To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, nearly 200 people packed an auditorium at Simmons College School of Social Work for a special event last week to launch the 3rd edition of their free online domestic violence training course. FFI’s Anna Melbin participated in a panel with other leaders in the Massachusetts domestic violence field, who were each asked to share their unique perspective on the past, present and future of the field. Anna talked about FFI’s work to increase access to wellbeing for people who experience violence, and specifically about our multi-year project in California that was focused on understanding how people who experience violence define success for themselves in their lives. The project illustrates what she’s believed since she started work in the DV field: that people—whether using or victimized by violence—are more the same than different and wellbeing, not just safety, is the key to long-term healing and hope. Anna pointed out that the mainstream DV field has historically shied away from work to truly understand what is driving violent behavior and the contexts in which it occurs, fearing that it could be perceived as excusing violence and not prioritizing accountability. Looking ahead to the future of the field, she called for change: “We’re not well practiced in holding the gray areas, and it’s limited our field of vision and possibilities for change. I believe that we’re well past due to interrupt this historical perspective; if we don’t, cycles of violence will continue, deepening the divide and the oppression and marginalization of the most vulnerable.”
FFI is growing and we have created a new position on our team for a Donor Relations Manager, providing high level support and project management for our strategy to dramatically increase individual philanthropic giving. The person in this position will play a pivotal role by proactively managing the donor relationship process including recruitment and cultivation of new major donors and stewardship and retention of current individual donors. The Donor Relations Manager will work closely with FFI’s Founder and CEO and the Special Assistant to the CEO. Learn more about this opportunity!
The deadline to apply is October 6.
FFI is excited to announce that Forrest Moore and Raquel Hatter have joined our Board of Directors!
Forrest is a Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall and brings over 20 years of experience serving youth and their families. He specializes in designing and implementing feasible action plans to improve delivery of and outcomes associated with youth development programming, especially those focused on highly vulnerable subgroups of youth and young adults. His approach emphasizes the use of evidence in decision making and the application of implementation science principles within systems, program and practice change efforts. Forrest earned a Ph.D. in Research Methodology from Loyola University in Chicago and a BS in Organizational Leadership from the Knoy School of Technology at Purdue University.
Raquel is the Deputy Director of the Human Services Program at The Kresge Foundation and has spent nearly 30 years supporting adults, children and families, drawing on her experiences as both a clinician and an administrator to be a leader and advocate for the human services field. Raquel was awarded the 2016 American Public Human Services Association State Member Award for Transforming Human Services and the 2014 Spirit of Crazy Horse Award from Reclaiming Youth International for her service to children, youth and families. She holds a BS in clinical community psychology from the University of Michigan, an MSW from Eastern Michigan University, and an Ed.D in children, youth and family studies from Nova Southeastern University.
Board Chair Mari Brennan Barrera says, “These leaders have extensive experience and a deep commitment to social change; they will help propel FFI even further in its social change work shifting systems from fixing problems to fostering wellbeing–the needs and experiences we all need for health and hope. Raquel and Forrest bring a wealth of knowledge from their respective fields, and a passion for FFI’s broader goal to spark a movement in our country that replaces poverty, violence, trauma and oppression with wellbeing and justice. On behalf of the entire FFI board, I’m thrilled to welcome them to their new roles.”
To learn more about our new board members, read their bios!
People died in Charlottesville this past weekend. Families are planning funerals, not summer barbeques. Many more are holding vigils for those hospitalized in critical condition.
Let’s call it what it is.
White supremacy. Domestic terrorism. Pre-meditated hate.
It’s shameful. Excruciating. More or less shocking, depending on the frequency of oppressions any one of us endures.
What would have happened if an Ohio man hadn’t weaponized a car? Heather Heyer would be alive, and many more would not be hospitalized.
And I wonder if everything else in Charlottesville in the last 24 hours would have sparked outrage. Would a Twitter rainbow have coalesced as it did last night?
I want to believe it would have. And the evidence suggests the opposite.
Beyond the 20 year-old driver who murdered a woman standing up for America— older, cannier, no-hoods-needed-anymore white supremacists know how to dog whistle to the country without provoking the bipartisan (sans presidential) rebukes now pouring in. White supremacists know how to make complicity into Velcro. Their walk-the-line, silencing assaults hit their intended targets—blacks, Latinos, Jews and others—daily. They are insidious and corrosive. They are crystal clear.
