Sonoma County Department of Health Services Receives Grant to Prevent Cavities in Young Children

Quality oral health care is especially important for young children, not only because tooth decay is the most common chronic health problem among California’s children, but because tooth decay is the number one reason children are absent from kindergarten.1

In March 2017, Sonoma County Department of Health Services Dental Health Program was selected as one of 15 FY 2017 grantees for the California Department of Health Services’ Dental Transformation Initiative (DTI) Domain 4: Local Dental Pilot Projects (LDPPs) program. The grant will fund efforts to treat and prevent cavities in Sonoma County’s youngest Medi Cal-enrolled children over a four-year period.

Through the County’s pilot program, Cavity-Free Sonoma, the County Department of Health Services’ Dental Health Program (DHP) will work in collaboration with the Sonoma County Dental Health Network and other partners to make progress towards the network’s overarching goal that 75% of local five year olds are cavity-free by 2020.2 Specifically, the pilot is oriented to achieve the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “Triple Aim” in dental health for Medi-Cal eligible children age 6 and under in Sonoma County:

  1. Improved dental health among Medi-Cal eligible children
  2. Medi-Cal Dental Program cost-savings
  3. Improved patient experience of dental care

The DHP and its partners will achieve these outcomes through three primary activities:

  1. Implementation of a standardized caries risk assessment (assessment for cavities);
  2. Outreach and service-provision by a cadre of Community Dental Health Workers; and
  3. Use of a mobile application that reinforced improved dental health habits and supports consistent dental health care.

Adopting a standardized caries risk assessment will ensure that children are screened for dental decay (caries) through appropriate and frequent treatment that is standardized no matter where across the county the child receives care. This will help caregivers identify dental disease early to treat preventatively and manage decay when it occurs.

During the first year of the grant, DHP will hire and train a cadre of Community Dental Health Workers to perform the caries risk assessment, provide culturally competent care management, increase clinic capacity, and ensure that care is coordinated and consistent. The Community Dental Health Workers will be stationed at partner clinics to work directly with families and children accessing care at those locations. Recruiting Dental Health Workers from the community will ensure that children and families receive the culturally competent support they need to build skills and knowledge related to oral health and dental disease prevention.

Finally, coordinating care and increasing families’ access to information will be supported through the development and use of the Sonoma Smile mobile application. The mobile app will serve as a family’s personal dental record, and is a low-cost tool for caregivers and patients to improve oral health literacy, dental decay prevention, and disease management. For example, the app will provide dental appointment reminders and have a function for parents to track the frequency of their child’s tooth brushing. At the same time, the app will enable Community Dental Health Workers and other care providers to more efficiently access care records and treatment plan information. In addition, the app will remain in the public domain and has the potential to be scaled across the United States.

These three strategies – a standardized caries risk assessment, Community Dental Health Workers, and a mobile app – work together to improve access to and delivery of preventative oral health care. This will result in significantly less dental decay among low-income children in Sonoma County, improving their oral health while decreasing oral health costs for county providers.

More information about the DTI Domain 4 Local Dental Pilot Projects, including a list of selected projects, is available at

1. First 5 Association of California.
2. See Sonoma County Dental Health Network Strategic Plan 2017-2020 for more information on the network.

Sharing Strategies to Promote STEM in Out-of-School Time

On February 27-28, 2017, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (the Mott Foundation), STEM Next, and the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network hosted the annual Afterschool STEM Institute in Silver Spring, MD. Representatives of statewide afterschool networks from more than 27 states across the nation gathered to share their strategies, challenges, and goals for promoting STEM education in Out-of-School Time (OST) programs within their state. Participants represented a diversity of states and regions from Maine to Florida, New York to West Virginia, Iowa to Idaho, and Oregon to Alaska.

Learn more about the Mott Foundation’s support for Statewide Afterschool Networks here.
Learn more about the Mott Foundation and STEM Next’s support for STEM in OST System-Building work here.

