Strategy Challenge
  • Strategy Challenge: Building Lasting Relationships & Expanding Crucial Programming
    Morgan Stanley Foundation helps the Children's Museum of Manhattan bring its Strategy Challenge recommendation to fruition.
The Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge doesn't end after 10-weeks - for nonprofit partners and The Morgan Stanley Foundation alike. Three years ago, the Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) challenged Morgan Stanley employees to help scale its EatSleepPlay health initiative as part of the Strategy Challenge, and the work done then continues to amplify today. Beyond 'outside the box' thinking, the team was tasked to think 'outside the walls' of the Museum and find solutions to deliver museum quality health education products - including the EatSleepPlay exhibition, an NIH approved health curriculum EatPlayGrow, educational programs for families, and professional development trainings for teachers - both deeper in the New York community and more broadly across the nation. The mission was simple - increase the number of children who could benefit directly from the project's positive effects on reducing childhood obesity - and the Morgan Stanley team created a 12 month strategic plan to help CMOM achieve this goal.

Armed with the team's recommendations, CMOM developed a new model for community engagement - the health and learning hub. The health and learning hub incorporates a modified suite of products allowing CMOM to embed health programming in a community center that will be sustained after CMOM's direct service has concluded. The model is designed to reach young, low-income children - those most at risk for obesity - with key health messages, and ensures that those messages are consistent across school, community and home. It combines museum quality graphics and interactives from the EatSleepPlay exhibition in the center's classrooms and public spaces, professional development programs for educators, weekly in-classroom programs for children, fun family festivals to extend learning to the home, and an online resource to make the EatPlayGrow early childhood health curriculum widely accessible and to create a community of learners.

To test the program, CMOM partnered up with Union Settlement Association, another Strategy Challenge participant that year and a long-time Morgan Stanley Foundation grantee. They launched a pilot called Built to Learn, which established the first health and learning hub in 2013 at the Union Johnson Early Learning Center in East Harlem, proving the effectiveness of the community-based model. But in order to expand the pilot across the entire community, CMOM would need additional help. In keeping with the Strategy Challenge mission of helping nonprofit partners achieve their potential and amplify their impact, in March 2014 the Morgan Stanley Foundation stepped in with the funding that was required to expand the Built to Learn pilot to all seven of Union Settlement's early childhood centers in East Harlem. Since then, Morgan Stanley employee volunteers have also provided manpower support, installing the museum's materials into the centers.

Now in its second year, the program has trained 70 caregivers and created a fun learning experience for more than 250 pre-schoolers (ages 2 - 5) and their families across the centers. And perhaps most importantly, the East Harlem program was found to improve the health of participating families by engaging adults and children together in knowledge building and behavior changing activities.

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"Our Museum became part of a community or larger network of peers when we participated in the Strategy Challenge. We now have a strong partnership with Union Settlement as well as Morgan Stanley, a marriage that allows us to expand and meet our mission to help the fight for children's health in underserved communities while also helping Union Settlement to achieve their mission to expand education, wellness and community building program resources for residents of all ages in East Harlem."

said Andy Ackerman, CMOM's Executive Director.