By Jennifer Jones, director of child and family systems innovation, Alliance 

“Just knowing that a problem exists—or even being aware of potential solutions—is rarely enough to mobilize a community for action.”

This universal truth for people working in the nonprofit sector, which appears in a recent post on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) blog, provides an important context for showing that while the sentiment is true, it luckily doesn’t prevent efforts at generating community-wide change.

This SAMHSA blog post discusses the Children’s Resilience Initiative (CRI) in Walla Walla, Washington, which has two goals:

  • To increase public awareness about the impact of adverse childhood experiences
  • To build resilience in the community

CRI has incorporated collective action and continual measurement of progress toward project goals. Learn more about CRI’s commitment to data-based decision making and citizen participation.

CRI offers yet another account of how communities and the people who reside in them have the power to exact changes with great significance. This point is clearly shown in an extraordinary series of articles that appeared in The New York Times Fixes section in August.

David Bornstein’s series details efforts in Washington state to strengthen neighborhoods, communities, children, and families through authentic engagement, appreciative inquiry, collective impact, and incorporation of the key findings apparent in brain sciences including adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

The articles provide detail on the efforts of Washington’s Family Policy Council to help cities and counties establish their own community networks that would collectively work to strengthen their community from the inside out (what a concept!). Bornstein writes, “The main lesson of the Family Policy Council is that when local citizens acquire the capacity to work together in smarter ways, communities change.”

The other articles in the series cover how community activists and change agents came to understand the underlying causes of the social problem they were confronting—ACEs and toxic stress. They also go into detail about how an understanding of ACEs was spread into systems and communities.

I cannot recommend these articles enough if you are interested in detailed accounts of how to best use the available sciences and apply them to realize not only understanding, but true impact. In fact, I have reached out to David Bornstein and have given him details on Change in Mind and the cohort, as well as the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.