The HELP Story; “How Are Our Children Doing?”

A collaborative Fieldbook story, introduced by Peter Senge and Art Kleiner.
By: Joanne Schroeder, Pippa Rowcliffe, and Tracy Smyth



This article tells the story of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia, told from the perspective of people who were involved with its evolution. The authors of this section include:

Joanne Schroeder, HELP’s interim director of external partnerships, which includes overseeing its partnership with the Center for Systems Awareness at MIT. She has worked with HELP, on and off, since 2001, and was its deputy director between 2008 and 2014.
Tracy Smyth, a community development strategist and coauthor with Tammy Dewar of Raising the Village: How Individuals and Communities Can Work Together to Give Our Children a Stronger Start in Life (2009, BPS Books). First introduced to HELP through her own community, Port Alberni, BC, she has since worked closely with the organization in a variety of capacities.
Pippa Rowcliffe, Executive Director, Monitoring and Strategic Initiatives with the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth of British Columbia. Between 2008 and 2014, she served as the Managing Director of the Council for Early Child Development (housed at HELP), and then HELP’s Knowledge Translation Director. From 2014 to 2020, Pippa was HELP’s deputy director, working closely with director Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl.
All three authors continue to be involved with HELP’s work on compassionate systems leadership.



A Simple Question for Our Time
“How are our children doing?”  


There are few more basic questions for any community to ask about itself. Yet we have found only one place in the world that has invested seriously in answering it. British Columbia, a Canadian province with 5 million people, has been home to a two-decade-long effort to apply rigorous research at scale, with a high level of community and school engagement, to assess children’s well-being and how it can be enhanced. 

A major leader in this work has been a unique academic research center: the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia. Founded in the late 1990s and working in partnership with the provincial Ministries of Education, Health, and Child and Family Development, the center helps maintain a unique population database that tracks the health and well-being of all children in the province. Just as importantly, HELP works with schools and communities across the province to help them use the data to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of children and families. 

Today, a growing number of governments espouse the importance of child and youth well-being, and social and emotional leaning (SEL) is a global movement.(1) But when people ask how their children are doing, most officials have little to say, beyond providing basic health statistics and standard education metrics like test scores and graduation rates. 

Of course, this simple question is daunting, for it masks extraordinary social and institutional complexity. Assessing children’s well-being requires understanding interrelated systems that bridge their health, socioeconomic background, family, nutrition, and education. Nor is the right information necessarily available. Data about childhood development can be sparse and ambiguous. Data are typically collected in small samples, or drawn from sources that focus on monitoring programs, not children themselves. Researchers, educators, community leaders and personal health care providers are generally not closely in touch with each other. Government health and education departments may only be aware of a fraction of the relevant research. 

And, sadly, there is little societal urgency. Few country or regional leaders have any sense that collectively assessing child and youth well-being is even possible, let alone that it could make an enormous difference.  

Yet, few issues are more critical for the future. Studies suggest that as many as one in four children are developmentally vulnerable. Children living in relatively low-wealth areas are far more likely to be at risk this way.(2) The World Health Organization says that there is a global mental health epidemic, with stress, anxiety and suicide as its prime symptoms;(3) the weight of this falls heavily on youth. More than 200 million children around the world are at risk of impaired cognitive or social-emotional development.(4) Suicide rates among US teenagers and young adults increased 60% from 2007 to 2018;(5) and a 2018 survey showed that almost 20% of American teenagers had seriously considered suicide in the past year, which is now the second largest cause of death among U.S. teenagers.(6)  All these data predate the effects of the 2020-21 COVID19 pandemic, which many believe has had disproportionate impacts on children and young people, who have been disconnected from friends and normal social activities.(7) 

Partly because of the extraordinary circumstances of the past two years, schools and school systems are starting to pay much greater attention to student well-being.  But without ways of assessing their progress, even the most sincere intentions will amount to little more than lip service.

All of this makes the work of HELP and their colleagues relevant far beyond Canada’s western-most province.  Formally, HELP is a research center based in the university’s School of Population and Public Health. It also functions as broad informal network of educators, pediatricians, epidemiologists, government leaders and community members. Its work combines innovative research with on-the ground knowledge exchange – all with a simple stated goal:  “All children thriving in healthy societies.” 