Three key themes were prominent throughout the Institute: partnership development, program quality, and messaging about the statewide afterschool networks’ work. Statewide afterschool network representatives strategized about how to form and strengthen partnerships with public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses in a resource-scarce environment – for example, by connecting with businesses for non-funding support. Network representatives discussed efforts to improve OST program quality and how to best collect and use data about the programs in their states. Finally, participants were coached through key messages about the importance of STEM as a vital component of 21st century jobs, based on the newly released STEM Ready America compendium.

The full Institute agenda, including details about breakout sessions, is available here.

Since October 2016, GPG has worked with six statewide afterschool networks to facilitate a planning process focused on sustaining (and scaling) their STEM programs and activities. GPG opened the Institute with a session to engage all meeting participants in thinking about the sustainability of their STEM efforts. Through paired conversations and afterschool network team-based discussions, GPG prompted participants to assess:

  1. The extent to which STEM is integrated into their network’s core work of sustaining and expanding quality OST in their state
  2. How successfully their network has identified and engaged partners and funders for STEM work
  3. Their network’s strengths/assets and challenges/gaps.

GPG shared sustainability planning tools and templates and shared draft STEM sustainability plans developed by OregonASK and PSAYDN (Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network), two of the networks GPG is working closely with to support sustainability planning.

Learn more:

The Constellation Model: Networking for Social Change

How can we effectively lay the groundwork for social change in a world in which funding and time are scarce? According to the constellation model, the answer lies in nimble, high-impact collaboration.

Created by the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Toronto, the constellation model is a framework for effectively bringing diverse partners from multiple fields together to solve complex and pressing social problems. This model emerged from a specific CSI project with the goal of strengthening partnerships among child care, public health, and environmental organizations focused on addressing the environmental factors that affect children’s health in Canada. CSI’s experience reinforced that, in this era of dynamic social systems, change is more likely to occur through networked efforts between actors working in different fields and ecosystems than by organizations working alone.

Unlike traditional collaboratives that require universal agreement, top-down governance, and frequent meetings, the constellation model prioritizes flexible, lightweight partnerships that leverage each organization’s expertise and talents. Partners organize themselves around particular issues of interest, forming issue-based “constellations” that activate when there is high energy or strong opportunities and lie dormant when energy or opportunities wane.

This flexibility enables the model to be responsive to the needs and interests of the ecosystem of organizations and individuals working in a particular content area or towards a shared goal. “The constellations harness the power of loose coupling – enabling the right partners to come together based on their own interests and assets. This creates stronger action teams that are harnessing the power of self-interest within a shared vision.”1 The constellation model enables these “loose couplings” around partner-defined interests while avoiding top-down direction-setting and meeting fatigue.

The constellation model is comprised of three key elements:

  1. Lightweight governance
  2. Action-focused work teams (constellations)
  3. Third-party coordination

Constellation-based partnerships are created in response to a specific need, and are overseen by a stewardship group that provides lightweight governance. The stewardship group sets strategic direction, monitors the overall health of the partnership, and aligns constellations with the overarching goal of the group. This supervision is in contrast to more traditional, top-down models of governance in which leaders make decisions that must be followed by all members of the group.

Action-focused work teams, or constellations, are a way to accommodate tensions around differing priorities, which can be a challenge for newly formed collaboratives. In the constellation model, partner organizations have the freedom to start a “constellation” around their preferred topic or issue area, balancing the diverse interests of the group with the goal of high productivity.

Finally, to ensure that the partnership remains a level playing field between equals, an intermediary organization should provide third-party coordination. This prevents power from pooling in one partner, allows a neutral entity to onboard new partners, and supports overall coordination for collaborative work.

The constellation model is a framework for maintaining organizational independence while working nimbly with others by engaging only in issues that align with an organization’s interests. In a rapidly changing, complex ecosystem, it is one effective way to grow successful partnerships to solve critical problems.