So let’s also be crystal clear.
Oppression makes it impossible for people to access the ingredients of health and hope. Cells age faster. Immune systems go haywire. Constant stress distorts metabolism. People die years early from oppression. It doesn’t always take a weaponized car. Oppression is deadly.
We need to create the country that has been dreamed of, but never been reality. One where what is essential for health and hope is not miserly hoarded by some to hurt others, but instead where oppression is replaced by wellbeing and justice.
We have a long way to go. As a white middle-class woman, I have a long way to go. And none of us will get there if we respond episodically to the horrors of a murder and not constantly to the pervasive horrors of intimidation and racism.
Let’s get going. Now and every day.
Katya Fels Smyth and the FFI team
FFI is growing and we are looking for our next passionate team member to join us in a new position as Senior Manager, Training and Capacity Building. This person will co-design, develop strategy for, and co-lead implementation of FFI’s work to build the capacity of public systems and private nonprofit organizations to orient around wellbeing. This position is a part of our Training and Capacity Building team and will play an integral role in supporting our current partners, developing new relationships with potential partners and building the capacity of our partners to integrate the Five Domains of Wellbeing into their culture, policy, structure and practice. Learn more about this opportunity!
The deadline to apply is August 25.
On the 4th of July this year the United States celebrated its 241st year of independence from the British Commonwealth. For some communities in the United States this “birthday” celebration is an annual (sometimes painful) reminder that people have been resisting subjugation and fighting for freedom since colonizers arrived in the Americas. Independence Day in the United States is also a reminder to some individuals that there is a profound difference between the ideals of freedom and equity, which are central components of the American Dream, and their lived experience.
The Ford Foundation has been “talking and thinking a lot about how inequality affects our ability to achieve the fabled American Dream: the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules then you should be able to get ahead.” The American Dream is a fable for some populations of people in the United States, particularly Native Americans and Black people, because no amount of hard work has ever been enough and the rules for upward mobility have changed constantly. In effort to “jump-start honest discussions about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives,” the Ford Foundation, in partnership with Moving Up, developed a “tool that aims to help us examine the many experiences, systems, and institutions that have helped—or hindered—our path to where we are today.” Moving Up is an initiative “based on the premise that if we want to engage people on the issues like poverty, inequality and opportunity, then we must find new ways to bring them into the conversation.” Based on a series of questions about who you are, your parents, where you grew up, your childhood, your health, your education, your luck, your friends, your use and access to public services, your character and your effort, the tool, a calculator of the aforementioned factors, produces an American Dream Score.
My American Dream Score is 74/100. The message with my score stated that, “while hard work contributes to success, each of us have encountered different people, experiences, systems, and services that have helped or hindered our efforts. Your score of 74 means you’ve had some factors working for you, but more that you’ve had to work to overcome.” As for how my score compared to the range of scores, a score of 53 or less means that “nearly every factor has been working in your favor. If your score is 54-65 then the majority of factors have been in your favor. If your score is 66-79 then you’ve had more working against you than for you. If your score is 80 or higher then almost every factor has been working against you.”
The tool identified factors that helped me “move up,” including that I was “able to tap into a strong social network, grew up in place great for raising kids;” had “access to a good education;” was “bless[ed] by some good fortune;” and “benefited from public goods and services.” I have a lot of questions about the evidence and validity of the algorithm the tool is predicated on. Despite my questions, one of the factors in the calculation, “where you grew up,” included reference to research by Raj Chetty and his Equality of Opportunity Project. This factor is of particular interest to me as a student of the relationship between physical space and power. Chetty “has identified five factors that are correlated to neighborhoods that promote upward mobility: two parent households, good schools, high social capital, and low segregation and inequity.” Patriots fighting in the American War of Independence understood that freedom is linked to land. That link has not changed, which is why neighborhood (i.e., residential location) matters. In a blog I wrote earlier this year, Marching Peacefully Towards Being More Separate and More Unequal?, I discusses the importance of understanding how individual decisions about residential location affects inequality.
