Tiny Totos’ approach to solving the problem of poor quality childcare has been driven by a unique perspective on the challenge at hand. Rather than seeing a vast sea of need, Tiny Totos saw one of opportunity. Widespread demand for childcare in the underprivileged areas of Nairobi has led to 1000s of community-based childcare providers cropping up to address working mothers’ need for care with babysitter services. Tiny Totos realized that widespread demand, supply and payment for substandard and fragmented informal childcare created opportunities for a scaleable response which tapped into market opportunities rather than charity.
The key questions Tiny Totos sought to answer in 2014 – 1. Could informal babysitters be provided with a dynamic toolkit that avoided dependency and unleashed their potential to become profitable childcare entrepreneurs 2. Would if standards were improved and diversified, would parents still pay for them? 3. If owners found themselves attracting more customers and becoming more profitable, would they come to associate improved childcare with improved benefits and work harder to boost both? And 4. Would children record better health and development outcomes in improved daycares?
With these assumptions in mind, we carefully curated a practical, user-focused approach for upgrading informal childcare that low-income childcare managers could understand and respond to, and that could create centres of care that Kenyan parents could get behind. Through trial and error and by listening to and integrating the feedback of childcare providers and users themselves, we crafted a highly effective business transformation model that prepares childcare providers in the critical fields of child health, education, learning, business management, leadership and data collection. Along with access to capital and network, and technology platforms to support communications and data collection in the field, informal childcare providers receive a practical toolkit that allows them to transform standards of care, double or triple income, and see children achieving health and development outcomes on par or above national averages, in some of the most deprived neighbhourhoods of the country.
So to all questions, we were able to answer yes.
As of 2022, we have created a network of 130 childcare providers that have given quality care to over 13,000 children to date
Social Franchising our childcare model
COVID-19 and social distancing it enforced led us to innovate and refine our childcare coaching programme, with COVID-19 encouraging us to devise lean, devolved ways of inspiring behaviour change with enhanced e-learning materials and a more engaged social network. We have blended in-person training with peer-led and tech-enabled coaching approaches, standardizing content to overcome human resource, cost and social distance limitations. Our network suffered a downturn in revenues and attendance during the crisis, but the vast majority stayed resilient and open and have grown back better since restrictions have abated, speaking to the value of our holistic childcare model, and our ability to support their performance and growth with a more distanced, tech-enabled and peer-led approach.
The COVID era’s proof that a hybrid, community-driven, tech-enabled approach can work has prompted a more ambitious vision of growth for Tiny Totos. Beyond focusing on growing our direct network of partners, we are keen to respond to the demand of both the open market and development and private sector partners for user-friendly childcare training content that they can deploy in their programmes, companies, daycares and homes. Our focus for 2022 is to synthesize and professionalize our social franchise content so partners and parents and childcare providers beyond our network can access and implement our childcare approach themselves. Tiny Totos’ role can increasingly become one of technical guidance and quality control oversight, supporting a broader community of childcare givers, and ensuring exponential growth in the number of children able to access improved childcare because of our work.
By packaging our tried and tested intervention model and training content and rolling it out through three distinct networks – our direct daycare network, implementation partners, and the open market– our goal of bringing improved childcare to over 1m children in East Africa can be achieved.