LESSON 5:V – WE REMIND OURSELVES HOW OUR INNOVATIONS DISRUPT THE STATUS QUO
We take time to pause for a moment as we reflect on the business of learning how to improve broken systems and create news ones. We have seen over the decades many noble projects developed to create better lives for our most vulnerable populations. Part of that process has been focused on assessment and evaluation. This means a data specialist has worked diligently to gather data to share both challenges and progress made toward addressing them. This person may find that not everyone wants to hear about challenges. For example, a school superintendent may not want the public to hear about low student achievement or declining graduation rates. Then again, some education leaders might be eager for it.
Data, analyzed expertly, pulls back a curtain to reveal sometimes uncomfortable truths. This is what the 100% Community is designed to do. We aren’t public relations and spinning the news. We are taking a very sober look at how our families are doing and how county leaders have much work to do to ensure their safety and give them the best chance at success. To that end, we offer our last chapter from Anna, Age Eight that references the role of courage in our work.
From Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment by Katherine Ortega Courtney PhD and Dominic Cappello. Chapter Ten:
Experience being courageous preferred, but not essential
A LOT HAS HAPPENED since we started this book project many moons ago. We have new jobs, new home bases, and a much clearer blueprint for how to get things done. We also have greater optimism, though as always it’s tempered with caution.
We believe that if a measly quarter of the readers of this book responded to our calls to action we would soon see two major disruptions to business as usual.
First, we would start seeing email invites to rallies in front of city halls, county offices, and state houses, websites that demand real action, YouTube videos sharing stories around the emotional costs of trauma, new coalitions meeting weekly, and a linking of like-minded activists asking for local government, foundations, and nonprofits to fund and commit to data-driven, comprehensive, systemic, long-term ACEs prevention work.
Second, the work inside agencies would make some dramatic course corrections. Cutting through the bureaucratic dysfunction, activities would align with the mission (for a change). Helping kids is something we can all agree on, but ending ACEs is the way to do that. This would translate into the implementation of evidence-based strategies, within all family-serving government agencies, to produce measurable and meaningful results. Reforms would be guaranteed by in-your-face unrelenting activism at city meetings, town halls and online.
Most importantly to you, our reader, local systems would kick into gear to protect your children, your sister’s children, and your neighbor’s children. Equally important, the kids and families who live on the other less-resourced side of town would benefit from the same safeguards as your kids.
Within a few years, dots representing new ACEs prevention projects would light up a map on your tablet, a proud documentation of the national ACEs Prevention Network working in coordination with a robust mental health care network and revitalized child welfare system.
Only one thing prevents this from happening: Us. We, the writers and readers of this book, are only one ingredient vital to a recipe for comprehensive, local, data-driven ACEs prevention. We require people from all walks of life who are activists outside the system, or those working within it, to step up and do what’s right.
We don’t underestimate the cost of courage in the face of complacency, incompetence and corruption. Questioning a boss or a mayor is not something anyone looks forward to. We sure didn’t. Change requires that we take chances and disrupt our lives. This means putting in evenings and weekends to form and run a local advocacy group. It means breaking chains of command at work and bypassing an obstructionist manager to get to a more reasonable person in upper management. It might mean leaving one job to take another where your efforts can be more impactful. Or you might find yourself moving to another city to head up some new effort, if given the opportunity to do work toward measurable results. It might mean using technology to expose unethical or illegal practice in government and nonprofit management. It more than likely means good old-fashioned whistleblowing.
For us, it meant working for many years on piloting new ways to use data and technology to solve problems once viewed as unsolvable in child welfare systems, and documenting the process in the how-to-get-it-done book you hold in your hand.
The good news is that work addressing the root causes of ACEs is underway, and you’re invited to join. The rewards are nothing less than a nation where every child is safe, healthy and resilient, and every parent, if needed, has access to trauma-informed care. When we commit our brainpower, passion, political will, and tech expertise to one reachable goal, every city will see the end of what was once considered a problem that could never be solved. We will one day celebrate the end of unending trauma, and you can share with the children in your life your role in such a noble accomplishment.