Building A Foundation for Collaborative Leadership

As you will see from this story, the center is helping people from many sectors in BC – education, health care, community, early childhood, economics, public affairs, parents, and more – to understand the importance of often-neglected factors in children’s academic and life success. These factors include socioeconomic status, community leadership, and the quality of available health care. As importantly, HELP’s way of working with communities encourages people to think together about their collective responsibilities for the environment within which children develop, creating much-needed partnerships among those who care about children’s well-being. 

Founding director Clyde Hertzman set the tone for the organization before his untimely passing, from a heart attack, in 2013. In a video recorded shortly before he died, he described HELP’s central mission this way: 

We’re currently in a situation in British Columbia where approximately 30 percent of the children reach school age without the physical or the social, emotional and language and cognitive development that they really need to be able to operate effectively thereafter. We have reason to believe that at least two thirds of this vulnerability in the children’s development is avoidable — if we provide better environments of stimulation, support nutrients and opportunities for participation for young children. The research that we do tries to take those broad ideas and break it down into things that we can understand and do something about. [We need] to transform our understanding of the things that influence early child development so that we can stimulate conversation across society. (8)

This mission meant that HELP’s activity would extend beyond pure research and maintaining its research database and associated research program. It would also help others use the data wisely – a mission that was far from assured. 

“Do you use the data as a lens or a hammer?” asked one of our partners at the Center for Systems Awareness, a senior official in the California Department of Education, in a discussion of stories like this. “All too often, efforts to use data for continual improvement gets hijacked by turf agendas. These efforts play out against a background of distrust, with little history of genuine collaboration. The resulting projects tend to punish those who fall behind, rather than lifting everyone up.”

From the outset, HELP was intended to be different. It was guided by principles, grounded in the research and articulated by Clyde Hertzman: 

Pippa Rowcliffe: Underneath the long life and sustainability of HELP was a set of mental models about how people care for each other and work together to achieve change. 

I can remember Clyde telling community leaders and staff that there were five fundamental things to which they had to pay attention, because these affected how vulnerable children might be:

    1. Connecting school systems with investment in early childhood;  
    2. Inter-sectoral relationships: putting schools in regular communication with health care, economic development, and other community interests;
    3. Using data and research to inform your action;
    4. Having a high quality of leadership;
    5. Regional engagement (instead of with the fragmented jurisdictions of local school and health districts).

Tracy Smyth: With those five concepts in mind, HELP engaged with individual communities to foster solutions that worked relatively well in those locations. This was a very different approach than coming in as an outside expert, telling people how to solve their problems. That wouldn’t have worked. 

Pippa: Another key mental model from Clyde was: “No data, no problem, no action.” He understood that we needed to build, from the bottom up, sustainable population data sets, specifically created to reflect on outcomes. 

Many people grieved at the loss of Clyde’s presence and insight. But it also prompted others in the group to step forward. Almost a decade later, it is clear that his belief in open, participative leadership, driven by curiosity, left a foundation on which others could continue to build:  

Joanne Schroeder: After the suddenness of Clyde’s death, we weren’t sure at first that HELP would be able to continue. Fortunately, there were faculty and staff who stepped in to keep us going.  

As it happened, a week before, Clyde and I had spent the day with a consultant talking about transitioning him out of the leadership role. That was helpful, because we had talked about some of his visions for what HELP could become. As time passed, it became evident out that our credibility and connections remained. They were not exclusive to one person. 

Pippa: Clyde worked in highly collaborative ways. The HELP team would come together to talk about what the data were telling us and how to translate what we were seeing into plain language. This brought a sense of collectivity, curiosity and transparency to every discussion.

About 18 months after Clyde’s passing, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl (a world leader in social-emotional learning research) took the role of director. She was a faculty member in UBC’s school of education, an affiliate at HELP and a close colleague of Clyde’s. Her grounding in the field of child and adolescent development eventually led us to extend the research to a whole new level, beyond early childhood to the population of children ages 6 to 12. As a former teacher deeply involved in UBC’s teacher training, and connected to educators across the province, she deepened our partnerships with schools and the education system as a whole. 

