About Children's Wellbeing

About the Children’s Wellbeing Initiative

Ashoka Changemakers and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have launched an initiative to promote children’s wellbeing in the United States.

We believe that children thrive when they develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose. These three elements of wellbeing are just as important as exercise and reading; they help children learn to care for others, develop resilience, and problem-solve in their families and communities.

The Children's Wellbeing Initiative is focused on securing wellbeing for every child in the United States, from infancy to 12 years. We’re interested in supporting caregivers, fostering changemaking, and breaking cycles of trauma and invalidation. Kids need to feel valued by the individuals and systems that affect them—no matter their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or ability.

In this first phase, we are pursuing three core activities:

Mapping social innovations in children’s wellbeing to understand key opportunities in the sector
Hosting a challenge that will elect a cohort of extraordinary leaders, amplify their voices, and invite them to shape the agenda of the Children's Wellbeing Initiative; and
Nurturing a cross-sector network of funders, innovators, policy makers, and others to drive a shared vision for the wellbeing of children in the U.S.A.

What is Children's Wellbeing?

“What do children need? They need to know, ‘I am lovable, I am safe, I can trust other people to meet my needs.’”
- Amelia Franck Meyer, Ashoka Fellow, founder of Anu Family Services

Children’s wellbeing sits at the intersection of physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Through our research on the work of social entrepreneurs and other thought leaders, we have identified three core building blocks of children’s wellbeing:

  • A strong sense of self includes identity, empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to heal from trauma.
  • Purpose includes the ability to play a meaningful role and to have the agency to improve one’s situation and for others.
  • Belonging includes connectedness and feeling valued by family, tribe, and community.

This framework does not assert that children exist in a vacuum, however. Safe, caring environments, and the families and communities that create them, are key to nurturing the building blocks of children’s wellbeing. Positive conditions, including physical and emotional safety, and freedom from violence, trauma, hunger, and homelessness are foundational. Furthermore, when children experience feeling valued by society and the systems that affect them—no matter their race, socio-economic background, gender, sexual orientation, or ability--they have far more opportunities to develop positive wellbeing.