By: Alan Bernstein
7 Oct, 2016
Next month, CIFAR will convene nearly a hundred researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and civil society organizations in London for the CIFAR Forum on the Well-Being of the World’s Children.
The purpose of the CIFAR Forum is threefold. First, we are bringing together researchers, funders and implementers from around the world to identify opportunities for a new research agenda around child well-being. Second, we will explore possible future directions and activities for CIFAR to work in partnership with new institutions and organizations. And third, we are confident that the CIFAR model can help to bring an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the challenge of children’s well-being.
The need for a forum like this is obvious. Whether we’re looking at children who are chronically undernourished in rural India, or traumatized by war in Syria, or suffering neglect or abuse in Canada, the world’s children face major challenges that will affect their life trajectories. Research can provide some of the evidence we need to give them help, but we have to figure out the right questions to ask, and the right ways to implement the answers we find.
We decided to hold the CIFAR Forum for a number of reasons. We already have tremendous research experience in related areas. For example, our Child & Brain Development (CBD) program has made important progress in understanding the epigenetics of early childhood experience and its effect on future health and well-being. W. Thomas Boyce, who is co-director of the CBD program, will bring insights from the program forward as co-chair of the forum’s advisory council.
CIFAR also brings more than 30 years of experience putting together people from across disciplines and from around the world to tackle important and complex problems. We’ve learned from that experience that a diversity of perspectives can raise questions and lead to solutions that would never occur to an individual or even a group of people with similar backgrounds.
The Forum takes CIFAR’s approach and extends it by convening preeminent researchers from academia, working international organizations and NGOs – some of which have experience with action-oriented service delivery – together with government and non-governmental funders. We’re fortunate to have attracted the generous support of Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We recognize that with a problem this important and complex, all sectors have a role to play in finding and realizing solutions.
We realize that, by itself, a single two-day forum won’t solve the problems of the world’s children. But we hope it will begin the conversation. And we plan on following up on the Forum, exploring how it might turn into a more sustained effort.
I’m excited about this entirely new CIFAR initiative. It builds on our core competency as a convener, and combines it with our growing international reach and determination to have an impact on the world. I look forward to seeing the effort bear fruit. And I promise to keep you updated.
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.