When MARC leaders in Montana were training staff from local McDonald’s franchises, one senior manager scoffed at the notion of linking people’s unwelcome behavior to their early childhood experiences. “I think this is just going to give people excuses,” she muttered to the franchise owner after the trainers had left.
But the next day, that same manager defanged an encounter with an irate customer. “I wonder what happened to her,” she found herself thinking.
“She was able to deflect the anger, show compassion to this person and defuse the situation,” says Todd Garrison, executive director of ChildWise Institute, who conducted the training and heard the story later. “We say, ‘It’s not the behavior; it’s the brain.’ These things are sticking, and they’re changing people’s thinking.”
The Elevate Montana movement, launched in fall 2013, aimed to spread ACE awareness across a sprawling, thinly populated state. “We decided to create something we hoped everybody in the state would identify with and hold as their own, in the hope that it would become a social movement,” Garrison says.
That movement would need people as its conduits. So MARC leaders in Montana decided to train 18 people, selected from a group of 64 applicants, to become ACE “master trainers,” using the ACE Interface curriculum developed by Robert Anda and Laura Porter.
Leaders of Sonoma County ACEs Connection (SCAC) also wanted to grow a social movement, expanding awareness of ACEs beyond the “lunch bunch” of practitioners who met periodically to talk about adversity, resilience and the real-world application of those concepts.