The tool also identified the factors I worked to overcome as: “the economy wasn’t as strong when you entered the job market, needed to develop strong character traits to cope, your parents may have struggled to give you all you needed, had to deal with some tough things as a kid, experienced some health issues, had to work harder than most, some may have held your race against you, you were more likely to be discriminated against based on gender.” The authors state that the calculator does not weigh any one factor more than the other and argue that “while research generally shows that some factors correlate more to success than others, that doesn’t mean they were more important to you personally.” While there are likely others, a critical factor not accounted for in the calculation is the ability for one to be able to be one’s authentic self as a (im)mobility factor. Equity cannot be achieved without inclusivity; inclusivity cannot be achieved without authenticity. Being able to be one’s authentic self is not a factor one can work to overcome. What one often does is suppress their authentic self after considering the tradeoffs (i.e. weighing the cost and benefits) of being one’s authentic self. I am constantly making decisions about where and how to show up in places and spaces. Sometimes I choose to show up just as Dr. Green, which pays into the politic of credential capital, and sometimes I show up as La Tonya, which to some immediately signals that I am a Black woman possibly with a certain political leaning. While this suppression of authentic self is probably not a mental or spiritual tax individuals in the dominant culture and/or in certain contexts pay, suppressing my authentic self is a strategy I employ often as I try determine how to live free; being upwardly mobile and pursuing the American Dream is a luxury until equity is achieved.
Advancing equity requires understanding how power is distributed and maintained; it also requires addressing the impact of power inequities. Equity is one part of economic, political, racial, and social justice. The United States has never had equity and we do not have a shared vision of concrete outcomes. In order to create a shared vision we must be willing to talk openly not only about race–including having honest dialogue about attitudes, culture, false and singular narratives, policies, practices, and procedures that reinforce differential outcomes or fail to eliminate them–but also how all individuals can participate and prosper in this country to the best of their ability regardless of ability, economic class, geographic location, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Advancing equity is not a destination, a fable, or a dream. We can create a fair inclusion country, and world, where we can truly live our dreams. In order to build that society, we must be willing to both share our individual and collective stories authentically and to listen deeply to each other’s individual and collective stories without gaslighting, the doubting or questioning of one’s experience, memory, or perception. If you are uncertain exactly where to begin, begin with the Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America website; you can utilize the tool, post your score, share your story, and read other people’s story. Utilizing our individual American Dream Score could be a provocative (or safe) jumping-off point or subject matter to continue to have honest conversations about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives and communities.
La Tonya Green, PhD is FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge. She is responsible for generating knowledge and evidence about the applicability and effectiveness of the Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Wellbeing. La Tonya is heading up FFI’s race and equity initiatives.
FFI is growing and looking for two new members to join our dynamic team!
We’ve added a new position for a creative and energetic Director of Communications who will lead the charge of developing a strategic communications plan for equitable access to wellbeing and for FFI. This person will grow brand awareness, expand FFI’s reach and resources, and help propel a movement for wellbeing. Learn more about this opportunity and how to apply!
We are also looking for a spirited, “can do” person to join the team as the Special Assistant to the CEO. This position provides advanced, wide-ranging and confidential strategic, operational, administrative and programmatic support to the CEO and plays a vital role in FFI’s success by maximizing the CEO’s time to best achieve the organization’s goals. Learn more about this opportunity and how to apply!
Deadline to apply for both open positions is July 18.
Throughout our deep partnership with Missouri Division of Youth Services, the Five Domains of Wellbeing has become more and more embedded in the state’s juvenile justice system and is supporting youth in successfully transitioning back into the community and making sustainable, positive change. FFI collaborated with DYS to develop The Five Domains of Wellbeing for Youth and Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System, a new resource for anyone engaging with and advocating for these youth, with specific guidance for juvenile justice staff who wish to reinforce existing and develop new practices and systems that support wellbeing.
The Full Frame Initiative has new opportunities to join our amazing team! We are looking for a new Human Resources Manager and an Administrative Assistant in our Greenfield office, and a Training & Capacity Building Manager and a Community Engagement & Capacity Building Manager in Missouri. Work with us to increase access to wellbeing to break cycles of poverty and violence. Are you, or do you know, someone who thrives in a fast-paced environment, is passionate about social change and eager to grow with a growing organization? Apply now or share widely with your networks! Learn more on the Jobs & Internships page.
