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Grow Your ACEs Initiative!


THE FIVE BASICS OF GROWING a city or county ACEs initiative are:

  1. Educate.

    ...every person and every organization about ACEs science, and how people and organizations integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices in themselves, their families, their organizations, their systems, and the communities in which they live.

  2. Aggregate.

    ...gather data, such as the number of ACEs science presentations, the number of organizations that are becoming trauma-informed, the resulting outcomes in organizations and sectors, such as higher grades, less absenteeism, and less teacher turnover in schools.
  3. Engage.

    ...people and organizations to join the local ACEs initiative. A little bit or a lot...any involvement is good.

  4. Activate.

    ...people and organizations to commit to integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices in their personal, family, volunteer, work and community lives. This heals systems and communities!

  5. Celebrate.

    ...any accomplishment! ACEs summits, community resilience days, proclamations. Post anything, large or small, that your community is doing on and other social media.

This Growing Resilient Communities framework supports any approach to launching ACEs initiatives in a community, including ACE Interface’s
Self-Healing Communities, Northeast Tennessee's Trauma-Informed System of Care, the Building Community Resilience Collaborative, the Strategies 2.0 four-part Building Community Resilience Toolkit, based on the Building Community Resilience Collaborative, and Gundersen Health System's Resilient and Trauma-Informed Community Strategies and Interventions Planning Guide.

Although there are many different ways to accomplish the five parts of Growing Resilient Communities, all of these five parts are critical to the success of any local ACEs initiative.

[For information on how to Start a Local ACEs Initiative, go to:]


Summary: The goal is for every organization and individual in your community to know about ACEs science, including resilience science, and to integrate trauma-informed practices. Your ACEs initiative can go a LONG way to achieving that goal. Use the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tool to make sure you're including people from all sectors, including those who may not be affiliated with any organization. Develop content, such as PowerPoint presentations, handouts, videos, elevator pitches. Most ACEs initiatives find volunteers to put together their own Speakers Bureau. (You can also mine’s Speakers & Trainers Bureau for resources.) Do Presentations across all sectors in the community, and mark your progress in a Presentations Tracker. Get Feedback to keep improving.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Tool. To be true to ACEs science and trauma-informed practices, an ACEs initiative needs to be inclusive, representative, cross-sector and made up of volunteers and community residents as well as people who are participating as part of their job. In the U.S., many communities’ ACEs initiatives are overrepresented by white, middle-class women from non-profit sectors (which includes me, the founder of ACEs Connection). In addition to the lack of diversity reflected in these initiatives, there is also an overrepresentation of professional sectors and perspectives shaping the ACEs movement. For the ACEs movement and its outcomes to be equitable, we must address the lack of representation from people who experience systems trauma, who lead grass-roots efforts in community associations or advocacy groups, who come from the least-represented parts of communities and therefore are often people with the least power. Inclusion is essential to creating a self-healing community that addresses racial, generational, historical and systems trauma.

To that end, we have created a diversity, equity and inclusion tool for communities. Ask your ACEs Connection Community Facilitator to send you a copy of the DEI or Inclusion Tool, or download the file attached to this blog post. It captures most of the sectors and subsectors in any community, and has a demographic lens that communities can use to make sure they’re including everyone. The categories in this lens include gender, race or ethnicity, economic class, geography (urban, suburban, rural), age, other-abled, religion, nation of origin, citizenship status, language accessibility, and systems trauma.

Initiatives use this tool to list organizations in each sector, and, in combination with the presentations tracker, can use it to analyze outreach efforts. More about this in the presentations section, below.

Content. Develop PowerPoint presentations, handouts, videos, elevator pitches. Use content from the ACEs Connection community: Presentations. Elevator Pitches. Handouts. Videos. Personalize materials for the community by adding local stories and data. In PPT presentations, include one slide that lists current participants of your ACEs initiative.

