Ready for Action
Here are a few recommended steps, whether you’re planning a multi-year, multi-party initiative or simply aiming to take a few small steps everyday to positively shift environments, relationships and skill building opportunities for kids.
Selecting the Best
Once the idea generation stage has run its course, choose a decision-making technique to identify which actions you can begin taking. Depending on the size your group, you might consider one or more of the following options:
If you find it difficult to choose from a variety of compelling options, consider using the Sorting Square Technique, which adds some objectivity and a dash of reality during a decision making process. Ideas are plotted on a 4-square grid using two variables, such as hard/easy and now/later.
Consider putting your top ideas up for vote and discussion online, to allow for additional community feedback and buy-in. Using a simple survey tool or social media platform can make it easy for others to comment and help express support for one or more ideas.
Hold an Open House
Invite people into the early stages of planning by hosting an informal open house event. Consider ways to present your ideas quickly and visually, and solicit feedback from community in person. You can even post ideas in a public location over a period of days or weeks to allow for people to visit at their convenience. This is another excellent opportunity to involve kids in the idea selection process.
Choosing your Focus allowed you to narrow the field and see a goal take shape.
There are many ways you and your community can achieve that goal – and all ideas are worth exploring. Resist the temptation to adopt the first action, the quickest fix or the trendiest solution. No best practices or intervention ideas are truly one size fits all.
Consider a sustained brainstorm, one that lasts over several days or weeks. Include input from others outside your own planning group, like neighbouring school districts, community workers, and, of course, children themselves.
Remember to maintain a strengths-focused approach. Change initiatives can be more effective and far easier to implement by taking existing assets and programs and finding ways to enhance or deepen their impact.
Seek opportunities for action everywhere
The factors that can ensure well-being in middle childhood appear across all contexts: at home, in school, during after-school activities, and in time spent with friends. It makes sense, then, to explore how your plan of action can be supported in all environments and work in tandem with initiatives outside your own sphere of influence.
This “Action Everywhere” approach is the best way to support children throughout their day.
To help generate this mindset, consider the following questions:
- Who else might be interested in and have influence over these actions?
- What are the opportunities to widen participation in your action?
- What else is happening that you can align your action with?
Consider what added support or a variation on your idea might look like in the home, in schools and in the community. For example a teacher implementing a social and emotional learning curriculum in a class can ask: “How can parents reinforce these skills at home?” “Can we create a common language among the entire school staff so as children advance from grade to grade, SEL instruction is aligned and layered?”
An organization running after-school programs can ask: “What other organizations serving the same children might collaborate to improve outcomes?” “How can I work with schools to make the transition between school-and-after-school-programs supportive of well-being?”
Reflect on what you’ll need for success
Make Making Change as easy as possible by identifying your needs and challenges right at the outset. Plan to provide extra support where needed – and ask for resources you need – once you have a clear list in hand.
Questions to help your first steps:
- What are some of the resources you’ll need for action?
- What are some barriers to action?
- What additional information is needed to guide implementation and evaluation?
Don’t forget to look in the mirror!
One evidence-based approach is to focus efforts on the lives of adults who work with and care for children. Stressed, overwhelmed and unsupported adults can transfer those feelings to kids in their care. An “Action Everywhere” mindset includes finding ways to foster well-being in adults, too. When school staff, family, care providers, and activity leaders take time to nurture their own social and emotional skills and well-being, this can improve academic and developmental outcomes for the children they interact with.