Dear Friends and Allies,
It has been raining for too long. Raining news and events that rip our hearts and challenge us to mourn, rail, and keep going simultaneously. The rain of violence, racism, hate, and individuals verbalizing and acting out the inequities baked into systems and communities has been falling steadily for months now.
Sometimes, there’s a thunderclap that is a sickening, focusing reminder of why our common cause to ensure that everyone has equal access to wellbeing is so essential, and so urgently needed. At FFI, we have been soul searching and soul supporting these last months, and with the thunderclap in Orlando, we and our partners have been enraged and enlivened to connect our actions and organizational decisions to addressing equity.
For now, we and our allies carry umbrellas, trying to shield each other and those already marginalized from the rain—not because they need shielding, but because privilege means having an umbrella and being able to decide when to step out from under it. But, it is not enough to demand umbrellas for all. We must demand a stop to the rain, and what will stop it is the extraordinary, growing energy coalescing around equal access to wellbeing.
Wellbeing for all demands systems change. Wellbeing for all demands practice change. Wellbeing for all demands changing how we see each other. FFI and our partners are stepping out from under the umbrellas to make these changes in deep, powerful, lasting ways—so that wellbeing can stop the rain.
It’s up to each of us. Tawny Brown, Education Coordinator of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, emailed us recently about how she’s using wellbeing to stop the rain.
I recently “Full Framed” some of the elder female mentors from my church in my effort to help them gain understanding that individuals (especially youth) who may be homosexual, bisexual, transgender, etc., may be less likely to tell you about their sexuality or feelings about such, not because they are “inherently evil”, but out of fear of being ridiculed, judged, etc. Therefore, opening up to someone in hopes of building a relationship is too large a tradeoff to risk those behaviors they have developed to protect themselves from pain.
Guess what, they got it!
The world will change. It will be through rain and thunderclaps, or through equitable access to wellbeing. Which do you choose?
—Katya and the FFI Team
Spotlight on Partners & Projects
A common language for seeing people differently is taking hold
An indicator of progress of the work we do with partners is how embedded change is in their on-the-ground work and culture, and our deep partnership with Missouri Division of Youth Services continues to show us that what we are doing together is having a real impact. The Five Domains of Wellbeing is so integrated into the daily lives of youth involved in DYS that it has become a common language for these young people. Youth from the Northeast region designed and constructed these Coats of Arms for the Five Domains of Wellbeing to display at their high school graduation, with support and encouragement from the teachers and DYS staff on the Graduation Committee.
Learning how to approach challenges from what is working catalyzes real change
What do the three community teams of the Learning from What Goes Well
project have in common? They are all addressing challenges of violence and other forms of oppression by seeing people differently and exploring ways to leverage their strengths and assets.
The California Hmong Advocates Network is working with Hmong advocates in Fresno to provide peer support, visibility and strengthen culturally-aligned services for Hmong survivors. The Community Doula Project is developing relationships with maternal health care providers around birth justice and increased access to doula care for low-income people, people of color and survivors of domestic violence. And Peace Pros LA is providing training and programs with messaging around gender norms and masculinity to support anti-violence efforts at Santa Monica College.
We’d like to extend a special thank you to Nathan Shara—a somatic therapist, educator, writer and speaker—who recently facilitated a workshop with project participants about promoting resilience and collective action as critical pathways to liberation and for addressing trauma and oppression. Teams and project partners are challenging themselves, each other and their communities to shift their thinking to an asset-based approach and become more disciplined in using moments of success to catalyze community change.