The Constellation Model in Action in Los Angeles, CA

In 2008, in an effort to catalyze education and workforce systems change, UNITE-LA convened top leaders from L.A.’s key education, business, government, labor, and nonprofit sectors to form an unprecedented alliance. This effort resulted in the formation of the L.A. Compact, which has taken a constellation model approach to address large-scale education and workforce readiness problems in Los Angeles. The L.A. Compact is a partnership between 24 local organizations and institutions that are connected to the education and workforce readiness ecosystem including the Chamber of Commerce, LAUSD, the City and County of Los Angeles, First 5 LA, institutions of higher education, labor, local nonprofits, and businesses.

The signatories to the L.A. Compact have agreed to pursue three system-wide goals for Los Angeles:

  1. All students graduate from high school;
  2. All students have access to and are prepared for success in college; and
  3. All students have access to pathways to sustainable jobs and careers.

Through the constellation model approach, the L.A. Compact is able to provide its partners with opportunities to make progress towards these goals through a constellation of collaborative workgroups. While UNITE-LA initially served as the convener of these workgroups, the workgroups are now convened and supported by a range of partner organizations. See the L.A. Compact website for information about the current workgroups.

More detail and resources on the constellation model and its origins can be found on the Centre for Social Innovation’s website, including the article, “Listening to the Stars: the Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change,” by Tonya Surman and Mark Surman.

1. Surman, Tonya. Constellation Collaboration: A model for multi-organizational partnership. Center for Social Innovation. June 2006.

Fresno County Office of Education Receives FY 2016 Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) Validation Grant Award

In December 2016, the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) was selected as one of three FY 2016 grantees for the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) Validation Grant. The $11.9 million award will enable the expansion and refinement of the California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC). The ERWC was initially published in 2008 and has been adopted throughout California by nearly 700 high schools.1

“The Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC) is an innovative high school English course ‘that effectively integrates multiple theories from the fields of reading comprehension, rhetoric, literacy, and composition to foster college readiness, academic literacy development, and literate identity formation at the high school level’ (Katz, Brynelson, & Edlund, 2013, p. 978). Taken together, the ERWC fosters abilities referred to as rhetorical literacies.”2 The ERWC helps students avoid remediation in English in their first year of college, addressing a significant challenge with 27.5% of first-time freshmen at the California State University identified as needing this remediation.

With the award from the U.S. Department of Education i3 Validation grant program, the ERWC will be expanded to serve 12th grade students in addition to 11th grade students. In addition, the ERWC will be scaled within California and into Washington. The FCOE grant application abstract and full narrative are available online on the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation & Improvement website.

GPG is proud to have provided support to the FCOE and CSU team in their pursuit of this grant and their efforts to improve the college and career readiness of high school students in California and Washington.

1. Expository Reading and Writing Course”. California State University.
2. Fresno County Office of Education i3 FY 2016 Validation Application Narrative.

Family Justice Center Sonoma County to Serve as Demonstration Site to Develop and Pilot Polyvictimization Screening Tool

FJCSC LogoIn 2016, the Family Justice Center Sonoma County (FJCSC) received $666,666 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime’s (OVC) “A Pathway to Justice, Healing, and Hope: Addressing Polyvictimization in a Family Justice Center Setting Demonstration Initiative” program. This program awarded grants to six family justice centers (FJCs), or other comprehensive co-located service providers for victims of domestic violence, to serve as demonstration sites to develop and pilot a screening tool for identifying individuals that have experienced polyvictimization (multiple victimizations of different kinds). OVC also awarded a grant to Alliance for Hope International through this program to provide technical assistance (TA) to participating FJCs.

The Family Justice Center Sonoma County (FJCSC) and its partners believe that the majority of clients they work with are polyvictims, and that there is a critical need for a more systematic approach to identify and effectively serve these individuals. Polyvictims are more likely to experience higher levels of drug and alcohol abuse, illness, disease, and reduced life expectancy, along with an increased likelihood of future victimization and trauma, especially if they experienced victimization as children. Polyvictims often have more complex needs for recovery and receiving the necessary combination of services can help victims better recover, heal, and avoid retraumatization.

