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KaBOOM! Community Builds


The Community-Build Model focuses on both the process and the product of the project. KaBOOM! works to facilitate that change through:

  1. Creating Places to Play, and

  2. Activating Community Leadership. 

Focusing members of a community on a playground project and facilitating the building of a tangible place to play activates community leadership. Additionally, mobilizing community leadership creates more places to play at a much greater rate.

Simply, through building a playspace together, a collective cause and achievable wins spark action that leads to cascading steps of leadership and greater community change.

  • Convening Around a Collective Cause: The well-being of children is a universal call to action that generates interest and focuses the energy of a wide range of individuals on working together for positive change in their community for their children.
  • Achievable Wins: Achievable wins are an important element of community empowerment. If a community group has successfully advocated for a simple change, such as a new speed bump or stop sign in their neighborhood, then they are more likely to believe that they can collectively make a difference.
  • Cascading Steps of Leadership: Cascading steps of leadership move individuals from small steps into greater acts of community leadership.

Main Components

Community Partner: A local community-based child-serving organization, (i.e., YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, school) parks and recreation department, or other group that has decided to create a playspace for their children using the Community-Build Model will begin by identifying the location for their new playspace and working through any land ownership issues, etc.  The process helps them to leverage their local community members, parents, churches, schools, local businesses, etc. to participate in the planning and building of the playground.  The Community-Build Model also helps them through the vital tasks of recruiting volunteers, planning for all aspects of the build day(s), raising funds, and, over the long-term, insuring, maintaining, and programming the playspace. Community Partners will typically fall into one of two categories. Either they already own the land or they are leasing the land. In cases where the land is being leased the land owners are asked for written consent before the Community Partner is approved for the playground.

  • For KaBOOM!-led builds this group is called the Community Partner and each is identified by KaBOOM! through an application process that ensures that they are committed to using the KaBOOM! Community-Build Model. KaBOOM! then consults with the Funding Partner (discussed below) to choose the Community Partner who will be the final partner for this particular playground opportunity.  That Community Partner then works directly with a KaBOOM! Project Manager throughout the planning process and the playground is completed in two or three months.

  • For a Do-It-Yourself build the community drives the entire process without the on the ground support of a KaBOOM! Project Manager and without the funding support of a Funding Partner arranged by KaBOOM!.  Using KaBOOM! online tools and resources, the playground is completed on a timeline that they establish. For Do-It-Yourself builds, KaBOOM! staff are available for consultation, but they do not manage the process.

Funding: Fundraising is a big component of the KaBOOM! Community-Build Model. The act of reaching out to one’s own community and gathering support, monetary or otherwise, for the project is at the heart of the KaBOOM!’s process to facilitate change.  KaBOOM! offers many tools and resources to help a community  jump-start and continue their fundraising efforts.

  • For KaBOOM!-led builds the primary Funding Partner is identified by KaBOOM!. They commit to supporting approximately 90% of the funds for the playground equipment and project management by KaBOOM!. They typically participate in the planning process and bring out volunteers for the eventual Build Day event. Many corporations use this event to provide a team-building and volunteer opportunity for their employees. The Community Partner, as a part of the Community-Build Model, must raise around 10% of the funds for the project. KaBOOM! believes this is critical as it is sweat equity that increases the feeling of accomplishment and creates a sense of ownership within the community.

  • For Do-It-Yourself builds the fundraising is handled completely by the Community Partner. The KaBOOM! website provides resources in the form of webinars on fundraising and grant writing for playspace projects, as well as an entire section of the KaBOOM! online toolkit outlining how to get started in the fundraising process.

Community-Build Model: The KaBOOM! Community-Build Model is used in all KaBOOM!-led builds and is the basis for all of the tools and resources provided online for Do-It-Yourself community partners to use. The KaBOOM! Community-Build Model includes the following main components.