Speakers Bureau. Any member who's knowledgeable about ACEs science 101 and comfortable doing presentations can do basic education about ACEs science and how it’s being used. Some people are self-taught. Some work in an organization that is integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and have learned on the job. Some have been trained by organizations such as ACE Interface, National Council for Behavioral Health, Sanctuary, Risking Connection and SaintA. People in the speakers bureau will be called on to do presentations at two levels: basic ACEs science 101, and what trauma-informed/resilience-building practices look like in a specific sector.

Summary: You can use existing Presentations on ACEs Connection to get ideas and borrow slides (you can use anything in those presentations, with attribution), and add your own local stories and data. Capture your Presentations on the Presentations Tracker and use it to analyze your progress.

You can set goals, such as 500 ACEs presentations to organizations in the community over two years, or one ACEs Science 101 presentation in each sector of the community by year's end.

It takes repeated exposures for new information to take hold, so expect to make more than one presentation to the same organization. Becoming trauma-informed is a long-term process; not everyone will come on board right away. Teri Barila in the Community Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA, said they often did three or four presentations to the same organization.

At the end of a presentation, you can do an instant ACE and resilience survey using an online polling software such as The result is a powerful understanding about how common ACEs are, that ACEs are not a them-us issue, and the types of resilience factors that people can incorporate into their lives and organizations. The survey is taken anonymously by every audience member with a smartphone; the group results appear immediately on the screen.

Make sure to cast a wide net. For example, doing a presentation for the local police department will reach law enforcement; doing a presentation at a local library may reach of a cross-section of community residents, including youth, young adults, adults who have families, and retirees; doing a presentation for a local parents group (community-based organization) will reach mostly younger people with families who may or may not work in the listed sectors.

There are three general levels of presentations that are likely to be requested by community members:

  1. What is ACEs science? — Anyone from the speaker's bureau can do a basic ACEs 101 presentation.
  2. What would integrating trauma-informed practices look like in our organization or community? — People who have experienced integrating ACEs science do this presentation, e.g., a trauma-informed pediatrician presents to pediatricians; a trauma-informed teacher presents to teachers. A trauma-informed parent presents to parents. The presentation addresses what trauma-informed/resilience-building practices look like, and how an organization or community becomes trauma-informed. If you don’t know of someone from a particular sector available to do a presentation, contact an ACEs Connection Community Facilitator.
  3. We're ready to become trauma-informed. Now what? — At this point, organizations within a community start on the journey to change, and they'll need more than a one-day workshop. Organizations such as the National Council for Behavioral Health, Sanctuary, Risking Connection and SaintA can provide such training for individual organizations or multiple organizations in the community. Check the ACEs Connection Speakers & Trainers bureau for more resources. You can also post a question in the Ask the Community section at the bottom of the home page (here’s how).

Evaluations of presentations help refine the information provided.


Summary: There’s an old adage: What gets measured, gets done. Data propels community ACEs initiatives to solve its most intractable problems. Use the Presentations Tracker to keep tabs on your progress.

The Presentations Tracker is an extremely useful tool for local ACEs initiatives to measure their progress as they educate their community about ACEs science. Here are links to the trackers in Michigan, Southeastern PA, Humboldt County (CA), Watauga County, NC.

It maps the presentations that members of your ACEs initiative have made. It tracks:

  • who did the presentation,
  • to what organization,
  • when the presentation took place,
  • how many people attended, and
  • identifies the sector and subsector of those attending.

How this works: After each presentation, the presenter fills out a Google doc. It takes less than five minutes. That information is automatically posted to the initiative’s presentation tracker on their community site on

Members of the Cooperative of Communities have access to a Community Resilience Tracker. This tracker comprises a milestones tracker for organizations in a community to track their progress along 11 milestones as they become trauma-informed, and a sector tracker that overlays outcomes, such as school absenteeism rates onto a district’s burden of ACEs.


Summary: Invite people and organizations across sectors to join the local ACEs movement, and ask your local government to provide official recognition.