In addition to supporting the FJCSC in developing the successful grant proposal, GPG will be supporting the FJCSC and its partners to collaboratively develop a strategic plan during year one of the award period that, when implemented, will lead to better identification and support for polyvictims, the individuals who have experienced multiple forms of victimization. The FJCSC will also work with an external evaluator to assess the effectiveness of these efforts. As part of the conclusion of this work, the participating FJCs will produce a report documenting their learnings, in order to increase the knowledge base of effective practices for identifying and serving this population.

This grant offers a powerful opportunity for the FJCSC to deeply evaluate how they can best contribute to the healing of their most vulnerable clients, and GPG is proud to support the FJCSC in developing the next generation of their services.

First 5 California and California Department of Education Release Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: Implementation Plan for the State of California

In April 2015, the Institute of Medicine (IOM)1 and National Research Council (NRC) published Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. This report provides recommendations to “build a workforce that is unified by the foundation of the science of child development and early learning and the shared knowledge and competencies that are needed to provide consistent, high-quality support for the development and early learning of children from birth through age 8.”

Following the release of the report, the Innovation to Incubation program of the National Academy of Medicine organized a planning process for five states, including California, to develop plans for implementing key recommendations from the report. As part of this process, First 5 California and the California Department of Education, Early Education and Support Division convened a 30-person Action Planning Team to discuss the recommendations from the IOM and NRC report, identify key priorities for California, and develop a plan for advancing these priorities. This work was informed by a breadth of additional research and recommendations regarding California’s early childhood workforce, and aligned with multiple ongoing related efforts within the state.

GPG provided facilitation, coordination, writing, and research support for the nine-month planning process with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Additional resources for this project were provided by First 5 California.

The resulting plan, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: Implementation Plan for the State of California, was released by First 5 California and the California Department of Education in December 2016 (see the First 5 CA press release and CDE news release). This plan is intended to serve as a blueprint for implementing a fully developed and statewide system of certification, preparation, and support for California’s early childhood professionals. It contains actionable recommendations for creating systems-level change in three priority areas:

  1. Permitting and credentialing
  2. Professional pathways
  3. Higher education and ongoing professional learning.

GPG will continue to support a Core Team to guide implementation of the plan over the next several months. For additional information, visit California’s Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8 website:

1. The Institute of Medicine was renamed the “Health and Medicine Division” in March 2016.

GPG Associate Co-authors Article Published in IJREE – International Journal for Research on Extended Education

GPG Associate Dr. Mara Mahmood recently co-authored an article that was published in the International Journal for Research on Extended Education. Mara collaborated with Dr. Charles Underwood (UC Berkeley) and two Brazilian educators at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Dirce Pranzetti and Cecilia Toloza, to develop Animating Mastery: Navigational Play as Integrative Learning. The article describes an out-of-school program for street children in São Paulo, Brazil and provides an ethnographic account of how the program’s interactional framing of digital activities set the context for cognitive learning and social mastery among the children at Projeto Clicar.1

Projeto Clicar (Clicar) was dedicated to providing informal, largely technology-based, extended educational activities and sustained individual attention to children (ages five to 18) living and working in the streets of São Paulo. From 1996 until 2012, Clicar was located at Estação Ciência, an old factory converted into a science museum in Lapa, an impoverished neighborhood of São Paulo. Estação Ciência, until its recent closure, offered a wide variety of hands-on and digital activities, exhibits, and demonstrations illustrating scientific knowledge and inquiry. This museum was designed to offer exhibits and activities for school children and their teachers, but also set aside a portion of its space specifically for Projeto Clicar and the children it served. As part of the museum, Clicar operated Monday-Friday from about 12pm-6pm throughout the year and offered young people who faced severe conditions of social exclusion new learning tools and activities within the museum.

