With Change in Mind: Community-Based Nonprofits to Use Brain Science to Revitalize Communities in Two Countries

Ten nonprofit human services organizations in the U.S. and five non-governmental organizations in Alberta, Canada were recently chosen to infuse, align, and accelerate established neuroscience discoveries about the effects of life-altering toxic stress into their community-based work as a means to determine if this groundbreaking science can transform policies to move the needle on some of the most difficult social issues facing our communities.

The primary purpose of Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities, a three-year initiative of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Norlien Foundation’s Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, is to demonstrate the larger impactful role of the nonprofit sector as educator, convener, advocate, and true influencer of getting appropriate systems aligned to the science. The initiative will identify, support, and evaluate the processes that the 15 organizations in the U.S. and Alberta, Canada will use to align the science with the goal of influencing systems to impact outcomes across the life course.

“There is no more uniquely qualified sector than the nonprofit to lead larger systems change, by aligning policy, regulatory, and fiscal areas into alignment with the brain science,” said Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance. “Research clearly shows the impact of toxic stress on individuals. Therefore, it is imperative that we use this knowledge to change our policies, funding priorities, and regulatory practices as a means to reducing poverty and other social ills.”

A $ 1.7 million grant from RWJF will support the group of 10 organizations in the U.S. An investment of $ 430,000 by the Norlien Foundation will support the work of the five organizations in Alberta, Canada.

The organizations in the U.S., chosen by an independent selection committee through a competitive application process, include:

Children and Families First, Wilmington, Delaware

Children’s Home Society of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

East End House, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Family Service Association of San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

KVC Health Systems, Olathe, Kansas

LaSalle School, Albany, New York

Martha O’Bryan Center, Nashville, Tennessee

The Family Partnership, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wellspring Family Services, Seattle, Washington

The organizations in Alberta, Canada, also chosen by an independent selection committee through a competitive application process, include:

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, Calgary, Alberta

Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Edmonton, Alberta

CASA Child, Adolescent, and Family Mental Health, Edmonton, Alberta

CUPS Health, Education, Housing, Calgary, Alberta

Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, Calgary, Alberta

Learn more about the initiative at http://www.alliance1.org/change-in-mind.

“This innovative initiative will help us learn a great deal about how and why the integration of science about early brain development in policy and practice within agencies and at the systems level can lead to breakthrough health and well-being outcomes for children and families,” explained Nancy Mannix, chair and patron of Norlien Foundation. “We sincerely thank the Alliance and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the opportunity to work together to support this ground breaking effort.”

Change in Mind will use a cohort model that offers the CEOs and staff of each organization a focused, peer-learning opportunity to move toward transforming the systems which fund and support nonprofit work. They will also share their findings across the entire network of Alliance members—more than 450 private, nonprofit, community-based organizations.

“This exciting initiative offers a new perspective on what is possible when nonprofits align their strategies and policy efforts with science. Change in Mind aligns with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s aim to build a ‘Culture of Health,’ enabling all in our diverse society to lead healthier lives for generations to come,” said Martha Davis, senior program officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit http://www.rwjf.org.

The Norlien Foundation established the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (AFWI) as a multidisciplinary platform to invest in improving health and wellness outcomes for children and families in Alberta, Canada and beyond. As a knowledge mobilization effort, AFWI shares, promotes and supports the application of knowledge about brain and early childhood development and its link to lifelong mental health and addiction outcomes to prevent and buffer toxic stress and promote healthy brain development for all children.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities is a national organization dedicated to achieving a vision of a healthy society and strong communities for all children, adults, and families. The Alliance works for transformational change by representing and supporting its network of hundreds of nonprofit human serving organizations across North America as they translate knowledge into best practices that improve their communities. Working with and through its member network on leadership and advocacy, the Alliance strives to achieve high impact by reducing the number of people living in poverty; increasing the number of people with opportunities to live healthy lives; and increasing the number of people with access to educational and employment success. Go to http://www.alliance1.org for more information.

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