Playworks provides valuable lessons on growing a small, local organization into a national movement with broad applicability for other organizations that want to bring to scale ideas and contribute to RWJF’s work to build a Culture of Health.
Since 2005 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has supported Playworks, an innovative program that provides supervised, inclusive recess programs at schools across the country. Jill Vialet, who founded Play4Kids, the precursor to Playworks, saw the need, particularly in urban elementary schools, for a new kind of recess that included everyone, taught an array of games, and developed skills in youth such as how to self-regulate, organize, collaborate, and work with others. RWJF’s $43.6 million in funding enabled Playworks to grow from a small San Francisco Area nonprofit into a national organization and movement, spreading the idea that play is important for children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development. Playworks now serves some 1,300 schools in 23 communities.
This case study provides lessons and insights from the scaling of Playworks that may be applicable to other organizations interested in working with RWJF to build a Culture of Health.