But we never lost the fundamental values and ways of thinking that had grounded HELP and served it from our earliest time with Clyde. Kim’s deep respect for and commitment to educators fit with this. In a way, even though it was years later before we would be introduced to compassionate systems leadership, we were working with the concepts all along. 


Sources of Childhood Vulnerability 

From the beginning, HELP’s leaders had resolved to build an empirical understanding of the determinants of children’s healthy development. What factors, especially in their earliest years, equipped them for school and other life challenges? What factors made them more vulnerable?  Recognizing that the particulars may vary from one community to the next, how do you help people in a community to understand their own situation and work together to improve it?

As Hertzman had described it, the HELP approach “balanced pristine research with street credibility.” Researchers sought first to build a comprehensive database of child development at age 5 that could drive a world class research program, and this was balanced by a focus on making the data immediately valuable to educators and health professionals throughout the province as they delivered programs and services to improve children’s outcomes. They took care to involve diverse academic researchers — from fields like neuroscience, childhood development, epidemiology, community economics, and geographic data analysis – who all worked on the same hypotheses, learning what made a difference through interdisciplinary inquiry. 

They also sought to translate insight into action. If there were important insights in the data, there should also be a way to address them. For instance, the clear trend, established over years of data collection, showed five-year-old children as particularly vulnerable in social competence and emotional vulnerability. This played a role in encouraging a province-wide emphasis on social and emotional learning.  

The first need was for a consistent way to assess development.  HELP adopted the Early Years Development Instrument (EDI), a research tool developed at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The EDI is administered midway in a child’s kindergarten year; teachers would fill out surveys with just over 100 questions about each student, assessing their readiness for the challenges of school. Today, most kindergarten teachers in the Province are trained in how to administer the EDI. 

Second, they needed to preserve anonymity and avoid pressures to rank particular students or groups. The results were considered only in aggregate. The universal nature of the data made it possible to understand substantial differences in children’s development depending where they live and also to see more clearly the correlations with a variety of factors: student health, economic well-being, emotional climate, and early childhood experience in general.

Pippa: Around 2000, a BC provincial government leader arranged a grant of approximately $5 million: seed funding to conduct research. That itself was an example of catalytic leadership. Since we were an unproven group with an untried approach, that leader probably had to do a lot of work in the background to protect the grant. 

Initially, HELP gathered data from the Vancouver city school district as a pilot, working closely with teachers’ unions and school administrators. This level of engagement was unique for an academic institution like UBC. But we weren’t trying to compare schools or children. We were trying to understand all the things children would experience before they walked through the school door on their first day of kindergarten. We knew that these shaped their readiness for school. Our intention was to be able to work closely with communities to intervene and build systems that really supported children.

At first, we thought we could come up with some universal framework of practices that would explain why some communities were doing well and others were not. But that was impossible. As you can imagine, complex non-linear systems tend to defy simple one-size-fits-all explanations.

Joanne: Our research confirmed what we suspected at the beginning: socioeconomic circumstances matter. This includes not just the poverty level but children’s experiences in the world – for example, as people of color or indigenous people. When you look across communities in B.C., you see children doing less well on average if they are living in a disadvantaged place. 

But while socioeconomic status is the largest factor, it explains only about half of the vulnerability. For example, community cohesion suggests that school systems should collaborate much more with providers of early-years support before kindergarten. The quality of school and community leadership, including the mental models of the people involved, make a great difference. So do the other three: inter-sectoral relationships, using data and research to inform action, and regional engagement. While we’ve never been able to publish definitive substantiation on all of them, I feel confident in naming them.  

Eric Hertzman, Clyde’s son, was studying cartography; he would later become a geospatial data analyst. He suggested mapping the data. It made a huge difference.  For example, in those days, there was an East-West dividing line in Vancouver. The maps just nailed it: they showed kids being much more vulnerable on the East side of the city. 

