Since 2013, Tipping Point has invested in R+D to fill gaps in our sector and develop new poverty-fighting ideas. Known as T Lab, our R+D team exists to research, prototype and test in partnership with our grantees and the Bay Area community at large.
In 2016, a thousand of the world’s largest companies spent a combined $680 billion on the research and development of new technology, products and services. In the non-profit sector, we spent virtually nothing.
Even the language we use to describe our operating models in the private and non-profit sectors displays our different perspectives. In the private sector, the term infrastructure is used to describe essential business costs. But in the nonprofit sector, we use the terms overhead or administrative expenses—categories that are highly scrutinized.
Although we expect non-profits to tackle and solve massive social problems, rarely do we offer them the resources or autonomy to do so. At Tipping Point, we aspire to change this narrative and help re-write the rules.
How We Operate
T Lab’s iterative process tests hypotheses through structured experiments using human-centered design and behavioral science methodologies.
Projects to Date
- Year Up Bay Area: How might we redesign the Year Up service model by leveraging new technology to deliver instruction and relationship-based training in order to reach more opportunity youth?
- Project Legal Link: Having validated demand for embedded legal assistance, what is the right mix of service touchpoints for social services providers, clients, and lawyers, and what would a sustainable business model look like?
- Gma Village: How might we reimagine informal child care using trusted and loving grandmothers in local communities to provide affordable child care options to low-income parents?
- Beyond 12: How can we digitize the experience of providing coaching to first-generation students in order to increase engagement and capture data to assess their risk of dropping out of college?
- Aspire Public Schools: How might we create a low-cost and accessible preschool program in areas considered to be “preschool deserts” that can improve school readiness for children entering kindergarten?
The Pilot: How We Got Here
In 2013, we built out an R+D space in our office and identified three gaps in the Tipping Point portfolio - childcare, early childhood education and prisoner reentry. We recruited professionals with backgrounds in a range of fields like engineering, policy, social work, architecture, and the arts. They were divided into teams and given six months to tackle our key challenges.
- Year 1 led to Little Scholars, a preschool on a bus concept that resulted in Aspire Public Schools developing a quality preschool option for families in the Bay Area.
- Year 2 launched to Gma Village, a web-based application that connects parents to caregivers in West Oakland.
- Year 3 piloted the idea of holding probation meetings with youth in neutral, inspiring public places such as the Exploratorium or the Bay ferry, as opposed to the sterile and often institutionalized settings of most county offices.