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Learning from National Leaders in Trauma: Lessons from the MARC Convening

Maggie Litgen
May 11, 2017
Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) is a learning collaborative of 14 communities actively engaged in building the movement for a just, healthy, and resilient world. Coordinated by the Health Federation of Philadelphia with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment, MARC Communities are translating the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) into policies that foster resilience.

Members from each of the 14 MARC sites (from Alaska to Albany) convened in Philadelphia this March to share best practices, compare strategies from different areas of the country, and work through the shared challenges we face in creating systemic changes to reduce ACEs and increase resiliency.

As a member of the MARC community representing the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative—a multidisciplinary group that utilizes the science of ACEs and childhood trauma to create critical transformation to policy and practice—I was thrilled to attend this convening both to share all of the great work we are engaged in in Illinois and to learn from my peers across the country.

For the past two years, the MARC cohort has worked together year-round with constant communication among sites, pooling innovative ideas and national expertise to address ACEs in our communities and encourage others to do the same. Working in their unique environments, each site adds their expertise and challenges. Across the board, the Collaborative’s membership in the MARC cohort has helped to position us as leaders in a national movement, something that was only amplified by bringing this dynamic group of communities together.

I found the in-person collaboration, connection, support, and peer-learning among my colleagues across the country at the convening greatly amplified my work locally. Gathering these experts in one place provided capacity gains for the Collaborative as well as recognition of Illinois has contributed to the national movement in our own unique way. My MARC colleagues were excited to learn about the Collaborative’s success working with the Healthy Chicago Hospital Collaborative to help their members become trauma-informed as well as our ongoing work with the Chicago Department of Public Health to address ACEs as a public health crisis.  

I particularly appreciate that the convening was structured according to a trauma-informed framework: creating a safe space for concerns to rise, incorporating several teaching/learning styles throughout each day, allowing time for participants to move their bodies and self-regulate, and giving power to the MARC grantees to create the agenda. The convening not only provided a venue to share best practices in trauma-informed care, it also modeled how to be trauma-informed in all interactions throughout our diverse work settings.



My greatest take-away from the convening was the emphasis on the power of community to lay the groundwork for larger systemic change in organizations and powerful structures. The well-known movie Paper Tigers about the trauma-informed transformation of an alternative school in Walla Walla, Washington can sometimes paint a misleading picture about how systems change. While the principle of the high school was a powerful catalyst to change the culture of the school, many champions preceded him in the community and their collective work facilitated the outcomes we see in the film. Various groups and collaboratives had been working in the community for at least a decade incorporating the language of ACEs and building movements across sectors, all of which served as a platform for Lincoln High School’s transformation. This reinforced for me that our work at the community-level in the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative is not only a critical part of our efforts to support safe and thriving communities, it is the building block for significant system changes in health, education, and justice in the future. Community voice and organization is critical to achieve our bold goals for trauma-informed policies in the institutions that impact us all.  

I left our national convening feeling an added sense of responsibility to advance the movement to address ACEs locally and nationally, buoyed by the collective knowledge of a cohort with the same goals and vision for an equitable, resilient future in all communities. Key learnings from my colleagues from the convening have already been incorporated into our Collaborative and we have seen new strengths in areas like measurement/evaluation, communications strategies, and, perhaps most importantly, in amplifying community voice.