One of the early maps developed by HELP with EDI data, showing overall differences among communities in southwest British Columbia. Source: Clyde Hertzmann, “Social Geography of Developmental Health in Early Years,” Healthcare Quarterly, October 2010. (9)


A Community Asset Mapping Project map, showing EDI data from 2000 in Vancouver, with a visible difference in vulnerability between the west and east sides of the city.  Source: Early Development in Vancouver: Report of the Community Asset Mapping Project, 2002 (10)


Pippa: HELP published the EDI data in visual maps showing where vulnerability was highest and lowest. The “Community Asset Mapping Project,” as they called it, was covered by the Vancouver Sun in a 2002 article that went viral around the province. The data guided us to see more clearly how inequity relates to geography. Health care also has a role to play, because it touches the lives of families from birth through age six. 

Tracy: The visual map was very powerful. Suddenly, a kindergarten teacher or parent could see where children were better prepared for school, down to the local neighborhood. 


Connecting Early Childhood with Middle Years

Mapping the EDI population data proved a breakthrough, but it also led to a new problem. To many people looking at the maps, EDI was an assessment tool. It defined vulnerability as lack of preparedness for school, and it could be used to classify students, communities and schools in ways that hindered them from improvement. 

To the HELP researchers, vulnerability meant something different. A vulnerable child was someone who was not meeting at least one expected stage of development. They were trying to understand something more fundamental: How early childhood experiences, which varied by where they lived and the quality of their environment, affected their well-being.

Joanne: The data showed that overall levels of vulnerability were going in the wrong direction. As the years went by, the measurements showed children’s language and cognition skills getting better. But they were losing ground, overall, in the social and emotional domains. 

Pippa: In the use we made of it, EDI was not just an isolated data set. We put the EDI results together with sample studies and our own observations when we went to work with school systems and communities. 

But we had to figure out the nuances of our message, and this set a tone for everything that HELP has done since: to make sure we got the right messages out in the world.

Tracy: As we worked with HELP, we had a lot of challenging, grappling conversations about communications. Terms like “school readiness” pushed people’s buttons. We wanted to focus on the positive. Yet the negative data, the data about how children were vulnerable, told us so much about where we could go, and what needed to change. 

So, we flipped it around and tried to hold strength-based conversations. For instance, instead of talking about children with vulnerabilities who needed to be “fixed,” we’d talk about reducing children’s risks along with the ways that schools and services could change so that children would thrive. 

To help make better sense of the benefits of potential improvements in early childhood, there was another form of analysis needed: a way of analyzing the results of changes in later stages of the child’s life. So, HELP developed its own instrument, the Middle Years Development Instrument MDI. Students in 4th and 7th grade reported on their own experience; teachers reported on their capabilities. 

Pippa: The idea of the MDI emerged around 2005-2006. I was working with the United Way, and the people there told me they had discovered a significant gap in our knowledge. They had seen in their own programs that the period from ages 9 through 12 was a key transitional phase for most kids, and they wanted to build awareness about it. 

Kim was one of the leaders in developing MDI. She believed that we needed to build a new instrument to understand children’s wellbeing once they were in school: a complement to the normal academic texting. Her motto was: “What gets measured, matters.” Kim and her research team worked with the Vancouver School District to gather the data and put the tool together. They refined it from a long questionnaire and a daily diary to a more scalable instrument that was easier to work with. 

The MDI eventually took HELP to a new level in several respects. It involved different age ranges. It was funded through school districts. The districts owned the data since they were paying for it, so it shepherded in a new phase of working more closely with districts in the effective use of the data. And it was more oriented toward social and emotional learning, which is critical for that age group.(11)  

Joanne: MDI helped associate early vulnerability to later outcomes in the school system. We found that kids who enter kindergarten vulnerable, according to the EDI, were more likely to still be vulnerable at grades 4 and 7. They typically continued to struggle through the rest of their school journey, unless someone intervened to help them. 

Tracy: The MDI showed that SEL was even more important than we had thought. It also gave us more support for our approach in general. We had been working for 10 years with the early childhood community. Now that we had a tool for older children, we finally got school districts to recognize the connection to early learning. But, they had to learn to use this differently than they used more traditional, academic sources of knowledge. 

