First a question: Why can't we solve the problems of childcare?
For a modern, progressive nation it's an embarrassment.
And while we wait for the change that never comes what we’re prepared to accept as the norm is bizarre.
- Year long waitlists for too few days or days that don’t work
- Women forced to delay returning to work because there is no childcare (none!)
- Women reducing hours, limiting income, career opportunities and retirement savings
- An economic system that is almost openly hostile to women and the needs of childcare
- Working just to pay for childcare so you can keep your job and career path
- No after school care
- Negotiating with work to reduce your hours just so you can make the school pickup
- Choosing a job with flexibility over the job you want or trained for
- And the costs!
- And anxiety upon anxiety
- Stress upon stress
- Scrambling day and night
And why do we accept this?
We all know the answer.
Because we have to.
We have no choice.
How can this be?
And how can our society be so incapable of solving this issue?
I know why we can't
I read a powerful article last week on the state of childcare. The article made a clear case of the issues. And solutions government could take to solve the crisis. It was inspiring!
And then I looked at the publication date.
It was depressing to say the least.
And as it resonated with me today it surely did with parents 13 years ago.
And yet nothing has changed.
- What we’ve lost
- What we’ve given away
What we’ve lost
“Why are we facing all of these issues alone when we could be facing them together?”
It seems simple doesn’t it?
- We each join the daycare tour alone
- Put our names down alone
- Wait, alone
- Negotiate with work alone
- Struggle alone
- Bear the costs alone
- Wear the stress alone
All the while:
- We work together
- Our children go to school together
- We live next door to one another
- We complain on social media together
And yet we do nothing about it. Together.
Because as we’ve progressed beyond our tribal roots we’ve lost the ability to organise together.
And I'm not talking about general organising.
I'm talking about organising for life. Where the stakes ar high.
Organising for the most important parts of our lives. For our needs. Unburdened by policy or profit margin. Or skewed by the needs of bureaucrats or corporations.
If we’ve lost something, how do we get it back?
Working together to solve common problems requires more than the will to do so.
People need structure if their working together is to be successful.
A sports team has a coach, a captain, positions and rules.
Our work has upper management, middle management, processes, job descriptions and more.
And more than providing structure this framework provides something much more important.
Systems, rules and process provides confidence to the group. Confidence in the system. And confidence in the outcome.
Without it the team never sets foot on the field.
"Believing in success greatly contributes to that success."
Without a framework we all have confidence in is it any surprise that we don't take hold of the reins ourselves?
And continue to look to government and business.
Because for all our problems we have confidence in the solutions they do provide.
What we’ve given away
As we’ve lost the connection to one another we've replaced it with a greater reliance on government and business.
Nothing wrong with that If the system works. As it does for many other services.
But the system doesn’t work, does it?
And why doesn’t it work?
Because of the nature of solutions delivered from the top down.
While the priorities of business and government come first we will always come second.
Top down vs ground up solutions
Parents need childcare to be flexible, affordable and most importantly, available.
What does business need? What are their priorities?
Business' priority is their business model and profit. And the certainty that comes from set hours, set fees and firm processes.
And as customers we look to them for certainty. Without it we can't count on them for the care of our children.
And this isn't a criticism of daycare centres. We love our daycare centres and the wonderful carers who do such important work.
It's only to outline that priority one isn't you. And to continue as we have for decade after decade expecting different is folly.
Especially as fees continue to rise unchecked.
Similarly government policy is designed far from you and what you need.
Consider the changes to the Child Care Rebate (CCR) that come into effect in 2018.
One policy change provides a better deal for lower income families. But by stricter means testing for higher income earners.
Not if you're a working mum who has to decide now whether returning to work is even worth it.
A reduced rebate increases her daycare rate and effectively reduces her wage.
And lo, the continuation of an existing problem that now rather than solved is exacerbated.
Was this the design of the policy change?
Is it the result of a solution delivered from the top down?
And here we have the source of this intractable problem.
- We need flexibility but it can't come from the childcare industry.
- We need affordability but it won't come from a market that relies on profits.
- We need solutions for our own specific needs but they can’t come from government if they must serve the larger population and the constraints of budget
And the longer we stare into the distance hoping for this to change the longer it won’t.
But if government and business can't solve this who can?
With solutions from the ground up that work for us and our needs. Unadulterated by a company's bottom line or a politician's priorities.
This sounds great but where do we even begin? And isn’t it all too hard?
What if it wasn’t.
What if we had the organising protocols to give us the confidence to create our own solutions.
Where parents with the same needs could create flexible, affordable care by the power of their own common purpose.
- When hiring a nanny you could easily share and split the costs because you had the organisational framework to do so
- And what if the new norm for the cost of hiring a nanny was half (and more often than not, less than half)
- And that when hiring a nanny you could press a button and the amount you wanted to offset was shared across your social network? And that your network could easily reach out and pay to secure their spot.
- What confidence would that give you to create your own after school care knowing that you could easily turn a cost of $75/day into $30 or less. For you and other school parents. While you're nanny earns $40/hr.
- With the right systems in place what confidence would you have to organise with your neighbours and neighbourhood to create daycare when and how you want it?