Animating Mastery follows a young boy, Paulo, and his peers, and their cumulative engagement with a computer game- the Lion King. To the authors, the Lion King game at first appeared rather uneducational, with little to offer for children’s cognitive development, but after a relatively short time, after observing the opportunities for social interaction afforded by the game, began to re-estimate its value as a tool for learning. In the context of Clicar, the children’s participation with the Lion King game was voluntary but by no means solitary. A child who played the game was continually observed, encouraged, critiqued, teased, prodded, and challenged by his or her peers, and guided both verbally and nonverbally on how to work the animation more skillfully. In this way, the children, both individually and collectively, gradually transformed the nature and scope of their participation in the activity – steadily learning new tricks and skills in navigating this animated world and in using digital tools in general.

As described in the article:

“The Lion King game appeared to be the only thing Paulo did at Projeto Clicar over a considerable period. For several days we watched Paulo, a newcomer to the program, as he played the game again and again, generally with one or two other children sitting beside him. By moving the mouse and directional keys to guide the pace of the lion cub, Paulo could make the game go faster or slower. In this way, he could make the game more exciting or be more cautious in the face of obstacles that appeared in Simba’s path. In the beginning, he usually chose the latter. He peered at the screen and seemed fascinated at first simply by the movement on the screen – the familiar character prancing along the animated landscape totally captured his attention. It was enough for him to watch the character move to the right or left. After a few minutes of this, however, the other, more experienced children would say to him, “Vai! Vai!” (Go! Go!). Paulo then worked the mouse to make the image move a little faster. In time, the movement of his hands and fingers changed. The way he held his arms changed. Adapted to a state of readiness, he began enjoying himself at a different level of activity – almost casual in his stance and movements. The movement of his hands and fingers became less reactive, less exaggerated in response to something unforeseen in the animated landscape, and subtler, more proactive as he looked ahead and poised for the next leap. Paulo himself began to assume the relaxed pose of a master.”

In Animating Mastery, many more moments are detailed and described that together illustrate not only Paulo’s mastery of the world of the Lion King but also the process by which the inclusionary social framework of Projeto Clicar enabled its participants to transform themselves and expand their learning.

For more information please contact Mara Mahmood

Underwood, C., Mahmood, M. W., Pranzetti, D. M., & Costa, M. C. T. D. O. (2016). Animating Mastery: Navigational Play as Integrative Learning. IJREE–International Journal for Research on Extended Education, 4(1).

1 This website is a Google Translate version of the original content in Portuguese ( and therefore not always an exact or accurate translation.

Contra Costa County Receives Smart Reentry Award from Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance

Contra Costa County has been awarded $1 million from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance, through the “Smart Reentry: Focus on Evidence-based Strategies for Successful Reentry from Incarceration to Community Program” to help communities develop strategies that increase formerly incarcerated individuals’ likelihood of successful reentry into their communities. The five-year project includes a 12-month planning period and an intensive evaluation component. Only five other jurisdictions were awarded funds from this program nationwide. Additional information is available in the DOJ Press Release.

The Contra Costa County proposal, led by the Probation Department, focuses on transitional aged youth (TAY), those aged 18-25, a population with the highest recidivism rate nationally in comparison to other age groups. According to the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, when released from prison, 78 percent of the TAY prison population nationwide is rearrested, with around half returning to prison within three years. Within Contra Costa County, this population constitutes the largest age cohort within the jail and experiences the high rates of homelessness out of jail, particularly in East County, where the program will be located.

Through this program, Contra Costa County intends to reduce the recidivism rate by providing developmentally-appropriate services addressing issues that include homelessness, lack of education and work experience, mental health issues, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders.

GPG is proud to have provided support to Contra Costa County in its pursuit of this grant and its endeavors to address the specific needs of the TAY reentry population within the county.

Richmond Police Department Receives Two Department of Justice Grants

The Richmond Police Department has won two highly competitive grant awards from the Department of Justice, one to provide additional body-worn cameras to Richmond police officers, and another for the hiring of five additional officers for the department.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman to hold the post, recently visited Richmond on her national tour aimed at highlighting positive police practices and restoring trust of law enforcement in communities. During her public comments, Lynch highlighted the Richmond Police Department’s early adoption of body-worn cameras, which went into effect this winter; training on implicit bias; and programs such as Operation Ceasefire, which addresses gun violence by bringing together police, probation officers, and community groups. “It’s clear to me that Richmond is working toward a holistic and comprehensive approach to criminal justice that is more than just an arrest but is trying to identify many of the causes that lead people to connect with the criminal justice system in the first place,” Lynch said.

