Equity, co-creation, and responsive adaptation: how our Innovation Fund partners put these 3 values into action

Let’s play a round of Best Starts for Kids trivia: what do these 3 unique programs and projects have in common?

  1. A series of audio storybooks for Somali speaking families with young children.
  2. A comprehensive program that provides advocacy and support for African and Middle Eastern parents raising young children in King County.
  3. A series of classes that engage parents and allies in inclusive early learning and disability equity and supports them as they apply their learning through community projects and advocacy opportunities.

Drumroll…. they were all initiated by Best Starts Innovation Fund community partners!


The Innovation Fund supports projects that meet community-identified priorities and are co-created with community, drawing on the skills and strengths of the community itself to meet its unique needs.

Since 2018, Best Starts has partnered with 13 community-based organizations to implement new and adapted approaches to support the health and well-being of pregnant individuals, young children and their families, community providers, and communities.

Wondering how the Innovation Fund fuels innovation? Read how our partners kick-start community-designed programs and approaches.

Zeno Math & community members at El Centro De La Raza, 2018

To continually strengthen their practices and approaches and better understand how our communities have been impacted by their work, our partners reflected on their experiences and shared their deep learning with our technical assistance partners at the University of Washington and Children’s Home Society of Washington.

We found that three themes — equity, co-creation, and responsive adaptation — are key values held by each team, spanning across all 18 partnerships.

Here’s how our community partners have defined and continue to put these values into action while implementing their innovations:

Centering equity

Each team intentionally partnered with communities most impacted by structural and systemic inequities and racism, and centered the experiences and voices of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and communities of color (BIPOC) in their projects and programs. Building off community strengths and knowledge, teams designed and implemented various strategies to meet communities where they are, how they want, and when they want them, including:

  • Creating culturally relevant materials and incorporating cultural beliefs and practices into projects and programs.
  • Adapting strategies to engage with more language communities.
  • Providing gender-inclusive language training to community partners and providers.
  • Expanding access to programming and projects for individuals and communities with disabilities.
  • Reflecting the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of communities in community partner staffing.

Co-creating with community

The innovation teams partnered with community members throughout the design, decision-making, and implementation process to ensure that the innovations reflect the lived experiences, needs, and strengths of their communities. Examples include:

  • Creating a shared vision and goals, and acknowledging shared knowledge and expertise.
  • Seeking input early on from community members through discussion groups, family nights, advisory boards, surveys, listening sessions, and other community events.
  • Reflecting on process and outcomes, and taking time to strengthen partnerships.

Adapting responsively

Building off our relationships grounded in co-learning and equity, we heard from community partners that the flexibility of the Innovation Fund model allowed for their innovations to quickly respond and pivot to community input and the emerging challenges of COVID-19.

  • Addressing outreach barriers, refining partnership agreements, and continually strengthening innovation materials.
  • All 13 teams rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by pivoting their services online (Zoom, Whatsapp, etc.) and continuing to listen and respond to the community as we move into recovery.

The final Innovation Fund report will be published later this year! Keep an eye out here for more information.

  • Dive into our 2020 Innovation Fund stories & impact here.
  • Meet our Innovation Fund partners here.

We tweet too! Join us @BestStartsKC

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