Support For Kids’ Mental Health Amidst a Pandemic

Top-down photo of a child working at a desk while looking at a Mac monitor where a brown-haired woman is speaking.
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels
Young girl looking at a Mac computer monitor where a brown-haired woman is teaching a virtual class.
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Let’s look at an example:

I love referencing real-life examples to demonstrate how adaptation and change come about, so let’s look at how a Minneapolis-based company called EmpowerU adapted in response to the pandemic.

What was working?

EmpowerU was delivering a ton of impact during pre-pandemic times. Like many visionary founders, Katie, Abby and Ginny were extremely resourceful in building the first iteration of the teaching and coaching platform using off-the-shelf tools, creativity, and a lot of dedication. And it was working! In fact, the need for this kind for program was so great that the founders were already in a position to scale up.

What was the challenge?

A global pandemic made a growing need — 1:1 wellness-based support for kids — even more critical. It forced the founders to start thinking differently about the future, as well as the types of tools and technology they would need to best support the kids and their business. In other words, what felt like an eventual progression suddenly needed to happen ASAP, and in response to a pandemic (which was a first for everyone).

What was the approach?

I wanted to help the EmpowerU team define a clear vision for the future of the EmpowerU experience. We needed to make sure any adjustments to features would be a clear step up, and that the team could handle rapid growth.

How did we do it?

It’s amazing how much can be accomplished simply by getting input from the right people, staying organized, and utilizing proven tools.

  • Feedback sessions: When you want to know what’s working well and what isn’t, why not go straight to the source? Through facilitated feedback sessions with students and instructors, we were able to dig up this information in order to reveal insights and opportunities.
  • Structured interview methods: To make sure we got the right information during the feedback session, very specific questions were asked to spark helpful conversation that would help us plan for the future. Things like, “In the future it would be amazing if EmpowerU could____.” And “When ___ I want to ____ so I can ___.”
  • Stakeholder checkpoint: This is an excellent step if you have stakeholders involved who need to weigh in. This shouldn’t be a free-for-all. Instead, treat it as an opportunity to present the choices and directions you’ve landed on. In the case of EmpowerU, we had each board member vote on specific criteria we were evaluating. Their collective input helped us make some final choices about how to invest for the next phase.

The results?

The outcome of the workshop was two tangible plans that clearly spelled out the next steps for the business, including:

  1. A clear roadmap divided into Now, Next, and Future iterations with desired outcomes for each phase of work. This roadmap lived as a sharable artifact that the founders, board members and product owner could all understand.
  2. A detailed roadmap for the “Now” phase of work, using job-story format to clearly articulate what needed to be true for items in the “Now” bucket. This level of detail was used by the product team to build the next iteration of the EmpowerU platform.

Did it work?

With these two key drivers in place, we were able to bring to life the next version of EmpowerU in time for the 2021 school year! The Strategic Planning & Roadmapping Session helped an already-amazing program adapt and evolve in a very short amount of time. The outcome yielded an expanded program that now allows more kids to find 1:1 support. It also resulted in a business strategy that will support the growth of the business beyond today’s immediate challenges.



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Jackie Colburn

Jackie Colburn


Weekly resources for facilitators and leaders. Learn tips and methods to run better workshops, accelerate teams and uncover new ideas.