A nonprofit organization that aims to solve problems has come to Montrose and is looking to tackle one Montrose’s childcare problem.
Harry Gottlieb, founder of Unify America, set out months ago to find an area for the organization’s pilot program. He met two locals at a conference several months ago, one being State Sen. Don Coram and the other being Linda Gann, who ran the local Connect for Health Colorado and is still working on policy in the state.
They convinced him Montrose was the place to be.
In February, Unify America sent people to research the town and consider its needs. One need many spoke to them about was housing. The other was childcare.
“We ended up selecting childcare, because it affects so many parts of the community, you know, it’s jobs, it’s the schools, it’s public safety. It’s the economy,” Gottlieb said.
A 2021 childcare needs assessment conducted for Montrose County, the City of Montrose and the Uncompahgre Valley Alliance Childcare Caucus labels Montrose County as a “childcare desert.”
What that means is there are three times as many children in the county as there are licensed childcare spots. As of the study, there were 9,241 total children under 18 and 2,641 under the age of 6. The assessment projects those numbers will continue to grow.
“Existing childcare centers, preschools, and licensed family care providers can serve a total of 741 children daily, most of which (612) are from childcare centers as opposed to licensed family care providers,” the assessment states.
“If you look at (the study), you see what the shortage is now, which isn’t great,” Gottlieb said. “But then it gets a lot worse if we do nothing… it gets a lot worse.”
Unify America, which is working in Montrose as “Unify Montrose” aims to help the community tackle that problem from beginning to end.
First, Unify Montrose will hire people to canvas the community and will seek out 64 residents from different sects of the community to participate in a panel.
Those 64 residents will be selected in a lottery and will ideally reflect the diverse backgrounds of the people in Montrose, Gottlieb said. “It’s so that we have a fair process of who gets on, but also, we really bring lots of different perspectives together. Because that’s how you get to better decisions.”
Everyone selected will be paid for their time, Gottlieb said.
Once the panel is selected, they will spend time with each other virtually once a week for 12 weeks. They will examine the problems in the community.
Once the problem areas are identified, Unify Montrose will start to put together solutions. When there is some consensus on the solutions, the organization will even help the community to find funding to follow through on those solutions.
Who is behind it?
From Unify Montrose’s website, the organization is “on a mission to replace political fighting with collaborative problem-solving.”
The group uses technology and games to reduce political polarization and teach problem-solving skills so Americans can work together to reach shared goals and find better solutions. The nonpartisan, nonprofit team includes entrepreneurs and experts in community problem-solving processes, community engagement, communications and engaging user experience
Gottlieb said the funding comes from a few different places, but the majority is a private investment.
Gottlieb’s background is in filmmaking and video games. He founded JackBox games, which can be found on most video game consoles. The video games have more than 100 million active users.
He also started Jellyvision, a software that makes choosing healthcare benefits fun and easier. He and his team have set up shop in Montrose and are living here throughout the process. By the end, they hope to have helped Montrose County solve its childcare shortage.
Those who want to get involved can apply with Unify Montrose at unifymontrose.org. The job will last throughout the summer and will involve canvassing people door-to-door.
There is a tab on the website, also, where you can fill out a brief survey.
You can also follow Unify Montrose on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Justin Tubbs is the Montrose Business Times editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 970-765-0915 or mobile at 254-246-2260.