Use of cameras worn on officer uniforms has the potential of enhancing transparency, accountability and credibility. Richmond received $150,000 to expand its body-worn camera program to all officers in the department. Richmond provided a matching amount of $150,000 to the federal award. Grant recipients must develop policies that address when the cameras are turned on, how videos are stored and what can be done to balance privacy considerations with public access to the huge quantity of footage that will be collected. They will also be expected to keep statistics to assess the effectiveness of cameras during the two-year grant period.

Richmond also received an award of $625,000 per year from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program for three years for the hiring of five additional officers for the Richmond Police Department.

Richmond continues to receive national recognition as a model of successful community and police relations. GPG is proud to have provided support to the Richmond Police Department in their pursuit of these grants, along with supporting resource development for Richmond’s Ceasefire program and other violence prevention efforts in the city of Richmond.

Celebrating the Release of the California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy

Blueprint for Environmental Literacy

Today, on September 15, 2015, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is unveiling a blueprint to strengthen the environmental literacy of California’s K-12 students. GPG is extremely proud to have supported this work for the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF) from June 2014-May 2015.

The California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy is the result of a statewide task force that met during 2014 and was composed of a wide variety of stakeholders including K-12 classroom teachers; school and district administrators; science, environmental, and outdoor educators; higher education faculty; and educational leaders from government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Superintendent Torlakson convened the task force to develop recommendations for how resources for environmental literacy should best be improved, expanded, coordinated, and integrated with new academic standards, and how these efforts should be financially supported.

Given the urgent need to address climate change, California’s drought, and other environmental problems, the time is ripe to put more energy, thought, and resources towards educating all California students about the environment.

There were several unique aspects to this effort. The task force included numerous staff from the California Department of Education (CDE), who attended all task force meetings and collaborated closely with task force members throughout the duration of the project. This collaboration sets California’s effort apart from similar efforts in other states. In addition, the task force occurred during a pivotal moment in California public education, with the adoption of new state standards that change how students are taught and the implementation of a new system of school financing that increases local control and flexibility over how dollars are spent. These sweeping changes, among others, provide important foundations for many of the recommendations in the Blueprint.

The Blueprint lays out a vision for integrating environmental literacy instruction with all other academic subjects, including social-science instruction and new California standards for English, math, and science; environmental literacy should no longer be a standalone topic, but rather a hands-on and compelling lens through which students can learn other subjects and be critically engaged in important issues in their community and the broader world. In addition, the report argues that all students must have access to the many kinds of experiences that build environmental literacy, including in the classroom, on school grounds, on field trips, and in the outdoors.

GPG was deeply involved in facilitating the work of the task force and developing the final blueprint. Between June 2014-May 2015 we:

  1. Planned, designed, and facilitated four in-person meetings of the task force;
  2. Facilitated six small task force work groups in developing content memos on specific topics such as access to different learning environments, professional learning, instructional materials, system integration, assessment, and sustainable funding;
  3. Designed and facilitated two listening sessions at major statewide conferences to gather input from other stakeholders;
  4. Facilitated several rounds of feedback with task force members and the CDE on the final report; worked to build consensus among members around key ideas; and incorporated feedback into Blueprint drafts; and
  5. Provided writing, research, and project management to develop the final California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, which contains actionable, detailed, and comprehensive recommendations for building a statewide system that supports environmental literacy for all K-12 students.

For a digital copy of the California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy please visit:

For the CDE press release about the Blueprint, please visit:

GPG extends deep thanks to those who participated in or supported this project, including the highly dedicated task force members and co-chairs, staff from the CDE, and the funders that supported this project: the Pisces Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and Ten Strands.