Celebrating 20 Years of Supporting the Well-being of Children and Families

Members of PolicyWise's Board of Directors are gathered around a 20th anniversary cake.

On a clear and crisp day in late March, staff, Board Directors, Members, and collaborators of PolicyWise for Children & Families, past and present, gathered at the Matrix Hotel in downtown Edmonton, Alberta, to celebrate our 20th anniversary. During the event, we reflected on our beginnings and significant milestones, while also looking at how that work shaped our current projects and future trajectory.

Since March 21, 2003, we have been at the forefront of meaningful social policy change in Alberta. Our work has informed, identified, and promoted effective social policy and practice to improve the well-being of children, youth, families, and communities.

We have always looked at the current needs and circumstances of Albertans to inform and advocate for social policy innovation by generating and sharing knowledge. Through our many collaborations, academic partners, and community connections, this knowledge has strengthened Alberta’s social sector and supported wise decision making.

During our first four years, from 2003 to 2007, we became well-known in Alberta for research areas such as early childhood development, mental health, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, autism, suicide prevention, children’s services, and cultural competency and safety. Within this short period, we significantly increased the availability of high-quality, policy-relevant research to decision makers.

But the project that cemented our reputation as leading innovators in Alberta was the Child and Youth Data Laboratory (CYDL). Starting in 2007, the CYDL was ambitious in scale. It started with a one-year proof of concept study on the experience of youth, then advanced to a six-year longitudinal project linking and analyzing administrative data across six Alberta ministries and over 20 programs for Albertans 0 to 30 years old. The project ultimately shed light on access to government services of more than 2 million Albertans, providing the provincial government with new evidence to inform more effective future policies and programs.

Our experience gained through the CYDL, which concluded in 2019, and many other projects, solidified our reputation for shaping wise social sector decision-making for children, youth, families, and communities. This has enabled us to expand our work beyond Alberta and into new research areas such as newcomer youth employment, social prescribing for healthy aging, human trafficking, and more.

“Over the years, our collaborative approach and commitment to quality has led to many new opportunities and research projects,” said Robyn Blackadar, President and CEO of PolicyWise. “Our reputation for partnering with others, sharing our knowledge, and influencing system change has grown. This has allowed us in recent years to broaden the type of work we do and who we collaborate with.”

Looking back over these 20 years, it has been a fantastic journey for PolicyWise and our partners. We reached this significant milestone because of their generosity and passion for knowledge. Our future looks bright, and we hope to continue to work in partnership over the next 20 years, building innovative social policy solutions that improve the well-being of children, families, and communities.

If you want to learn more about PolicyWise, our mission and work, please explore policywise.com.

Celebrating our 20th anniversary at the Matrix Hotel in Edmonton, Alberta on March 24, 2023.
Event photography sponsored by Mawer Investment Management.