Many places are reeling from the combined impact of economic globalization and radical changes in the nature and security of employment; rapid technological changes that will continue to change the nature and security of work, human relationships, communication, and model of interactions; and global climate change and massive demographic shifts and population migration that are a result of all of the above. These tectonic shifts make for very unstable social, economic, family, and childrearing environments with dramatic impacts on child wellbeing.
Few are immune to the negative impact of these forces, but their effect on children appears to be particularly profound - especially in communities that have already been marginalized, isolated, and experience disadvantages. Over 40% of youth have a chronic health problem; academic achievement and engagement are at all-time lows; and suicide is, for the first time in measurement, the second leading cause of death for youth. Contributing to children’s unique vulnerability is the fact that current programs and policies that are focused primarily on acute medical conditions are not addressing many of the biological, behavioral, social, and environmental factors that influence healthy development and wellbeing. The country’s human development system is in need of major upgrade if it is to provide children with a buffer against significant and seemingly unceasing economic and social changes, and viable pathways to success.
In the 20th century, the US led the world in implementing these pathways to success. Unfortunately, much of the "hardware" has not been upgraded - with 1.0 hardware, a 2.0 operating system, and 3.0 aspirations currently. One place where it is clear this holds true is in the healthcare system.
Optimizing the Healthy Development of All Children
Health systems are in the midst of a transition from the 1.0 version that was focused on prolonging life through acute care, injuries, and infectious diseases, to the currently evolving 2.0 system that is focused primarily on avoiding disability through chronic disease treatment and management, to the 3.0 system that will optimize the health of all through a broad approach that recognizes the social and environmental influences on the development of health and disease. Moving from the 2.0 to aspirational 3.0 system will require not just incremental improvements, but disruptive and transformative innovations.
Emergent Strategies & New Mental Models
As we strive to move towards a 3.0 system, one principle that we understand is that in a rapidly changing world with complex and site-specific challenges, there is not a "one size fits all" solution - such that the social innovations that are recommended in one place might not be the same in others. However, adaptive tools and strategies exist, which enhance the efficiency and efficacy of a collaborative impact strategy.
Thus, as we implement our collective impact strategy and promote shared learning among sites, we aim to learn our way forward and continuously improve our strategies and framework as they are informed by the sites' experiences, successes, and challenges.
Currently, we are consulting with other experts and advocates around the world, such as Nesta and International Futures Forum, as well as leaders in systems change such as Help Me Grow, so that we continue to improve the ACT learning system.
"When you have so much innovation in many spots all across the country, in order to develop a movement, we really have to connect, and that’s what ACT is trying to do. To build a national movement by connecting all the efforts that are going on in our own communities."
-Ying-Ying Goh, Health Officer, City of Pasadena Public Health Department