Pippa: MDI should be seen in the context of a long history of work that Kim and many others had done to identify that social emotional well-being was as important as academic well-being. And it gave us the data we needed to shine a light on how kids were doing from that perspective. It filled a significant data gap in the school system, where most of the focus was placed on academic outcomes. The MDI was developed in association with communities, through deep engagement with parents, schools, and teachers. It spoke directly to what people cared about. 

With EDI and MDI, HELP was building a set of instruments and related data that covered a significant portion of children’s lives.  And throughout, HELP exploried unfamiliar territory for an academically based research center: a robust knowledge mobilization strategy. The quest to make data useful led the researchers to think about many questions that focused not just on their technical instruments and the data they produced, but on the context in which the data would be heard:

Who are we communicating with? 

What sort of actions are we trying to inform? 

What are the practical constraints? 

What power dynamics are at play in the communities that will receive this?  

Whose data is this really – those who paid for its gathering or those whose lives it reflects?

One central question stood out: 

Would the data be used to categorize people? Or, would it be used to help people work together better, to learn from the data and improve their lives and those of their children? 

The HELP researchers could not just assume their work would automatically be used ethically and with beneficial effect. They would have to invest their own time and effort to bring their insights to the world in an appropriate way. 


Data as a Tool for Communities 

Today, a significant portion of the 30-person HELP staff are involved in “knowledge translation” activities, helping communities and educators interpret and use the extraordinary population data base that the Province continues to has build. 

Pippa: Clyde started out with a mental model that was fundamentally about systems change – and the role of data and research in changing systems. Over time, this led us to structures and processes that were very different from the typical way people tried to change education systems. 

One important story, which we haven’t talked about much, is our deep work connecting with public and private sector partners. The effort to build and maintain our network was front-and-center, bread-and-butter for us. 

We took a layered approach that benefits HELP still. 

Clyde knew you couldn’t get very far without leading with others. He understood that you had to build relationships from the top of a community to the bottom. More conventional academic groups would not do this; they are too conscious of their boundaries. They would just link to policymakers at the top to influence their decisions. Instead, we rippled out our ideas through many interconnections. For example, we brought community leaders like Tracy in as experts. Clyde hired Joanne, who had large network of relationships across the Provice.

I spent a lot of my time with YMCA, YWCA, the British Columbia Council for the Family, United Way,…  you name it. I also spent a lot of time with government ministries, conducting presentations for them and making sure that they had the data they needed. Joanne and Clyde would meet regularly with politicians as well, and Clyde developed an international network. 

Researchers tend to waver between the “expert” mental model, where you have to know the answers before you can act on them, and the “participants” mental model, in which you expect to find out the answers for each situation as you go along.  This was especially a challenge for HELP as it wrestled with both the complexity of child development and the “embeddedness” of the challenges in very distinct settings. 

Joanne: HELP had a very clear model of the complex factors influencing children’s development: all the contexts that needed to interact to make a difference for kids. But we didn’t know where to intervene. 

There was a growing frustration that so much amazing research was not always leading to improved outcomes for children. There were pockets of success, but no apparent way to consistently support kids across the province. We knew we needed to be able to support people in local communities differently.

Pippa: I can remember endless discussions at HELP about how far we could go with what we were saying. We would rarely go out into communities and tell them what to do. Instead, we would stand within the bounds of, “We are coming to reflect with you.” Having the data was a key element for doing this. Starting with tools like the data maps – how they had changed over time and comparing them to other similar communities – we could conduct a different conversation about how the kids were doing. In all of this, our job was not to tell them what they needed to do but to catalyze conversation and practice. 

Tracy: From the perspective of community-based organizations, HELP put out a different vibe than a typical outside group of experts. Our community is Port Alberni, a small city of about 25,000 people on Vancouver Island, 120 miles from the provincial capital in Victoria. 