Join The Movement. During presentations, ask people to join the local ACEs initiative. Change happens when people work together, so it’s important to make sure that people who aren’t affiliated with any organization are invited to join the local movement, if they are interested in learning about ACEs science and integrating it into their lives, families, and communities.

Involve Local Government. Work with city or county officials to develop an ACEs Awareness & Action Day or Trauma-Informed Care day. To do so, work with them to write a proclamation to provide official recognition of your local ACEs initiative and your goal of creating an ACEs aware/  trauma-informed/ resilience-building/ self-healing community. See how Walla Walla, WA, did this. Here's a list of proclamations. You can also work with your state legislators to develop resolutions. Resolutions don't enact laws or provide revenues for programs, but they're a first step in creating awareness and lay the groundwork for legislation. States, such as Wisconsin and California, passed resolutions before starting to develop legislation. Here's a list of resolutions.


Summary: Encourage organizations and individuals to integrate trauma-informed/ resilience-building practices based on ACEs science, and encourage them to sign a letter of commitment. Develop and inform local policy. Create a Community Profile.

Organizations.  Encourage all who participate in the local ACEs initiative to integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building policies and practices based on ACEs science in the places they work, play, pray and congregate, with the  understanding that each organization moves at its own pace. (See the Letter of Commitment from the Children's Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA, and the Memorandum of Understanding from Tarpon Springs, FL.)

Develop Policy. Examine state and local policies (legislative and administrative) through an ACEs-, trauma-informed, resilience-building lens and change them (or create new ones) to support the broad goals embodied in these concepts. This includes government agency policies that are internal (e.g., human resources policies) and external (e.g., child welfare policies). ACEs-related state statutes provides examples of enacted legislation that embody these concepts. For examples of proposals considered during the 2018 state legislative sessions, read Snapshot of ACEs Statutes and Resolutions through end of 2018. An article from MARC (Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities) provides good information about how to make policy change. The Resources Center has a Policy & Legislation section with resources. And here’s a tool from Illinois: Trauma-Informed Policymaking Tool. This work is often done through committees that the initiative members set up. Examples of committees include education, health and law enforcement.


Summary: Tell stories. Host events.

Tell your Local ACEs Initiative's Story. This shows people how learning about ACEs science and implementing practices based on ACEs science results in their community becoming a happier, healthier, and safer place to live, and saves the community  tax dollars. Documenting your efforts with stories and data helps others learn from your community’s experience, and you can use the information in progress reports or to apply for funding. Telling the story includes:

  • Writing blog posts about presentations, steering group and working group meetings. A blog post can focus on an organization's progress in becoming trauma-informed (e.g. Health Clinic ABC just started phase two of our trauma-informed journey...). New policies and practices that member organizations are implementing can be highlighted in a post (Pediatric Clinic CDE is now  screening parents for ACEs). The names of people and organizations that join the group can be posted in the blog section. Progress should definitely be written about (Elementary school FGH saw a 90% reduction in suspensions last year). No item is too small to post.
  • Posting events to the calendar, including presentations to organizations.
  • Uploading documents, such as workgroup and steering group minutes in the archives.
  • Telling local media — newspapers, magazines, radio, online news sites —about what you're doing so that they’ll do a story (make sure your local editors and publishers are invited to join the initiative).
  • Using other social media — such as Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. — to spread the word about what you’re doing and to engage more people in your initiative.

Host Events
. Organize screenings of documentaries — such as Paper Tigers, Resilience, Caregivers, Cracked Up — to raise awareness and inspire the community (e.g. the workshop and screening of Paper Tigers in Sacramento, CA). Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to host a screening, with examples and tips from a few communities. Listed are recommended ACEs-science-related documentaries, with the latest at the top of the post; each documentary has information about its cost and how to arrange a screening. Sponsor annual ACE Summits to celebrate progress and map next steps. Dozens have been held in states and communities over the last nine years, including Iowa’s 2014 summit; summits in Albany, NY, and North Carolina in 2017; Tennessee in 2018; and Virginia in 2019.


For information on how to Start a Local ACEs Initiative, go to:


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