Many of us have fond memories of PBS, whether it be watching a documentary with family or engaging with development programs in school. PBS is continuing its mission to serve the American public with high-quality programming and services by launching the New Generation Initiative (NGI). The 18-month collaborative pilot spans six PBS stations across the U.S., and encourages child caregivers (including families, friends, and neighbors) to sign up for a text messaging service provided by the Colorado nonprofit, Bright by Three. This initiative has funding from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The David & Lucile Packard Foundation.

Bright by Three provides an innovative texting program that combines expert child development tips, activities, and local events to adults caring for young children in Arizona, Colorado, Fresno, Indianapolis, New York City, North Carolina, and San Antonio with the goals of:

  • Increasing parent and caregiver engagement; and
  • Strengthening parenting and caregiving skills.

Rocky Mountain PBS is leading the initiative, and has engaged Spark Policy Institute to learn how the different PBS sites collectively had an impact in early childhood education in their communities, and on the parents in the communities.

But how do you measure the impact of a public awareness campaign?

Because the pilot must demonstrate accountability to its funders and organizational leaders as well as improving and adapting as it is implemented, Spark Policy Institute is using a strategic learning approach. This means finding the balance between what is easy to measure (such as text sign-ups) and what is most useful (whether caretakers had a shift in the attitudes, strategies, actions, etc.). A systematic review of qualitative data can help surface rich and compelling information. We’re also using a collective interpretation of data collected in real-time, to inform the campaign regularly and enable the greatest outcome in child development.

We look forward to sharing what we learn through this project, and invite you to apply strategic learning in your own work by exploring our Tools for Social Innovators: Strategic Learning Toolkit.