WellAhead’s learning and evaluation framework included three levels of inquiry:
- Prototypes: Are everyday practices an effective means of achieving integration of wellbeing in schools?
- Systems Change: How does integration of wellbeing happen at the school and systems levels?
- Design/Development: How can WellAhead achieve the greatest impact?
Our intent was to focus mostly on the shifts and changes that were happening at the district level and how they might be linked to WellAhead’s intervention.
In practice, our efforts in the pilot districts ended up being heavily weighted towards the evaluation of the everyday practices themselves. This produced data about the effectiveness of simple, everyday efforts in influencing student wellbeing, which was useful information both for educators and for the WellAhead team. However, the energy we spent focusing on prototypes detracted from our ability to observe and learn from changes at the system-level.
As a philanthropic foundation, we typically fund and partner with organizations working on the ground, rather than deliver interventions ourselves at the school or district level. This may be for good reason, as we found that our direct interaction with prototypes at the school level made it difficult to stand back, be objective, and look at the big picture. As a result, we missed out on important cues around how change was happening at the school and district level and whether the momentum and learnings generated by everyday practices actually had the potential to lead to better integration of wellbeing in schools.