- And for less than $80/day
- All the while increasing a nanny’s wage 40-60%
- What would it mean for doing more without the kids if we could share a nanny’s cost for date night. You know, we might actually go on one!
- What would the morning and evening look like when the rush and hassle of getting to daycare is replaced by opening your door or walking across the road?
- And what kind of community do we create when we solve each other’s most intractable problems together?
- A community of strength rather than powerlessness . And able to solve our own most important problems.
- And a community that stop waiting for a solution to be delivered from on high. And gets on with the job of doing it ourselves.
I was born in Sydney but grew up in a tribe. My father’s people are Ngati Rangitihi from New Zealand’s Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Note: If you click on the link above, apart from outlining our history, you'll see my kui (grandmother) at right in the presented photo. Olive Rangimotumotu Marr, was a prominent matriarch of the tribe and a force to be reckoned with. She instilled a powerful reverence for her heritage to my father and he, to me.
And as I’ve experienced the two cultures in which I live it's been as an insider and outsider.
This dual identity has given me a unique perspective.
A perspective able to contrast what I’ve seen in tribal life with my other life here in Australia. And from a young age I’ve been trying to resolve the two in my head and understand what’s present in one to determine what’s absent in another.
For Hapu this is the distillation of everything I know.
And it’s been surprising to me exploring tribal thinking in the design and development of this app.
What surprised me most?
If we can’t organise money successfully we can’t organise anything
Maori have koha. It’s a fluid, simple system of giving money.
And it’s unburdened by notions of awkwardness or anxiety.
And money when it comes to the idea of sharing a nanny is the elephant in the room. Let's face it. There’s enough grief when we try and split a restaurant bill. A nanny's costs shared, week in week out, across three or four families can be a recipe for disaster.
I knew that if we were to create a system we can all rely on then Hapu must solve this issue. Make it an afterthought. A non issue. Like koha.
And Hapu has.
With a fluid system that moves the complicated process of splitting and sharing costs to the background.
Kind of like another app we all love to use.
Uber and payments
There are lessons and parallels we can draw from Uber. And how they relegated payments to the background to create a new user experience.
It may not sound like much. But very simple things done right can have profound effects.
**Tribal thinking tells me so.
No one can deny the ease with which Uber simplified payments when getting in and out of a cab.
My experience used to be; sitting in the middle seat watching the cab’s meter tick over. I'd count the $20.85 total in my wallet with the aim of getting out before the meter ticks over. No matter how far I needed to walk.
Now I get in, sit back and relax, say thanks for the ride and only have a brief look later at the app for costs. Or when the receipt arrives with the amount often a happy surprise.
What used to be $25 now seems to be $18 or thereabouts.
Uber have created an experience that relegates payments and stress to the background. It helps that they reduce costs too.
And so does Hapu.
With Hapu splitting costs is automatic. We know that if we can't relegate varied calculations to the background we risk the goodwill of the group. And we know that the system must build goodwill for the group’s common purpose to be effective.
We also automate scaling costs.
This is when a nanny has an incremental increase to their costs for looking after additional children. It wouldn't be unusual in the industry to see -
- $25/hr for 2 children
- $30/hr for 3 children
- $35/hr for 4 children
*(Understanding also that carers at daycare centres usually earn $25/hr flat with no increase). *
Automating the sharing of costs in this way is how parents can reduce a cost per child to $8.75/hr. This is without CCR and the rate can reduce even further with the means tested Child Care Benefit (CCB).
Let's change how we think about childcare
It's not an understatement to say that Hapu is trying to change how we work as a society. That's our goal. Our moonshot. And it's not impossible to think we can.
Like another app that's changed how society thinks.
Airbnb as an example of a supporting organisational framework
Airbnb was an unusual idea that at its inception many believed wouldn’t work.
Now it’s normal to go away for the weekend and put your home on Airbnb and recoup costs for your rent or mortgage. Funds paid direct to your account. Simple. Easy.
And game changing (and not unlike Hapu)!
And it's now the new normal. Due in large part to process and protocol.
And systems to support both sides of the marketplace. Systems that give both sides confidence. You don't worry about renting your place because Airbnb has your back.
Hapu has your back when it comes to sharing your nanny
Because we want to change how you see the hiring of a nanny.
- We want you to go on a date night once a fortnight instead of never
- We want you to see your neighbourhood as the real community it is capable of solving problems together
- We want you to see your social network the same way
- We want to expand the scope of who you can share with by eliminating payments as a source of anxiety or conflict
- We want you to press ‘Share with your tribe’ and put more money back in the family budget
- We want women to be empowered to return to work when they want instead of when they can
- We want you to be able to choose the days you need for childcare
- We want parents who work irregular hours to have new options for their family's childcare
- We want families to take back control of one of the most important aspects of their lives
- We want nannies to be nannies and workers to stay at their jobs and earn an income
- We want nannies to be paid more
- And most of all we want you to change the way we all see childcare
And we want you to understand the reality and power of tribes. And the power you hold together to solve your own problems,
And when it comes to Hapu we want you to understand that while the shared experience of parenthood can make us a tribe. It's the framework by which we can work together that keeps us one.
Thanks for reading :)
Benjamin Edward Manu Marr
CEO & Founder, Hapu.com.au