Who does not live in a complex world these days? No matter who I talk with the information age has increased the complexity of work, leadership, family life, and health. The question is not “How do we decrease the complexity?”, but more , “How do we increase the resilience?”
Since 2014, I have been working with an amazing team at the Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Lead by Robert Wyman and Kelly Warner-King, we have been listening, discussing, and offering trainings to one of the most complex systems - Child Welfare.
Rob and Kelly recently published an article on “Building Resilience Oriented Child Welfare System in The Juvenile and Family Court Journal" published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association, in their March 1, 2017, Special Issue: Rethinking Foster Care. If you are interested in changing the child welfare system, please read the article. It offers insights and structures to improve not only children’s lives but also the people who work on the front lines of poverty, addiction, poor education, and lack of social support.
The article suggests that resilience is the goal in a system that involves complex decision making. We know that without resilience a system becomes brittle, lacking responsiveness and innovation. In their pyramid of resilience, the base is self-care of personal health. Second, you establish an environment of civility which is to care about system and community health. Third, you set up a trauma responsive court so that further harm is prevented. Another way of explaining this tier is that you understand what behaviors are counterproductive and you seek to stop them. The fourth tier of resilience is creating avenues of healing such as Peacemaking Courts. In other systems, I think of this tier as establishing what your most productive behaviors are and creating incentives to have them happen. Now at the top of the pyramid you have the ability to have generative capacity. You know that you have reach this optimal place when people are energized to work in the complexity. Individuals have the capacity to grow and thrive despite the stress of continual change. As a scientist, what I love about the frame is that at each level there are tools to measure success. This means that it can be studied and developed on a broader scale for not only child welfare, but for other complex systems such as business, non-profits, and government.
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