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Our Journey With CareShare

by Jared Johnson, 2019 Acara Fellow

 

My name is Jared Johnson, and I’m one of four students who helped to co-found CareShare, our attempt to bring affordable child care options to rural Minnesota by tapping one of the country’s fastest-growing and most underutilized resources—senior citizens and retirees. While our story didn’t go exactly the way we planned, it shows just how valuable the journey toward pursuing an ambitious, worthwhile goal can be.

What a twisting, turning journey it has been. The four of us met in Acara’s Global Venture Design course during the fall of 2018, each hoping to put our individual skills to use in an interdisciplinary, socially-conscious way. With backgrounds ranging from business to medicine, we first set out to make an impact on Minnesota’s affordable housing crisis. Our initial research led us to consider the social causes that tend to lead toward homelessness, one cause being the cost of child care. After all, if working parents can’t afford to have their children taken care of, it can cut into their work time and lead to an even tighter financial situation when it’s already difficult to keep up with paying rent. And for the children, a stressful childhood can lead to trauma that results in mental illness, potentially furthering the cycle of poverty—a cycle we intended to disrupt.

Left to right: Emma Fiala, Sarah Zhao, Emily Waller, Jared Johnson

Finally deciding child care was the best way for us to contribute, we continued to hone our strategy. We asked, “how might we facilitate more affordable care?” Enter the elders. Thinking some older adults would want to pursue impactful work after their retirement in exchange for a little bit of extra money, we structured our program around intergenerational care, a practice renowned for its benefits to both children and caregivers. At this point we drafted our venture plan, and following the completion of our class, we sought a way to take our idea beyond the classroom.

Thanks to the Acara Challenge, we were provided with the chance we had hoped for. After a mentor’s suggestion and a bit of research, we selected Grand Meadow, a town of just over 1,000 people in southeastern Minnesota, for our pilot. We began by meeting with town leadership who encouraged us to reach out to the community and talk to more people. This led to our appearance at the annual Meadowfest in June 2019, a highlight of my Acara experience in which we were able to make our case in a real way, to real people, outside of the classroom. 

While there was verbal interest in our program as we talked with community members, we were never quite able to gain the foothold we needed in order to begin our program. Even though things didn’t go the way we’d initially hoped, we learned so much throughout the process. 

Speaking for myself, I can say that I learned a great deal from this experience—ranging from seemingly mundane skills such as scheduling meetings, to exciting tasks like event planning. More importantly, the chance to be coached by the brilliant changemakers of Acara has proven to be an invaluable opportunity. Even when we made mistakes, our Acara mentors were patient and helpful, and the importance of having a safe space to fail cannot be overstated. We are still looking forward to what comes next in our own careers as changemakers. 

After all, when it comes to change, you have to start somewhere.

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