Playworks

Website: https://www.playworks.org/

Mission: Playworks believes in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. Playworks’ mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. We do this by partnering with elementary schools and leading safe, inclusive recess. At our partner elementary schools, students are able stay active and develop valuable social and emotional skills through play.

RELEVANCE

How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Relevance?

Playworks often chooses new partners because parents and guardians in the school community have advocated for more focus on recess and play during the school day. Each year, we engage the school community by training school staff to facilitate safe and healthy play, attending schools’ Open Houses, and encouraging parents to attend and participate in our after school sports leagues.

Unfortunately, many New England schools lack the healthy learning environment that ensures every child thrives. Experts and educators have identified social emotional skills like relationship building, cooperation, and decision making as essential tools for children to thrive in and out of school. Playworks is the leading nonprofit in New England leveraging the power of play to transform children’s social, emotional, and physical health.

A review released by the RAND Corporation in 2017 found that Playworks Coach leads to five outcomes directly associated with stronger school climate and safety; we had a statistically significant impact on bullying, inclusiveness, student safety, student use of positive language, and student ownership of recess activities. Additionally, RAND found that Playworks Coach improves students’ class readiness, on-task behavior, and ability to transition smoothly from recess to learning.

IMPACT

How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Impact?

A Stanford University/Mathematica Policy Research randomized control trial – the gold standard in evaluation – found that Playworks led to statistically significant impacts resulting in less bullying, higher feelings of student safety, more time engaged in vigorous physical activity, and less time transitioning from recess back to the classroom (2013).

Every year Playworks conducts surveys of principals and teachers at our partner schools to help us learn more about the impact of our program. As a result of the feedback we receive, Playworks improves our program components to better fit the needs of every partner school. Survey results from our partner schools for the 2017-18 school year showed:

Decreased bullying and created a positive school climate

  • 97% reported a positive impact on the overall school climate.
  • 87% reported a decrease in the incidents of bullying during recess.
  • 93% reported students are better able to resolve their own conflicts

Improved students’ readiness to learn in the classroom

  • 97% reported an increase in the level of participation in academic activities.
  • 96% reported an increase in the students’ abilities to focus on class activities.

Increased physical activity during recess and throughout the school day

  • 99% reported an increase in the number of students that are physically active.

98% of school staff reported they would like Playworks to return to their school. Our ability to deliver high quality and high impact programming every day illustrates Playworks has a program and staffing model that makes lasting impacts.

SUSTAINABILITY

How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Sustainability?

Playworks New England has a 12-year track record of success in providing its program to low-income children attending urban elementary schools and we have been financially sustainable for the past six years. Playworks’ financial sustainability has two key components.  First, we are steadily increasing earned income from school and professional development training fees as our largest source of revenue. Second, a diversified funding portfolio that includes earned income, corporate sponsorships, individual donations, government grants, and foundations revenue positions Playworks to weather economic fluctuations.  

The success of Playworks in New England has given our team the opportunity to provide our staff with competitive salaries and opportunities for promotion within our organization. Additionally, we have our finances audited each year by an outside firm to ensure our finances remain strong.

EXCELLENCE IN MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS

How does your organization strive toward the attributes associated with Excellence in Management and Operations?

Playworks Massachusetts consists of 52 employees. The demographics of our staff directly reflect the students that we serve. Our staff represent an array of ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, and professional backgrounds. Over the past several years, our organization has put an emphasis on hiring staff members that are from the same neighborhoods we work in. Playworks embraces diversity, inclusion, equity, and community representation in all of our hiring decisions for both staff members and volunteers.

Our staff, board members, and volunteers are publicly identified and qualified for the positions they represent. All volunteer and staff members are well trained and managed to ensure our program quality remains strong and our financials are healthy. Our national office provides the support for our region’s marketing, communication, legal, human resources, and IT needs, which keeps it professional managed and consistent.

HOW DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION ENGAGE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS / EMERGING LEADERS?

Young professionals and emerging leaders have many opportunities to engage with Playworks. First, we have the opportunity for these individuals to work at Playworks. Each year we typically hire individuals to fill between 3-4 different positions on our team. Secondly, we have the opportunity for emerging leaders to engage with Playworks on a volunteer basis.

We have volunteers serve on our Board of Directors and Leadership Council. Each group is professionally and geographically diverse that provides insight on strategic direction, brokers with corporate, individuals, and foundation donors, and monitors the financial health of our operations. Both groups help raise awareness of Playworks and critical funds to support our programming in schools.

We also engage consistent volunteers in our recess, leagues, Junior Coach trainings, and playground beautifications. During all of these volunteer engagements volunteers work closely with our coaches to deliver our programs. Prior to any school or program-based volunteer opportunities, we provide external volunteers with specific trainings to prepare them for their experience.


STRATEGIC PARTNERS