Track: Health and Well-Being

Level of Learning: Learner

We all need and deserve wellbeing—a set of core assets and experiences that research and human understanding demonstrate are universally required, in combination, for health and hope. But we don’t all have equitable access to wellbeing, and the results are perpetuated cycles of poverty, violence, trauma, and oppression, even when everyone is doing exactly what they are supposed to.

This dynamic, action oriented-workshop will explore exactly what wellbeing means in this context through exploration of the Five Domains of Wellbeing, an evidence-informed universal framework that incorporates trauma, asset-based approaches, youth development, family systems, and community impact.

The session will have particular emphasis on the core element of “tradeoffs.” Tradeoffs recognizes that sustaining change—for any of us—comes with tradeoffs. We make change when we think the tradeoffs will be worth it or when we are mandated to; we sustain changes when they are worth it. This workshop will explore how systemic forcing of tradeoffs is endemic and undermines lasting change, as well as how systemic attention to tradeoffs may significantly alter systemic behavior and people’s outcomes, without adding new programs. The workshop will use illustrative examples and preliminary data to illustrate how attention to tradeoffs can support change that lasts, as well as gain insight into the purpose of behavior (e.g., gang involvement) and new ways of intervening. The relationship between increasing access to wellbeing, reducing tradeoffs, and greater equity will also be explored.

Participants will gain an understanding of how wellbeing cracks open new possibilities for addressing a range of entrenched social challenges through exploration of “bright spots,” such as Missouri’s juvenile justice, child welfare, and family court systems (St. Louis), all working to fundamentally shift organizational culture, practice, and policy and improve outcomes. Participants will experience how deeply different every partnership is and how much the work is really tailored to the needs and strengths of families.

As an action-oriented workshop, participants will gain skills in identifying tradeoffs in their own and other’s lives, and will identify first steps to begin the journey to focus on wellbeing.  

Learning Objectives 

  • Learn a new definition and conceptualization of wellbeing
  • The relationship between focusing on wellbeing and breaking cycles of poverty, violence, trauma, and oppression
  • The range of ways that wellbeing is already being applied for social and systems change
  • Practice skills in identifying tradeoffs, a key first step in ensuring that change lasts
  • Set three to five early action steps for applying new skills


  • Katya Fels Smyth, CEO and founder, Full Frame Initiative (@katyaFFI)

Katya Fels Smyth
CEO and Founder
Full Frame Initiative

Katya has more than 20 years’ experience supporting new approaches to addressing the intersection of poverty, violence, trauma and oppression. In the early 1990s, the hit-and-run of a guest of the shelter she was co-directing, which went uninvestigated by police, combined with the advice and vision of other shelter guests, led her to found On the Rise. On the Rise was widely recognized for its Full Frame approach to working with women facing homelessness, trauma, and crisis.

In 2007, Fels Smyth left to work on what would become the Full Frame Initiative (FFI). She launched FFI’s systemic collaborations, which are bringing a wellbeing orientation to Missouri’s juvenile justice and child welfare systems and the St. Louis County courts. It also is being used for a multi-system effort in Massachusetts to reframe the government’s approach to the intersection of homelessness, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

A former Research Affiliate with MIT’s Co-Lab, Research Fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Echoing Green Fellow, and Claneil Foundation Emerging Leaders Fellow, Fels Smyth speaks, publishes, and advocates nationally for addressing poverty, violence, trauma, and oppression by removing barriers to wellbeing. She has an honorary doctorate of divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School.