Building a Grand Coalition for Wellbeing

What if we had a shared vision of what children need to thrive, and shared this with families, schools, and child serving agencies?

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Tony Biglan, a scientist and practitioner in the behavioral health sciences, spent four decades of his life closely examining what was and was not working for youth; he examined the evidence for why some succeed and become healthy, productive, and happy adults, and why others do not. (Tony's findings are contained in his book "The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior Can Improve our Lives and our World.") I met Tony as part of my work with a new, exciting nonprofit that was putting forth big ideas for how to improve the lives of children and youth throughout the United States. The founding members were idealistic enough to believe that their evidence (the work of researchers and prevention scientists like Tony) could be put to use, solving the largest problems we face as a nation. After two years with the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, I have become a believer. There are people in congress, and in state government, and practitioners and thought leaders, who are listening. If only, we thought, we could get this information out on a wider scale: create a Grand Coalition of child serving agencies who can use these finding to improve lives, who can be strengthened by the knowledge that they are part of a large cohort who understands their challenges and can help offer solutions and advice?

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Maryland

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Maryland

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Utah, Colorado, California

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Researchers, who have examined the data, have identified programs and practices that clearly work to improve the wellbeing of children and families, in both the short and long term. Implementing these would solve a host of problems, and save lives and money. Many of these researchers, and those who learn about the findings, are excited to share it, and to get this important information into the hands of policy makers and practitioners. But how is this achieved? And why, with the availability of this research, are child serving systems not using it? Barriers exist at multiple levels, and change is not easy. One of the most effective ways to achieve widespread change, we believe, is to bring stakeholders into a Grand Coalition. The coalition will then make a call to action, create a clear roadmap, and work together to launch a nation wide advocacy campaign.

Prevention scientists have identified a myriad of conditions (e.g., poverty, stressful environments) and experiences (e.g., maltreatment, witnessing violence) that place children at risk of poor outcomes as adults.  An analysis by Brookings Institution researchers found that if proven interventions were given at critical points from early years through adolescence, we could close the opportunity gap by 70 percent between more and less advantaged children.

Proven strategies from prevention science include creating nurturing environments for children: support for mothers before and after giving birth, effective parenting and family functioning, creating classroom and school conditions that promote academic and interpersonal success, improving social-emotional learning skills, providing social services specifically needed by "at-risk" youth, and building social supports in neighborhoods. Examples of evidence-based programs include the Nurse Family Partnership; the Good Behavior Game in school settings; and Incredible Years, which supports infant and toddlers' social and emotional growth.

Our proposed Initiative to create a Grand Coalition to share prevention science findings takes a multi-pronged approach to communication, with translation, dissemination, and advocacy:                      

1. Translation: A major challenge to implementing evidence-based prevention practices is insuring that policymakers, practitioners, and the public have access to concise and readable scientific information. We will continue translating the findings of interdisciplinary teams of child development experts into a clear road map.  We will produce "fact sheets," "recipes for prevention," "tool kits," press releases and opinion pieces. These will be added to the resources available at Translation will include the creative use of digital media: an engaging video to help communicate a clear message, i.e. What is prevention science?  Why is it useful and important?

2.  Dissemination:  The "roadmap" and educational materials will be published on the website, and distributed to coalition members, researchers and to the public. We will make the concepts of prevention science more accessible to a wider audience. Our strategy for information dissemination (between members, affiliate organizations, staff, policy makers, and to the public) includes:

Website development, with resources and videos available online at

Op-eds written and submitted on current events/topics to the media

Social media management, with NPSC on Facebook and twitter

Newsletters and announcements e-mailed to members, and posted on the website

Basecamp application: information exchange and collaboration between members, to share ideas and successes

Our researchers will periodically synthesize research-based information needed by policymakers, i.e. the Progressive Caucus requested a “one-pager” and OJJDP a “white paper.”

Annual NPSC meetings and an annual retreat for the Steering Committee at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, MD for face to face networking and exchanges

Outreach to members (volunteers) to contact their colleagues, networks, or outreach to other coalitions and associations where they are members

Facilitate opportunities for professional development (develop webinars, convene interest groups at conferences, collaborate with government agencies and community organizers to host professional development opportunities, and discussions)

Collaboration on informational products and projects with affiliate organizations: continue discussion with affiliates about mutual goals and ways to collaborate to achieve those goals

New member outreach: Continue diversifying membership, use data to identify members’ skills, needs, and expertise, and identify professional associations and individuals who have needed perspectives, experience, skills, networks, or expertise.

3. Advocacy:

Bringing together our coalition members and stakeholders for strength in numbers

Bringing together experts for panel discussions and presentations at conferences and meetings

Inviting policy makers and the public to educational briefings in Washington, D.C.

Offering technical assistance and materials to providers and policy makers.

As a result of our efforts, our goal is to help children by reducing psychological problems (depression, suicide), physical health problems (asthma, diabetes, obesity), aggressive behaviors, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, early pregnancy, poor academic performance, and school drop-out rates. Our efforts are designed to improve the well being of vulnerable children and improve their chances of achieving success as adults. Over time, these practices and programs will lower societal costs and improve lives.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

An example of our work includes organizing and holding Congressional Briefings in conference rooms in the congressional office buildings. Four or five researchers will comprise a panel to present the findings that can help inform policymakers looking for ways to improve policy and systems, and prevent poor outcomes. At the most recent briefing, we brought to Washington, D.C. a woman who spoke about her personal experience with the "Nurse-Family partnership" program, to an audience that included congressional staffers. The feedback was tremendously positive. An earlier briefing helped inform the legislation on juvenile justice. The more we present, the more we believe the information is beginning to change thinking and make a difference.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Last year, we held 4 Congressional Briefings, and also put together a "Research to Policy" project. We increased our membership to over 500 individuals and over 40 agencies/organizations. Projects that our board members are working on cover a multitude of areas. One is heading a project to put our ideas for improving child wellbeing to work in YMCA's in North Carolina. Another is working with state governments on "The Power of Prevention" to get the ideas into action at state agencies. Some of us are studying violence prevention, and working with City governments on projects. Other are working on helping groups develop "Pay for Success" initiatives that promote public/private partnerships. Tony's grand idea and core concept is that we will improve wellbeing by using programs and practices that make our environments more nurturing.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The NPSC is seeking grant funding, and relies primarily on a group of motivated volunteers.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

The work to create more nurturing environments, and to reduce toxic ones, is being worked on by many. Many organizations, across sectors, are looking at the science and their own experiences, and are recognizing we can change the negative impact of toxic environments on youth development, and achieve long term value. In effect, many of us know what works to improve the wellbeing of children. What does not seem to exist is a cogent message, a unified voice, that would help strengthen and reinforce the work and promote moving toward non-coercive and nurturing structures and programs.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The findings of prevention scientists, who are working primarily in the behavioral health sciences, is new and exciting, and the field is evolving rapidly. These findings give hope and provide a cost effective solution to so many of our nation's problems. And more importantly, they improve the lives of youth, families, and communities, moving us all in the direction of a more compassionate, healthy, productive, and happy life.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gina Wilkins

This is a very interesting platform. We will join your network and would like to see how sharing of ideas might benefit us all -- even on a national level? Check out our project and let us know what you think Faith Fuller and let us know if you find programs that are led by children to create young changemakers!

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