  • Community Engagement and Volunteer Support: The community’s buy-in and ownership of the process and final product is critical from the beginning of the identification process through the build completion. Key to this process is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) in which communities’ leaders work together to identify resources (material, skill, and financial) within the community in order to build their playground. The volunteer planning committee members, themselves, are assets and this will be reinforced through the successful planning process.  The planning committee comes together to map the assets of their community and secure necessary resources for the build including people, materials, tools, food/drinks, etc. The concept relies on the idea that everyone has something to offer to the community-build process.
  • Design Day: This event kicks off the planning process for the playground project. Children and adults gather together to discuss the playground project. Children draw their “dream playground” and discuss their ideas with the group. Adults then go through a process of asset-mapping to identify resources they can utilize within their own community. Adults then form planning committees to carry out the planning process for the playground project.
  • Planning Process:
    • For KaBOOM!-led builds the planning process is approximately 8-12 weeks and is managed by the KaBOOM! Project Manager through weekly check-in calls.
    • For Do-It-Yourself builds the planning process happens on a timeline determined by the community and, generally ranges from two months to a year. KaBOOM! encourages communities to establish a “build date” and stick to it in order to keep the momentum up throughout the planning process.
    • Site Preparation: Before the Build Day occurs, the site must be prepared for the playground. This could include clearing the site of old equipment, leveling the site, digging the holes for the posts, and receiving and inventorying supplies and materials all in order to create a site ready for a volunteer playground installation.
    • Build Day: The KaBOOM! Community-Build Model culminates in a volunteer “barn-raising” of a playground where community members and volunteers construct the playgrounds and any side-projects that further enhance the site (these can include benches, asphalt games, outdoor classrooms, planter benches, gardens, landscaping, etc.). When pre-fabricated equipment is used, the playground construction is typically supervised by a professional playground installer assessing the playground for proper installment.
    • Maintenance and Programming: Planning for the long term maintenance and programming of the playground is important to the model.  The Community Partner is responsible for developing a maintenance plan and identifying someone to be in charge of the overall maintenance of the playspace. This may be a school custodian, parks & recreation staff member, or a community member.  They are responsible for checking all fixtures and connections to ensure the playground is secure, no hazards are present and both the equipment and safety surfacing are maintained. In addition, weekly walkthroughs of the playground by parents, teachers or other community members are completed in which they make note of any loose bolts, rust, or vandalism to report to the appropriate person.

Keys to Success

  • Identifying a Community Champion: This person may be a parent, an employee of the community organization (organization building the playground), or other local informal or formal leader.

  • Forming a Planning Committee: This will ensure that tasks are assigned and specific people are accountable for making it happen. The community-build process also encourages folks to celebrate the smaller accomplishments that finally culminate in a great Build Day.

  • Setting a Date: By setting a date early in the process everyone has a goal to work towards and deadlines helps to keep the momentum going.

  • Mapping and Tapping Local Assets: The Community-Build Model incorporates a process of asset-mapping that asks communities to be deliberate about identifying and engaging local assets that can contribute to the playground process. Assets may include anything from a local college student to provide music for the Build Day to a grocery store that can donate water.

  • Building on Lessons Learned from Alumni: KaBOOM! provides a wealth of web resources and trainings that have been developed from many years of lessons learned on playground building projects. In addition, the social networking portion of the kaboom.org website allows individuals to connect directly with others who have been through the process before, as well as KaBOOM! staff who can provide suggestions for overcoming barriers.

Barriers to Implementation

  • Getting Started with Such a Big Project: Many people have never undertaken a community project like this and very few have ever built a playground.  Figuring out where to start and learning all that is needed is too often a barrier.

  • CAVEmen (Citizens Against Virtually Everything): Occasionally a person or small group of people can stand in the way of progress. To move the process forward a champion who works diligently to overcome hurdles is needed.

  • Getting Overwhelmed: Interested individuals can sometimes become overwhelmed with fundraising and other necessary work.

  • Land Ownership Issues: There are a variety of challenges that arise when land ownership is concerned. These issues must be addressed in order to move forward with a community build.

  • Concerns about Liability: Many communities have concerns about liability re: the physical playground space.  As a general practice it is suggested that agencies obtain liability insurance in the amount of at least $100 million for their playground. If sites currently have liability coverage they should check with their providers to ensure the playground is additionally covered.

  • Loss of Momentum: Committed individuals can sometimes lose momentum and inspiration, often when there is not an established planning committee or when success is hinging on just one person.