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Building Resilience in Complexity


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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Eating is important if you want to be your best in court

This is the first segment of a presentation given by Dr. Allott at the Thurston County Court in April 2017 called Optimizing Brain Function in Court and Other High Stakes Settings.This is part 1 of 6 Youtube videos of the presentation. 

Eating - or not eating - impacts everyone's decision-making abilities. This is especially true in high stake events. In this segment, Dr. Allott reviews the research that explains how trauma and hypoglycemia impact decision making.

Snacks and Punishment

I’d like to share this short video, Snacks and Punishment, that highlights the impact of needing a snack break on decision-making by judges (and doctors).

Studies have shown that judges hand out more punitive sentences towards the end of a session, when they’re more likely to be hungry, tired and in need of a break... And then they would be more lenient again after a break.

WOW! Judges make different decisions based on what they eat. The Court Improvement Training Academy CITA at the University of Washington has been offering trainings to Dependency Judges to educate them on the impact of food, sleep and exercise and decision making. What is most important about this video is that if the decisions of well-educated Judges can be influenced by whether or not they ate before a high stakes decision, then our decisions are likely affected too. 

The take home message is that for important meetings like shelter care meetings, visitations, and evaluations, we may want to help ourselves and others to be at their best by making sure that we have food with protein in it before we have to make our best decisions. 

Watch Snacks and Punishment for the video on Judges and check out the video on Optimizing Your Brain and see the handouts that are there for you to use and share.