Archive for the ‘Mali Bain’ Category

Falling into the “program” trap

Mali_Blog AuthorPerhaps you’ve heard the story about the person who falls into a hole in the street. He walks along the street, falls into a hole, and climbs out to the same spot where he started. He walks back along the street and falls into the hole again. In fact, he continues falling in the hole, climbing back out, and returning back to where he started, until finally someone shows him a parallel street, a different way to get where he’s going.

We had heard this story told in the context of addictions research, or when describing habits that are seemingly permanently fixed. It illustrates how habits and ways of being are deeply entrenched in certain ways of thinking. In reflecting on WellAhead’s past year of work, we have begun to see how we may have fallen into some of these habits ourselves.


In the research and design phase of WellAhead, one of the key challenges or ‘holes’ identified was that mental health and wellbeing was approached as a ‘program’ to be implemented in the school setting rather than as a way of being, a cultural shift. Such programs had a range of efficacy, and were costly and difficult to scale across all schools. In addition, because programs were often developed and delivered by people outside the school, they were not being integrated into school communities. There was a sense that districts and communities needed to be part of the visioning and action towards change rather than simply recipients of solutions. From this, it was hypothesized that engaging a range of stakeholders in an emergent, participatory process might be more effective than imposing a highly defined program.


It’s Not About the Practice… or is it?

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“Breakthroughs come when people learn how to take the time to stop and examine their assumptions.” – Peter Senge

Mali_Blog AuthorEarlier this year we shared a list of ‘everyday practices’ that are currently being prototyped (see here). The concept of an everyday practice came from two places: the research around ‘kernels of practice’, as shared by Dennis Embry and colleagues, and a survey. In the spring of 2015, WellAhead asked over 1,400 people two questions: “What does your school do to support students’ social and emotional wellbeing” and “what do YOU do to support students’ social and emotional wellbeing.” Everyday practices are one way to frame and understand the responses to that second question: the many things that we do day to day to support our children and youth.

There’s a few things we’re hearing about the concept of ‘everyday practices’ as connected to the broader system of work happening in schools:

Building on what is already happening

Taking a moment to reflect on and examine our own practice is one way to value, respect, and appreciate the potential each of us have to make a difference in the lives of our children and youth. The everyday practices being prototyped in BC this year are merely examples of the dozens, hundreds of ‘everyday practices’ that that our teachers, parents, EAs, administrators, nurses, students, aboriginal support workers, bus drivers, CUPE workers, after-school providers enact across BC. (more…)

WellAhead Co-Design: What exactly happened?

Mali_Blog Author

This blog post was originally published on the WellAhead website. It has been reproduced here with the author’s permission.

In August of 2015, most people we talked with said we were quite likely crazy. Well, not all said it exactly that way: ‘those timelines are ambitious’, ‘schools move very slowly’, and ‘did you say first even in September?!!’ were other versions of what we heard. Internally, our team wondered the same: was it completely unrealistic to aim for some kind of ‘ideation’ sessions early in the fall?