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A Vision for Change

Created in the spirit of exploration, discovery, and adaptation, the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (AFWI) represents a long-term, evolving effort to mobilize knowledge, bridge gaps, and collaborate across disciplines and systems.

In 2015, the AFWI formalized a theory of philanthropy, which makes explicit principles and themes that have implicitly informed the Initiative since its inception. The theory emerged from an intensive evaluation of the AFWI, its history, identity, strengths, and core principles.

As the AFWI continues to evolve, its theory of philanthropy will guide its approach. 

The Role of the AFWI

The AFWI makes scientific knowledge about brain development applicable and useful to policy-makers, practitioners, front-line workers, and the public. It contributes to the development, mobilization, and communication of this knowledge in ways that respond directly to needs and gaps in relevant systems—gaps that are identified through direct engagement with these systems. 

Organizing Principles

Three organizing principles, which are the essence of the AFWI's theory of philanthropy, support the large-scale, long-term change that the Initiative seeks. The AFWI is a:

  1. Knowledge Entrepreneur 
    The AFWI mobilizes the latest scientific knowledge about brain development, addiction, and lifelong mental health to create change agents: individuals who will use this knowledge to change what is done in policy and practice.
  2. Catalytic Convenor
    By maintaining links with a cross-boundary body of change agents from a range of sectors and disciplines, including academia, health, human services, justice, and education, the AFWI creates opportunities: first, for people to access knowledge about brain development in forms that are usable for policy-makers and practitioners; and second, to build communities of practice by funding research, professional development days, and other projects that advance the application of knowledge. In addition, the AFWI funds projects that will provide evidence for further insight and understanding.
  3. Partner to Public and Community Systems in a Learning Journey
    The AFWI provides sustained advice and support—using a flexible, responsive approach—to managers and decision-makers in these systems and communities, with the goal of catalyzing change in policy, service provision, and on-the-ground practice.

central themes

As the AFWI has evolved from its earliest inception to the present day, consistent themes have emerged. These themes, which relate to the Initiative’s fundamental values, strategic position, and approach, are central to the foundation’s identity. They form a basis for the AFWI’s ability to carry out its organizing principles. The AFWI strives to:

  • Improve outcomes for children and families.
  • Promote scientific knowledge in the service of improving performance of human systems.
  • Provide sustained commitment.
  • Stay people-centred.
  • Scan the field constantly for opportunities to make a difference and keep an open door to people and their ideas.
  • Work at the highest level of excellence and quality, engage top experts worldwide and locally, provide first-rate support to all participants, and create a generous and generative learning space.
  • Work toward systems change.
  • Test assumptions, learn, and adapt.
  • Communicate how experiences in early childhood and other sensitive periods of development contribute to outcomes.
  • Communicate the intergenerational cycle of these experiences.
  • Be a resource.
  • Enable partners to take the lead in enacting these principles.
  • Expect defensiveness and resistance and don’t be overwhelmed or discouraged. 

Theory of Change

The theory of philanthropy articulates the AFWI’s role in supporting change and should be understood in concert with its theory of how change occurs in the world.

Find out more about the AFWI’s Theory of Change.