Change Matrix’s Whole Lifespan Approach to Improving Outcomes for Young People

CM supports and services through ages and stages.

During 2018, Change Matrix was honored to support three SAMHSA-funded initiatives – Project LAUNCH, Project AWARE, and Healthy Transitions. That work gave us the opportunity to partner with grantees to help build early childhood systems that promote wellness, integrate mental health effectively into schools for pre-K through high schoolers, and ensure that states and communities put in place appropriate transitional services and support for youth and young adults. Our work spanned ages and stages from prenatal to age 26. In fact, we showed up in Tennessee to provide training and technical assistance for all three TN grantees. What an opportunity to think in a cross initiative way!

We facilitated a cross-initiative site visit for representatives from the three grantees, the Home Visiting Alliance, early childhood from education, System of Care and the TN Commission on Children and Youth. We learned a lot from these participants.

  • Cross-initiative communication offers opportunities to think in innovative ways. The grantees piloted innovative ideas in 1-3 local sites and learn from that experience in ways that would influence state policy.
  • Shared values and commitment help groups find commonalities as they promote change and high-quality services and supports.
  • Identifying common themes, different approaches, and lessons learned offered new ways of thinking and being. Participants began to see new ways of partnering to leverage statewide partnerships and practice change. They also realized a missed opportunity. Since none of these grantees shared local pilot or implementation sites, there was no opportunity to bridge the transitions between systems. Part of building a consistent and comprehensive system requires that as a child moves from the early childhood system to school, they will experience the same values, principles and similar practices. Consistency builds trust in the system and sustains the positive impact of the practice change in each system.

So how do we think differently? While there are workgroups in most states and communities to support children and families, it is important to maintain a focus on the whole lifespan. How do children and families move from one stage to the other confident that they will be met with the same values based services and supports throughout their experience? When there are SAMHSA funded initiatives for a specific population, an early effort should be made on both the local and state level to see the desired change within the context of a larger, community-wide system.

Change Matrix is committed to promoting and facilitating opportunities for individuals, agencies, and systems to convene to create a picture of their desired future and partner and plan to work towards achieving it.

Contributed by: Elizabeth Waetzig & Rachele Espiritu
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Highlighting Innovative and Authentic Strategies to Engage Family and Youth

At Change Matrix (CM), we describe ourselves as capacity builders who engage in exploration and inquiry with youth, families, leaders and communities to set goals, define outcomes, and manage change. At the heart of our approach is a deep belief that people of all ages and stages of life have assets and lived experiences that should be honored and harnessed. We know that real transformation happens when the people we support drive their own decisions and change efforts.

Here we share with some recent examples of CM work that has served to encourage youth and fully engage families:

Community Partnerships for Health Equity (CPHE) – Many communities throughout Colorado are working to obtain and sustain promising futures for their towns and their residents.  A key component of this is creating training for youth to develop essential skills and opportunities to use those talents to build up their home communities. Across communities is the want and need to engage youth in these efforts. Looking forward at our work as the empowerment evaluator team, we will work with local evaluators to authentically involve youth in evaluations. Rather than simply being respondents, youth will help in planning, conducting, and analyzing the evaluations of their community’s efforts.  We look forward to working with communities to integrate youth into these efforts and spark excitement around evaluation and movement towards whole-community equity and prosperity. (See image above: Change Specialists Sandra, Rachele, and Naomi (left to right) engaging family and youth advocates, making evaluation familiar through the CPHE project with The Colorado Trust)

Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health)  Family Strengthening is one of the five key strategies applied to Project LAUNCH’s early childhood systems building work. Understanding that parenting is a relationship and not a skill provides a frame for resiliency in times of stress and trauma. As technical assistance providers, we use this frame in our work with programs so that when discussing family strengthening approaches and activities we are more likely to address the work from a cultural perspective. This approach leads to actual support and leadership development of families that encourages the formation of meaningful partnerships between them and LAUNCH-related policy makers and service providers.

Healthy Transitions (HT) – Engaging youth and young adults is a core element of the Healthy Transitions Initiative.  Because of that strong focus, several grantees wondered about and were challenged to continue to engage families and caregivers with the same effort that is made in systems of care for children.  Youth and young adults who are supported by families have a smoother transition to adulthood. For that reason CM worked with HT grantees in a number of sites to hold space for conversations about their role and best practices to support youth and young adults.

