KaBOOM!: Playgrounds that Build Communities

While the nonprofit KaBOOM! helps communities build playgrounds in a matter of weeks, the impact goes beyond a healthy play space for kids. A new Knight Foundation report finds that the projects help volunteers and local organizations cultivate the skills, confidence and inspiration to get more involved in their communities.

KaBOOM!: Playgrounds that Build Communities provides lessons for groups seeking to engage volunteers in community change efforts. Key to the success is the non-profit’s approach. KaBOOM! offers a highly structured playbook that yields a quick, achievable win motivating people to become more engaged in improving neighborhoods.

“So often, people looking to create community change struggle with the question, how do we get people involved, how do we get them to care? Most groups focus on long-term strategies. KaBOOM! is showing that a quick win can provide the confidence boost communities need to tackle more projects and create more engaged communities,” said Paula Ellis, vice president for strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation.

For example, at Detroit’s St. Jude Family Childcare Center, participants in the KaBOOM! project have since taken on other improvement projects like landscaping and repairs. Community members have taken such ownership of the playground they built, that on the weekends when the center is closed, a local resident comes by each day to open and close it to let neighbors play.

“By learning and using the KaBOOM! playground build process I  have become more efficient and effective when planning and organizing other volunteer events,” said Choyce Harris of the Jude Family Childcare Learning Center. “I use the tools and methods for almost every event I organize now.”

”This evaluation confirms what we at KaBOOM! have known for years: the process is as important as the product,” said Darell Hammond, founder and CEO of KaBOOM!. “People care deeply about their communities and given a little support, they will step up and make big changes.”

Knight Foundation, which funded 13 playgrounds in 2010, also announced today it is providing $1.5 million in support for nine additional play spaces in Akron, Ohio, Miami and Detroit. “Our new support cements the lessons from this research by providing KaBOOM! with more capacity to engage citizens before and after the build,” said Damian Thorman director of Knight’s National Program. KaBOOM! will hire consultants to work with partners for a year after the playground projects, to help them capitalize on their newfound skills and inspiration.

The independent evaluation on KaBOOM! was conducted by Public/Private Ventures for Knight Foundation. It focused on 13 playground builds in Akron, Ohio, Detroit, Miami, Washington, D.C., Macon, Ga. and Philadelphia.