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Growing Resilient Communities debuts! Thanks to our community, it’s better than ever!


If you’ve plunged into the world of ACEs science over the last 10 years, the number of people (millions), organizations (tens of thousands), and communities (high hundreds) who embrace this remarkable knowledge can blow your mind. It can even lull us into thinking that most of the world is singing the same ACEs science tune. But with 34,000 cities and counties in the U.S., that’s not the case….YET! To solve our most intractable problems, all communities need to integrate healing-centered/trauma-informed practices based on ACEs science. The fastest way is to start and grow an ACEs initiative, and we’ve got the tools and guidelines for that in our new Growing Resilient Communities, which officially debuts today.

We built the latest version of GRC on the experiences of working with and watching several hundred communities — neighborhoods, cities, counties, regions, states, and countries — over the last 10 years. The GRC framework supports any approach to launching ACEs initiatives in a community, including ACE Interface’s Self-Healing Communities, Northeast Tennessee's Trauma-Informed System of Care, and the Building Community Resilience Collaborative. Although there are many different ways to accomplish the steps included in GRC, we’ve learned that all of its parts are critical to the success of any local ACEs initiative. 

For those who’ve been working with the previous version, we’ve made two big changes (and lots of little updates and additions that I won't go into here). Because we realized just how vital it was, we broke out “Aggregate” into its own section. And we beefed up and renamed the Sector and Subsector Tool — a name that really didn’t roll off the tongue or flip off the lips — to describe its intent. It’s now called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion tool — Inclusion tool, for short. You can read more about the Inclusion Tool in Ingrid Cockhren’s fabulous blog post: ACEs Connection's Inclusion Tool makes sure nobody's left out.

Why do we think a section devoted to aggregating data is so damn important? We’ve noticed some ACEs initiatives that are long on meeting regularly and enthusiastically, but short on making significant, measurable changes in their communities. As our data person often reminds us: What gets measured, gets done. We’re in this movement to CHANGE things…to solve our most intractable problems. 

Thanks to the pioneers in this community, we know that with this new knowledge the following changes are possible:

A health clinic in Pueblo, CO, that saw a 30 percent drop in visits to the emergency room the first year they integrated healing-centered practices based on ACEs science. A juvenile detention facility in San Diego, CA, built from the ground up to be trauma-informed that had no violent incidents during its first year of operation. Pediatricians who are able to identify developmental issues years earlier, and thus markedly prevent years of problems. Safe Babies Courts that see 99 percent of kids suffer no further abuse. A family physician in Tennessee who integrated ACEs science into his practice of treating people addicted to opioids, with the result that 99 percent of his 1200 patients are able to hold down a job. A batterer intervention program in Bakersfield, CA, that saw recidivism rates fall from 60 percent to six percent. A remarkable program in Plymouth County, MA, that, within 24 to 48 hours after a person recovers from an opioid overdose, sends a police officer to that person’s home and offers to take them to a rehab facility right then and there. And then says, “How about I treat you to dinner on the way?” Between 2017-2018, the county saw a 26 percent drop in opioid deaths, while counties around it had an 84 percent increase. A decline in staff turnover at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation from 20 percent to 10 percent. A 98 percent drop in youth suicide and youth suicide attempts in Cowlitz County, WA.

We’d all like to see those changes — and more in every sector — in all our communities.

GRC has two main parts:

Start Your Initiative! We include the usual suspects — such as how to form a steering committee, how to develop a strategic plan, agendas for meetings — as well as handy lessons learned, such as Who Owns the ACEs Initiative? Everybody!, Inclusion Paves the Way to Success, and Avoid the Pitfalls (those pitfalls can be doozies).

Grow Your Initiative! — The five main parts:
1. Educate….every person and every organization about ACEs science, and how people and organizations integrate healing-centered/trauma-informed practices in themselves, their families, their organizations, their systems, and the communities in which they live. 

2.  Aggregate....gather data, such as the number of ACEs science presentations, the number of organizations that are becoming trauma-informed, and the resulting outcomes in organizations and sectors, such as higher grades, less absenteeism, and less teacher turnover in schools.

3.  Engage....people and organizations to join the local ACEs initiative. A little bit or a lot...any involvement is good.

4.  Activate....people and organizations to commit to integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices in their personal, family, volunteer, work and community lives. This heals systems and communities!

5.  Celebrate....any accomplishment! ACEs summits, community resilience days, proclamations. Post anything, large or small, that your community is doing on and other social media.

The most successful ACEs initiatives figure out how to include these five parts in the way that best suits each community. In the next few months, we’ll be doing more stories about how initiatives achieve their goals and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome. People often ask us what ACEs Connection does. We tell stories about how people are using this remarkable knowledge of ACEs science to develop healing-centered/trauma-informed practices, and then make sure to connect the people who have the information about what works and what doesn’t with the people who need that information to integrate their own healing-centered practices, in the shortest time possible. Removing barriers to knowledge is one of the things that propels this movement, and accelerates it. Revving up the movement is especially important as our communities begin facing the stresses of climate change. 

Because this community thrives on responsible, measurable growth and change, some initiatives have already outgrown some parts of GRC and are asking for more tools and guidelines. So, next week, we’re adding a Cooperative of Communities to that will offer more services for those communities that are ready to pay a relatively small annual fee — $5,000 — for tools such as a Community Resilience Tracker where initiatives can track the progress of organizations that are becoming trauma-informed, and can start measuring outcomes specific to sectors such as education and justice. PLEASE NOTE: Everything that’s available for free on now will remain accessible and free.

I’ll post more about all this next week, including why we decided to add a cooperative. (A hint: Integrating ACEs science is a 20- to 40-year endeavor, and we want to make sure there’s long-term support for it.) 

In the meantime, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post them here in the comments section or to contact any member of the ACEs Connection staff.

And if you aren't a member of a local ACEs initiative yet, please consider joining one. The movement needs you! If there isn't an initiative in your community, we'd be glad to help you start one. Just contact the ACEs Connection Community Facilitator in your region. 

Don’t you think that this journey gets more exciting and intriguing as it progresses? I do! I often wonder: What will our country look like when all 34,000 cities and counties integrate healing-centered/trauma-informed practices based on ACEs science?

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Thank you Jane!  I totally agree on this effort taking decades but we can surely say...the train has left the station! We are humbled and honored to have our work in NE TN included here. If anyone wishes to access the Building a Trauma Informed Community Toolkit we wrote for the TN Dept of Children’s Services, it can be found at this link:

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