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Our Newest Investment: Child Care Shared Services

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

Running a small child care business is hard in the best of times, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it more difficult. Back in May, a group of SVP Portland Partners came together, with a diverse group of child care advocates, to create the Oregon Child Care Provider Relief Guide for child care providers struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated economic and social disruptions.

After the relief guide launched, the coalition continued meeting and asked: What more can we do? How can we help small providers survive and thrive, not just through the pandemic, but for the long-term? The answer was to create a shared services model. Shared services is an organizational structure that builds capacity by pooling needs and sharing resources with other centers or programs to meet those needs together. This unique approach to child care management and leadership is especially beneficial in helping small child care businesses achieve financial sustainability, operational efficiency, strong outcomes, and family support.

Example services include: a software platform to automate data collection and regulatory filings, high-quality accounting services, a highly-effective revenue collection service, business coaching, a shared substitute staff pool, and bulk buying of safety equipment. Providing these services through a single organization reduces overall provider costs, improves quality, and increases their revenue and capacity.

In June, the Portfolio Team approved an investment of SVP Partner time to plan and pilot a shared services program for child care providers. Particular attention will be paid to developing solutions that help those most impacted by the pandemic: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) providers, small home-based providers, small centers (staff of 25 or less), and providers who do infant and toddler care.

Megan Irwin, SVP Board member and former Early Learning Director for the State of Oregon, explained the importance of this project: “Child care providers across the state are still reeling from the disastrous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses and programs. As the provider community hopefully starts to recover and adjust to our new reality, this project will help us chart a course for a more sustainable, better supported, child care industry in Oregon.”

In August, SVP Portland stepped up as fiscal coordinator to receive two grants totalling $185,000, from the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) and an anonymous SVP Partner, in order to pursue an ambitious expansion of the original vision. The grant includes SVP serving as project manager, and convening a Co-Design Team of twelve stakeholders, made up of child care providers from throughout Oregon (including culturally-specific providers), child care workforce development professionals, and representatives from the Early Childhood Division of Oregon’s Department of Education.

A team of five SVP Partners will continue to provide critical support to the Co-Design Team and its work, including coaching, financing, and budgeting. We have also contracted with two professional facilitators to help guide the process, as well as a national expert in child care shared services models. SVP Partner involvement will likely grow in the coming weeks as the Co-Design Team meets.

In December the Co-Design Team will present a recommendation to OCF about an additional 2021 investment to support pilot programs throughout Oregon and a shared services backbone agency to manage the programs, including program structure, what services should be provided, a budget, and a plan for next steps. The pilots will trial child care shared services across the state in a variety of geographical and cultural contexts. From there the goal is to expand access to the shared services program to providers across all of Oregon.

As venture philanthropists, SVP Portland is honored to be serving as incubator for this start-up that has an ambitious vision for transformational impact on many thousands of children and families across our State. We are excited to be investing our resources in partnership with OCF, and working with other leaders to help make this vision a reality!

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