value most, followed by using vision boards to map and match the idea of the club which each stakeholder harboured. These participatory processes would be particularly useful for involving the cross-sectoral staff, and making academic leaders more aware and interested in community needs and vice versa.
Build tracking mechanisms. One of Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico’s biggest challenges is translating the feedback they collect from the community and implementing it while maintaining program fidelity. LabStorm attendees identified with this challenge – after all, closing the loop is a common challenge for busy nonprofits. Attendees suggested that Vimenti build a system to track different feedback requests from the community so that they can more uniformly address them. Attendees also noted that closing the loop is the most important step of the feedback process. Vimenti por BGCPR does not need to take action on all the requests they receive immediately. Instead, they should focus on planning how they will take action, and sharing that plan out with the community that shared the request. That way, community members will know that their comments were heard and valued.
This LabStorm showed us the value of community interconnectedness in creating feedback mechanisms. Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico has done a wonderful job welcoming multigenerational families to be partners in the decision making process, and this sets them up well to collect and act on feedback. Do you have any ideas for Vimenti por Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico? Please leave a comment below or send a message to [email protected].