Rotary Charities Systems Change Accelerator Grant
December 11, 2018
Today we’re pleased to announce that we’ve received a $140,000 Systems Change Accelerator grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City, to be disbursed over a 3-year period. New to Rotary, the Systems Change Accelerator category is designed to “Support innovation(s) that target root causes to complex community problems leading to more resilient, equitable and healthy systems.”
Our Public Will Campaign seemed to us, and to them, an excellent cause to pursue with grant funding. Excerpts from the grant application explain, in detail, the system we propose to change by targeting the root causes of this issue using a Systems Thinking mindset:
What is the complex community problem that this proposal aims to improve? What has the typical approach to this problem been?
We seek Rotary's support to work collectively at a grassroots level to effect durable and broad progress on one of our community's most entrenched, pressing, prevalent, hidden and complex problems: child sexual abuse (CSA). CSA is caused by many interconnected factors that have severe, life-long health and economic consequences for individuals and communities. A simple slogan isn't going to stop the abuse, and we can't keep treating the symptoms over and over again.
This Primary Prevention Campaign aims to address CSA at its root, by changing mindsets around the rights of children, resulting in a shift of culture. Working with regional stakeholders on development of a Public Will Campaign to end CSA over the past 18 months has taught us much about the constantly evolving context of CSA problems and solutions. A seed grant from Rotary Charities (2017) helped us to gather insight from experienced campaigners to build the foundational framework for our effort. Working together, sharing resources and developing trust has helped us reach beyond surface-level symptoms to find complex community solutions to a deeply-rooted problem.
Our key partners in this effort include Michigan State University, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation and the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund. Our goal is to leverage these partnerships and our community's significant existing resources that support children: healthcare systems including Munson Healthcare, education systems including TCAPS and TBA-ISD, collaboratives including Great Start, and the local prevention council. All of these and more are on board to bring their brick and mortar and human resources to bear as anchor partners and stakeholders in the Campaign to end CSA.
The anticipated impact of the Campaign is that the three gears of public will campaigns will begin to move: the gears of individual behavior, social norms and systems/laws will begin to turn together to put an end to child sexual abuse.
Systems naturally uphold the status quo. Oftentimes they won’t change unless they “have to.” Why does your system “have to” change right now? Why is this a good opportunity to intervene?
We are living through a singular moment of eyes-wide-open clarity about the devastating human and economic consequences of child sexual abuse. Religious institutions are facing a reckoning unlike anything we've seen since the Reformation. The trauma at Penn State and Michigan State have played into the funding decisions that led to Zero Tolerance, Team Zero, and now A World Without Abuse. The Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State sexual abuse scandals have turned the status quo upside down.
Into this void comes 20 years of data from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study showing a direct correlation between childhood trauma and increased risk of a host of life-long negative emotional and physical outcomes. History of childhood abuse is frighteningly common, ACEs tend to come in clusters, and they lead to depression, substance abuse, self-harm and re-victimization, and also to diabetes, obesity, cardio-pulmonary disease, cancer and early death.
We now see all too vividly the severe and lasting damage childhood trauma inflicts on the social and economic fabric of communities.
Child sexual abuse is a hairs-afire public health crisis hidden in plain sight, and the news is spreading quickly. Communities are busy inventing wise actions to become trauma-informed. Sexual violence is a pervasive issue in our culture, and #MeToo is helping to disrupt old, and create new, social norms around the treatment of women. Right now we have a singular opportunity to capitalize on a propitious moment of public awareness and extend this social change movement to include the most vulnerable among us.
What will be different if this project is successful?
If the Campaign is successful, on the simplest level, we will expect to see more of what we have already seen: an increase in reporting and demand for CAC intervention services. If we can further improve the system and make it so that residents of the six counties we serve no longer face transportation challenges to access intervention and follow up services, and if every county in Michigan comes to have access to CAC services (rather than just 52 percent of them), Michigan CACs will be a growth industry for a while, until happily, they go out of business.
On a deeper level that we will be able to monitor and measure, the three gears of individual behavior, social norms and systems/laws will start turning. We are already seeing individual behavior change.
Primary prevention efforts in our region have had an impact. We will measure it and continue to monitor it on all communication channels, including data analytics, to gauge the Campaign’s effectiveness.
Follow-up surveys will help us identify changes in attitudes, behaviors and understanding related to the Campaign. This information will point us to necessary changes in messaging and delivery. Key to this initiative is the development of a prototype that can be scaled. The Campaign model will provide a framework and the tools needed for organic replication by other communities that reflects local cultural, socioeconomic and organizational factors. By tapping our shared agreement that children’s lives matter, that they deserve to be healthy and protected, we can build public will to shift cultural expectations and influence systemic change.
Changes resulting from the turn of the systems/laws gear will be the easiest to see. If universities and schools mandate education and training to protect children, if laws are passed, if behavior is regulated, we will all see it happen. Right now, frighteningly little is on the books. Almost nothing is included in U.S. curricula. CACs must raise private funds to support their intervention and prevention efforts.
If the public spoke out and demanded that children be protected, as they spoke out about keeping secondhand smoke inside private spaces, it would not be difficult for us to measure.
During our listening sessions around the region, we have been asking people to imagine what A World Without Abuse might look like. If we could wave a magic wand, and tomorrow there were no longer people who had suffered abuse as children, what would that world look like? Substance abuse, mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, under-employment, depression, heart disease, cancer, obesity -- all of these things would immediately look very different.
When kids today watch old movies and see people smoking inside cars, with the windows rolled up no less, they really don’t know what to make of it. If our generation has some success, what might old movies seem like to children one or two generations from now?