The operational framework of the Institute includes a social systems perspective of the characteristics and consequences of life experiences, a strength- and asset-based perspective of human development, a major emphasis on the promotion and enhancement of positive aspects of human functioning, and capacity building as the way in which the success of Institute activities and initiatives is judged.
A social systems framework is a conceptual and theoretical model for viewing a developing person as embedded in the contexts of different social settings and for understanding the person and environmental factors having development-enhancing or development-impeding characteristics and consequences. The particular social systems framework used by the Institute frames an understanding of human growth and development in terms of the environmental factors that can be used as experiences and opportunities to promote positive changes in child, parent, and family functioning.
Asset- and strengths-based refers to the manner in which people's interests, abilities, capacities, talents, etc. are used as a foundation for strengthening existing functioning and promoting acquisition of new capabilities. Both our research and practice consider assets and strengths as person factors shaping and influencing the behavior and development of a person. We also consider the assets and strengths of one person as the contexts for sources of development-enhancing experiences and opportunities for others.
Promotion and enhancement are the processes (practices, interventions, strategies, etc.) used to optimize positive changes in human functioning. Identification of the characteristics of the environmental experiences and opportunities that promote and enhance child, parent, and family development constitutes a major focus of Institute research activity. The use of this information for informing practices is one way the research-to-practice gap is bridged.
Capacity building refers to methods, strategies, and techniques that promote active participation of learners in becoming producers of their own behavior and development. Both our research and practice emphasize child, parent, and family participatory learning opportunities as an approach to capacity building, and both the learner's acquisition of competence and a sense of his or her own capabilities as the desired outcomes of development-enhancing experiences and opportunities.