In the early 2000s, we had an active early years collaborative group. We were more action-oriented than driven by abstract theory, but we also recognized the need for fundamental change. We felt like we were rebuilding an airplane while flying in it. We believed we could make things happen, but we weren’t sure how. Working with HELP’s people gave us a safety line because they provided credibility. They grounded us in the science of childhood development and showed us the right way to go. But they also showed very transparently that they valued the work that we were doing in our community. 

Clyde came to Port Alberni several times and met with our service providers and teachers. He did not present himself as an expert, but as someone who would learn together with us.  

This has been a consistent message from HELP: “You know your strengths and what you need.” It makes a huge difference, especially for communities who are already holding conversations and have started to figure out the issues on their own. The research offers insight, but there are some people who find it frustrating; they want an easy answer. 

Joanne: So much of what we learned is the importance of relationships. People learn differently based on trusted relationships. They excuse each other for mistakes. They have the space to create a joint understanding. 

Tracy:  Be open to co-constructing what a change approach is going to look like together. You can build momentum in a much more authentic way that has traction and longevity. 


Compassionate Systems Leadership

In many ways, Help’s mission and ways of operating foreshadowed the aims and methods of the Compassionate Systems approach. When the two groups met, there was a natural connection.  

In 2017, the HELP staff began taking part in courses at the Center for Systems Awareness. They were joined by partners from the Ministry of Education, the BC Principal’s’ Association, and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, a lead school district in the SEL work.  

Pippa: As we got to know the compassionate systems work, we realized that, in many ways, HELP had adhered to its tenets without using that language.  Now, we have an “intent to be more intentional” about ideas that have always been foundational to our work.

Joanne: As we learn the tools and methods of compassionate systems and become better practitioners, so much of what we have done successfully in the past has become clearer. We are better positioned to extend this approach to new generations of leaders in the work.  Also, being part of the Master Practitioner process has enabled us to strengthen relationships with key provincial partners like the Ministry of Education.

A recent ministerial report on the province’s Mental Health in Schools Strategy talks about “Cultivating system-wide well-being through compassionate leadership.”(12) The report highlights a challenge faced everywhere: how stressed-out adults can better contribute to student well-being:

To support student well-being and resiliency, adults must have the tools and practices to support their own well-being. Compassionate systems leadership has three core elements to support systems change:

1| Internal work – includes self-reflection and practice

2| Relationship work – authentic connections where space is created to be truly present

3| System work – connections between self, others and the broader system.

Just as it has inspired us, our hope is that the HELP story can inspire education leaders everywhere. The story suggests that it is possible to broaden the aims of our education system beyond a narrow focus on traditional academic skills. It demonstrates that it is realistic to rigorously assess health and well-being at large scale. And, most importantly, the story shows that it is time to reawaken our shared sense of responsibility for how our kids are doing – and, in so doing, take a big step in improving how we all are doing

For more information about the Human Early Learning Partnership:



How Revelstoke Coordinated its Efforts to Help Children

Revelstoke is a small city in southeastern British Colombia, 400 miles east of Vancouver with a population of about 15,000 people. It was founded as a mining town, built as a stop on the Canada Pacific railroad in the 1880s, where the train line crossed the Columbia River. The town is now a popular ski resort with a high level of internet connection, which makes it both remote and cosmopolitan at the same time. Like many rural communities in BC, it has ongoing issues with child vulnerability and has found ways to use the HELP data to work together to address them.  

It was at a provincial meeting of school Superintendents in 2003 that Clyde Hertzman first showed the HELP data Early Development Index (EDI) data on child vulnerability for the region. Reflecting back, Tracy Spannier, now the Community Literacy Coordinator at the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, says the data “mobilized people to determine which children comprised the 19% who were vulnerable.”(1) While the figure was not atypical for the Province as a whole, Revelstoke’s community leaders did not think it was acceptable to have almost 1/5 of students entering Kindergarten showing signs of not being ready. 

“Clyde’s knowledge and passion acted as a catalyst,” recalls Spannier, “and we were compelled to know more – including whether children had access to programs and services and how we could work together to serve families better.” A group of early childhood learning experts worked with civic leaders and a team from HELP to better understand the data and how they could better support families with children at risk. Over time, they gradually built a coordinated effort to share information, with a central Early Years Information Office at its hub. They came to an “every door is the right door” vision: meaning that families needing help could start at any agency, school or relevant office in town and would get the response they needed.   

