The following was written by Jennifer Hossler and originally posted here on ACEs Connection, 7/11/2016.
A jigsaw puzzle, no two segments alike, that comes together to form a bright picture only when the whole community helps to assemble it.
The Buddhist image of “Indra’s Net,” a web in which a jewel at each juncture reflects all the other jewels (and is reflected in them), demonstrating the infinite connectedness of the universe.
The branching patterns found in human capillaries, cedar fronds, and a head of Italian broccoli.
When wrestling with ideas like adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma, health and community—and how they relate to each other, metaphors like these help carry abstract concepts down to earth and make them accessible to a range of audiences. So when the Buncombe County ACE & Resiliency Collaborative in North Carolina wanted to explain community resilience and inspire people to make it happen, they partnered with the FrameWorks Institute of Washington, D.C., to find just the right “sticky” metaphors and images.
Carpenters have table saws. Painters have camel-hair brushes. And social-change advocates have coalitions.
Coalitions—unions of people and organizations working to shape outcomes on a specific issue or problem—are tools, not ends in and of themselves. When they work effectively, they wield clout greater than the sum of their parts: They can broaden buy-in, tackle a broad range of goals, and benefit from the diverse viewpoints and strategies of their members.
Turf struggles—conflicts over funding, ideology, strategy and recognition among organizations with seemingly common goals—are often stumbling blocks in the work of coalitions. But “turf” does not have to be a four-letter word.
According to Larry Cohen, executive director of Prevention Institute, a national non-profit committed to fostering health and social equity, turf struggles arise because coalition members care passionately about the work they do. Therefore, acknowledging the struggles can actually make the coalition stronger because you also acknowledge the commitment and specific goals of members in the process.
MomsRising and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) are spreading the word about the importance of social and emotional development and the many ways that we all can work as parents, teachers, and community members to foster the social and emotional development of our kids and productively address behavioral problems that are caused by childhood trauma.
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice queries the Cheshire Cat: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cat answers, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Your community—whether it be a health clinic or school, neighborhood or entire state—also needs a vision in order to plot its next move. Without a shared vision, communities may flounder or fracture, lose momentum or become snarled in multiple, competing agendas.
“A shared vision starts with a question: Where do we want to go together?” Sandra Bloom, associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, told MARC participants when they gathered in November 2015.
In order to develop such a vision, members of the community—health workers and clients, principals and students, administrators and families—must be able to talk across barriers of age, gender, identity, race, class and experience. A shared vision fosters inclusion, instills a sense of purpose, bolsters internal commitments and clarifies next steps. It inspires. It becomes a measure of progress.
Rosa Ana Lozada grew up in a San Francisco neighborhood riddled with domestic violence, child abuse and the frequent wail of police sirens. But home and family were the counterweight to violence and fear, said Lozada, now CEO of Harmonium, Inc. and a member of the San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team.
During a two-day convening of Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) grantees, Lozada’s talk brought a hush to the room and underscored one of the gathering’s themes: Stories are essential to building social movements, including the growing effort to combat early adversity and build resilience across the nation.
Marshall Ganz, senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University, has written about the role of stories in social movements; stories help us exercise agency, develop personal and collective identities and find the resources that enable us to act. Stories speak to both the heart and the head, and the most effective stories leave listeners with a sense that they, too, can make a difference.
The ACEs movement is filled with pioneers. There are physicians, professors and researchers who treat, teach and study. There are leaders of non-profits who partner with individuals, neighborhoods and organizations. Volunteers who give time. Experts who draw on wisdom gained in academia, clinical practice, community work and personal experience.
But rarely does one person do all of these things while parenting three children under the age of thirteen.
Meet Dr. Renée Boynton-Jarrett (pictured). She does all of these things. Pediatrician, social epidemiologist, university professor, parent, and advocate for integrating the new science of human development in communities to help them become healthier.
There’s almost a Zen-like feeling when you walk into the office of Rosa Ana Lozada, chief executive officer of Harmonium, Inc. (second from left in photo, above). The deep red accent wall, large corner windows, and small Japanese fountain send a message that a trauma-informed, resilience-building mindset starts at the top of this organization.
For the last decade, Lozada has led the day-to-day operation of the 40-year-old non-profit organization whose work, she says, is “prevention and intervention to promote well-being.” But her role as CEO runs very deep, and I sense that she is involved on a very personal level. It shows in the way she speaks to her staff -- and in how they respond -- with respect, ease, and a sense of purpose. It is apparent that she “walks the talk” when it comes to trauma-informed care within her organization of nearly 400 people.
They were curious, connected, inspired and fulfilled. They were caffeinated, revolutionary, determined and exuberant. They were hopeful. They were ready.
By the second morning of the Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) convening, leaders from fourteen communities across the country listed these adjectives, along with a host of others, to describe their emotions as they compared notes, shared obstacles, asked tough questions, and planned their next steps in the movement toward a just, healthy, and resilient world.
The gathering in Philadelphia on November 9-10, 2015, drew representatives from Alaska to Florida, San Diego to Boston—communities where the work of building resilience and combating early childhood adversity is already under way. Through MARC, coordinated by The Health Federation of Philadelphia with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment, these communities can now expand their innovative, multi-sector work.