On Saturday, January 21st several FFI staff members participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC and in sister marches in Boston and Greenfield, Massachusetts and in New York City. The pictures and reflections posted on FFI’s Twitter and Facebook page are testimony of the multitude of reasons people marched that day, including for the rights of undocumented immigrants, for the rights of individuals with a disability, and for the right to have control over our own body. I was in New York City with hundreds of thousands of people who were marching, standing, and dancing together for equality and freedom as we made our way west on 42nd Street and north on 5th Ave or through adjacent side streets and avenues when that crowd was too robust to move. While we were a part of the millions of people around the world who marched for a myriad reasons that day, the future of our democracy is not teetering on whether or not we all show up when it is time to march for change in public policy. Our democracy depends on our willingness to pay attention to and not be agnostic about how our individual decisions can affect the wellbeing of others. Colloquially, wellbeing is often described as what can occur after one has moved through the hierarchy of needs—physiological, safety, belonging/love, esteem, and self-actualization—psychologist Abraham Maslow identified. Wellbeing, however, is not achieved when one is able to maintain a state of self-actualization nor is it a destination point. It is a state of being that requires the weighing of assets and consideration of tradeoffs. Our collective wellbeing depends on the decisions we make as individuals as we weigh assets and tradeoffs.
The Sunday before the Women’s March, on January 15th, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 88 years old if he were alive. Would he think the marches would result in meaningful positive change for the marginalized? What assets and tradeoffs would he argue need to be weighed? Would he be skeptical? The August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom he helped lead included a “What We Demand” statement with ten points including “comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress—without compromise or filibuster—to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote.” The March resulted in increased momentum for the civil rights movement, which resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. While it is too early to know what the Women’s marches will produce, what I do know is that despite federal legislation and resources, we are still fighting—over 50 years later—for many of the demands from the March on Washington to be met. Although according to the University of California, Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project’s 2014 report Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future that “there has not been a major national study on school segregation, its costs, and solutions for almost 50 years, since the 1967 report requested by President Johnson, Racial Isolation in the Public Schools,” it has been argued that schools in the United States were more racially segregated in 2015 than they were in the 1960s. Civil rights legislation was signed 10 years after the US Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka. Brown vs. The Board of Education overturned the 1896 US Supreme Court decision in the Homer A. Plessy v. John H. Ferguson case, which upheld state racial segregation laws (e.g., Jim Crow Laws) of public systems including education and transportation. Racial segregation under the ideology of “separate but equal” systems was standard doctrine in laws across the US until the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision. In addition to the consequences of legally sanctioned racial segregation, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, in the The New York Times Magazine article, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City,” details how individual decisions made by well-meaning individuals about where to live and which school to send their child to can affect other students’ and families’ access to opportunity and various forms of capital—including credential, cultural, and social. Because of individual decisions that uphold unjust systems, coupled with other mechanisms such as discriminatory employment and housing policies and practices, some schools in the US are more racially and economically isolated than they were when the marchers demanded the “desegregation of all school districts in 1963.” More specifically, in the interview “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices’,” on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, Hannah-Jones argues that individuals can make good decisions for their children and other people’s children too. Making those decisions requires weighing assets and tradeoffs, which can cause tension when trying to reconcile one’s beliefs and values with one’s actions. Being willfully blind to the collective results of our individual decisions does not invalidate school demographic data that reveals that we are making decisions based not only on what we desire for our own children but also based on our beliefs about other people and their children. We are making decisions that secure or maintain advantage for our own child while ignoring or being indifferent about systems that are unjust for other people’s children. No matter what the circumstances, we all want the same thing—wellbeing for ourselves and for those we care about. The harsh reality, however, is we are maintaining a country that is not only segregated educationally but also racially, economically, politically, residentially, and socially. Being civically engaged is not the same as resisting nor is resisting the same as offering alternatives to systems that value the wellbeing of one group at the expense of another. In “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King wrote: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” In short, even the most social justice-minded individuals might be making decisions that are contributing to the country being more separate and more inequitable.
In a recent letter to allies, “Increasing Access to Wellbeing in Small Spaces and Interactions,” Katya Fels Smyth, FFI’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King on his national holiday, wrote about the ways she can increase access to wellbeing for others in her day to day interactions. Our collective right to wellbeing is dependent upon us not only resisting the policies, procedures, practices, and norms that do not uphold and/or that undermine the mandates of the Constitution, but it is also dependent upon our commitment to making individual decisions and taking deliberate actions that increase access to wellbeing for some of the individuals and groups of people we marched as a member of or in solidarity with. We cannot wait. We must act with urgency and have the moral fortitude to not only speak truth to power while we march but also while we make individual decisions. Onward?
La Tonya Green, PhD is FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge. She is responsible for generating knowledge and evidence about the applicability and effectiveness of the Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Wellbeing.