“As we started tracking data and information, we increased our knowledge base about our own systems,” adds Spannier. “We identified and responded to gaps in service,” including some that had been unrecognized as problematic for years. “EDI data has now been used for almost 20 years to inform planning, to support program resourcing decisions, and to provide funders with information on why we need to maintain and expand our services.”  

Revelstoke now has one of the lowest vulnerability figures in the province. It has fallen from 19% to an average of 10%. One major factor is the continued coordination of community effort, supported by tracking the longitudinal childhood vulnerability data over the years. “The EDI has been integral to our work to maintain our understanding,” says Spannier, “and it is our guiding research to community decisions that impact early learning and care.”  

As HELP’s researchers point out, this story shows what any community, rural or urban, can do to improve. “Revelstoke is a relatively small community and perhaps has different challenges than those of our large metropolitan and immigrant communities or our predominantly First Nations communities,” says Joanne Schroeder, HELP’s interim director of external partnerships. “But what has stood out is the way the community has worked together. They quickly took the data ‘personally’ and now take deserved pride in remaining vigilant even as many forces, within and beyond Revelstoke, work to make children more vulnerable.” 

Kim Schoenert-Reichl, HELP’s second director, made many trips to Revelstoke in later years. “While Clyde had been a catalyst, it always seemed to me that there was already a stock of relational trust that had been built up over the years in the community,” she adds. “It is a great example of how, for a community that is ready, the holistic picture that this sort of data can provide can enable people to truly come together around child well-being, not just around academic success.”

– Peter Senge and Art Kleiner


(1) The HELP data breaks down child vulnerability along five dimensions (physical health and well-being, emotional maturity, social competence, language and cognitive development, and communication skills) and summarizes with an index of the percent of kindergartners vulnerable on one of more dimensions of the EDI. See



(1) Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) website,

(2) Tracy Smyth and Tammy Dewar, Raising the Village, p. 3; Australian government, Children developmentally vulnerable, 2018,;

(3) Aris Saxena, “The Global Mental Health Epidemic,” Synapse, 2018,

(4) Lancet series on ECD, cited in Lori G. Irwin, Arjumand Siddiqui, and Clyde Hertzman, Early Child Development: A Powerful Equalizer, Final report by the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, Human Early Learning Partnership, June 2007;

(5) Sally C. Curtin, “State Suicide Rates Among Adolescents and Young Adults Aged 1024, United States, 2000-2018, National Vital Statistics Reports, September 11, 2020:

(6) “Teen Suicide, 2016-2018,” America’s Health Rankings,

(7) Prema Varma, Moira Junge, Hailey Meaklim, and Melinda L. Jackson, “Younger people are more vulnerable to stress, anxiety and depression during COVID-19 pandemic: a global cross-sectional survey,” Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 109 (2021): July 13, 2021:

(8) Human Early Learning Partnership, “Clyde Hertzman’s Key Messages,” video compilation, posted on Youtube April 24, 2013;, segment starting 2:03.

(9) Clyde Hertzmann, “Social Geography of Developmental Health in Early Years,” Healthcare Quarterly, October 2010, 32-40.doi:10.12927/hcq.2010.21981;

(10) Clyde Hertzman, Sidney A. McLean, Dafua E. Kohen, Dim Dunn, and Terry Evans, Early Development in Vancouver: Report of the Community Asset Mapping Project, Canadian Institute for Health Information and Human Early Learning Partnership, 2002.

(11) Kimberly C. Thomson ⁎, Eva Oberle, Anne M. Gadermann, Martin Guhn, Pippa Rowcliffe, Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, “Measuring social-emotional development in middle childhood: The Middle Years Development Instrument” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 55 (2018) , 107-118;


(13) The HELP data breaks down child vulnerability along five dimensions (physical health and well-being, emotional maturity, social competence, language and cognitive development, and communication skills) and summarizes with an index of the percent of kindergartners vulnerable on one of more dimensions of the EDI. See


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