A Framework for Collaborative Action on Adversity, Trauma, and Resilience

The social sector in Alberta needed an evidence-informed way to screen for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). They came to PolicyWise to review the existing tools and make recommendations. What the PolicyWise team discovered were screening tools that were often deficit-based and focused on the person, ignoring the context around them. The tools identified childhood experiences that could lead to trauma, which could lead to negative health and social outcomes. But, this was not the whole story. In their review and by talking to experts and practitioners in Alberta, PolicyWise realised that the life trajectory of children who experienced trauma did not necessarily follow a straight line from adversity to poor outcomes. Three key pieces were missing: resilience, context, and collaboration. With the right supports and protective factors, children who experienced trauma grew strong in the face of adversity; they were resilient. So, PolicyWise created a new framework for sector-wide collaborative action on childhood adversity anchored in strengths-based and trauma-informed practices. It shifts the conversation from the individual to the community and society and from forgone conclusions to possibilities for thriving. Its impact stretches beyond the social sector and Alberta borders. In fact, it has garnered attention from health and social sector organizations across Canada and the globe. In a year that has created a shared experience of trauma – most acutely felt among children and families already experiencing adversity – PolicyWise’s framework maps a way forward for collaborative action that capitalizes on strengths to foster resilience, encourage transformation, and ultimately build back better.