Home Visiting Improvement Action Center (HV-ImpACT) – In support of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program’s technical assistance center, HV-impACT, CM plays a role as TA providers and subject matter experts, and is also involved in contributing to the design and moderation of communities of practice and webinars. Through this role, we work with awardees (state and territories) on a variety of issues, all ultimately benefiting children, youth, parents, and families. The home visiting services offered through this Federally-funded program are voluntary, and actively and intentionally engaging parents and families is essential for any successful outcomes, such as improved health outcomes, improved learning, improved financial literacy, safer homes and families, and stronger families as a whole. Many parents enrolled in home visiting are, themselves, youth – they are young parents, and many of them are teen parents. In addition to supporting awardees in their efforts to improve parent and family engagement strategies, Change Matrix and other TA partners also help programs find strategic ways to involve families in other integral ways – for example, by inviting them to join parent advisory committees, providing leadership training, and involving them in CQI efforts. Considering the value that we at Change Matrix place on cultural responsiveness and cultural competence, a focus on tailoring approaches and meeting people where there are is a natural fit. Families, parents, youth have their own culture and each family, for that matter, has their own unique culture as well. We help awardees (and, in turn, communities and families) be more culturally competent wherever we can — for example, tailoring their implementation of this Federal program to meet the needs of each individual family. Some mechanisms for doing this is through facilitating peer-exchanges, and by helping awardees develop training materials, policies, and procedures that focus on involving families in a meaningful way. We also ask critical questions of awardees, project officers, and other team members to ensure that cultural competence is woven throughout what we all do.

Here are a few related resources for you:

  • View the slides from Change Specialist Shannon CrossBear’s webinar on Family Driven, Youth-Guided SOC (pdf)
  • View this tip sheet from the MIECHV Program Partnering with Families in Continuous Quality Improvement (pdf)
  • Download the resource guide from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation and Michigan’s Great Start Collaborative on Parent Leadership on the Great Start Collaborative (pdf)
  • Use this resource sheet from Youth MOVE National on Strategic Sharing, a #things2consider guide to help youth tell their stories to inspire action and change (pdf)

Contributed by: London Losey, Naomi Ortega Tein, Alina Taniuchi
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Leading Intentionally: A CM Retreat for Equity and Change

What are we doing and why should you join us:

Leading:  If you believe that the status quo is not good enough, if you believe that we live in a changing world and are called upon to participate in and engage others in making things better, then you are a leader.

Intentionally:  When we know ourselves, get curious about other people and take the time to think through how we show up in a collective effort to improve our communities and systems, we find opportunities to choose who we want to be and what we want to do with intent.

Retreat: We are not moving away from anything, rather we are slowing down, caring for ourselves and, in a nurturing environment, exploring who we are as leaders in diverse groups, what our work should be, and how we will take it on intentionally.

Equity: We aspire to live in a world where every individual has access, agency and opportunity to live the life they choose to. We know we have work to do in our systems, structures and society to get there and the path might be arduous.  

Change: There is comfort in the known.  If we believe that the status quo is not working for everyone, then we must be prepared to lead in the face of discomfort and hold a space for others to be uncomfortable with us in service of equity.

Over 3 days, participants will 1) reflect on who they are as cultural beings and leaders; 2) learn about leadership, historically and culturally, in order to be intentional about their practice; 3) become more intentional leaders in multi-cultural settings; and 4) experience and build skills as leaders in the midst of discomfort and change.  

The retreat will be held in beautiful Boulder, Colorado from October 9-11, 2018. Early bird registration is $750.00 + tax and fees. Starting August 1st, full registration is $850 + tax and fees. The registration fee includes all materials, breakfast, and lunch for the three days of the event.

Final day for registration is 09/14/2018.

CM Change Specialists have been working in the field of leadership for decades – from our earlier years at Georgetown University to our current work as capacity builders with leaders from different systems.

At Change Matrix, we see a need for new voices to emerge – ones that go beyond traditional leadership frameworks and approaches. We are offering our own take on adaptive leadership from a multi-cultural lens through a series of retreats. Our first retreat is focused on an area that is near and dear to us: Equity.

Join our retreat ─ Leading Intentionally: A Change Matrix Retreat for Equity and Change– to continue (or begin) your journey of reflection, observation, courage, and growth. Explore how do you show up as a leader when addressing issues of equity and disparities to promote change. Care for yourself. Take a risk.

Register now!


For logistics questions, please contact Jennifer Ratliff at 702-498-0056 or

For training questions, please contact Suganya Sockalingam at 702-219-7379 or

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