Making the Case and Spreading the Word
Bringing a Folding Chair Is Not Enough: Reflections on Evaluation and Social Justice
Dr. La Tonya Green, FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge, explores how evaluators can unintentionally reinforce marginalization by not engaging program participants in framing the research that will affect them. She argues that paying attention to who is sitting at the table designing evaluation and making recommendations is a social justice issue. Read it here
FFI and Missouri Children’s Division present on creating conditions for wellbeing in a system
Tim Decker, Director of Missouri Children’s Division and long-time wellbeing ally, says that changing your destination often involves starting from a different place. This mantra has helped shape the way the state’s child welfare system sees and engages with children and families, with the new destination being safety that is a stepping stone to wellbeing. Tim and FFI’s Katya Fels Smyth jointly presented a webinar on what it has looked like to re-envision the state’s child welfare system in a way that sees children and families in the full frame of their lives.
During the webinar, Tim shared a number of stories from youth and families involved in the system that served as a wake-up call for him. One youth shared that she felt she was at fault for being placed into care, and every interaction with the system had served to reinforce that belief. Tim realized the system was making well-intentioned decisions that were too narrowly focused on safety, so they were creating unsustainable tradeoffs for children and families and not establishing the conditions for long-term wellbeing. Tim also discussed what it actually looked like to start from a different place: from defining child welfare as a collective responsibility, to the partnership with FFI, to walking in the shoes of on-the-ground workers, to engaging with all parts of the child welfare system. Katya presented on the Five Domains of Wellbeing, which is now being used as the foundation for the state’s child welfare reform, and discussed safety as a stepping stone to wellbeing, not a short-term construct. Through the robust partnership, FFI and CD are working to co-create the conditions for wellbeing and ally with children and youth so they are safe now and working toward increasing access to their wellbeing.
This webinar was presented in conjunction with the Winter 2016 issue of Synergy,
the newsletter of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ (NCJFCJ) Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody which featured the wellbeing work of FFI and its partners. If you missed the webinar, you can view it here
FFI is finding more allies in the work!
Thank you to the amazing partners and allies who have engaged with FFI in the last few months on wellbeing, systems change and what it really takes to begin seeing people differently: Missouri Children’s Division Leadership Academy
, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
, Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance Victim Rights Conference
, National Child Abuse Prevention Partners
, St. Louis City Family Court, Juvenile Division
and Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence
Our Team News
We are excited to welcome Olivia Leland
and Connie Burk
to FFI’s Board of Directors!
Olivia is launching a collaborative focused on supporting proven nonprofits to achieve impact at a transformative scale, with seed funding provided by the Skoll Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Olivia was the founding Executive Director of the Giving Pledge, and previously, she led a cross-foundation strategy effort at the Gates Foundation. She also served as Associate Director at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as an independent consultant focusing on microfinance and private sector development, and as a strategy consultant at Monitor Group. Olivia was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2014.
Connie co-founded the first regional LGBT survivor services in Kansas over 25 years ago. Since 1997, she has directed The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse in Seattle, WA. There she established the National LGBT Training & Technical Assistance Initiative and founded the National Q&A Institute. An award winning producer, writer and communicator, Connie speaks internationally on community engagement, taking the “crisis” out of crisis response organizations, and strengthening alliances among marginalized communities.
FFI welcomes two new interns to our team for the summer! Our new Youth, Juvenile Justice and Wellbeing Intern Meleana Morioka
is currently a Masters in Public Health student at Boston University School of Public Health. At FFI, she is working with Dr. La Tonya Green, Director of Evidence and Knowledge, to conduct research and literature reviews for the FFI-Missouri Division of Youth Services partnership. Meleana holds a B.A. in Psychology from Occidental College.
joins us as the Program Support Intern with FFI’s Training and Capacity Building Team. Prior to joining FFI, Nidhi interned with Upward Bound, which serves low-income and first generation students throughout their high school careers to help them gain admittance to and achieve educational and personal success at four-year colleges.
There’s still room for more committed, motivated interns who are looking for hands-on experience with a high impact nonprofit while offering valuable project and operations support. (See sidebar). Learn more about these opportunities
and share with your networks!
Change isn’t free. FFI’s funding comes from private philanthropy and earned income. We are deeply grateful to all our new and renewing supporters. Your support
fuels FFI’s growth and impact!