Participate in WellAhead’s co-design phase to improve the social and emotional well-being of youth in British Columbia.

Today we’re excited to launch the Ideas platform for WellAhead, a philanthropic initiative seeded by The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation that aims to improve youth mental health by integrating social and emotional well-being in school communities. For the past four weeks, our community partners have hosted several co-design sessions across the province of British Columbia, bringing together students, parents, community members, educators, school administrators and staff to share their lived experiences and to come up with solutions to improve youth mental health. The platform showcases 20 ideas developed within six school districts in British Columbia—Coquitlam, Sea to Sky, Victoria, Okanagan Skaha, Alberni, and Nisa’a—that have been selected by their respective communities.

Now we need your help. How can we make these ideas better? Have you tried any of these practices before? What worked? What didn’t? Between today and November 23, we’re asking the wider community to share its stories and feedback to help us select which ideas to prototype in schools beginning in January 2016. Your input will directly shape the impact of our school communities and is invaluable to the process, as mass participation is one of WellAhead’s core values.

wellahead mars solutions lab
Sample ideas from the Ideas platform

You may notice that all of the school districts’ ideas follow a theme: they are simple, they are relatively easy to implement and they focus on individuals enacting positive actions every day. This is because, in Year 1, WellAhead will be focusing on everyday practices—that is, sustainable, scalable approaches to advancing student well-being that do not require major resources to implement, that fit naturally within the roles and skill sets of educators and school partners, and that build upon existing assets and capabilities.

WellAhead is focusing on everyday practices because, during the initiative’s consultation and research phase, we found that many schools and communities were interested in advancing the well-being of students, but were often reliant on external solutions to do so, which sometimes resulted in well-being being viewed as an add-on. At the same time, we also found that educators and administrators were able to recognize and reflect on the little things they did every day and the perceived value these actions had for students. Because of this, we wanted to put some resources into better understanding how these actions, which build upon the existing assets and capabilities of schools, actually impact student well-being and whether they help to integrate an approach to well-being in schools.

Log on now to participate. Like, comment and share these ideas!

For more information about the initiative, please visit the WellAhead website. Connect with us by signing up for our newsletter or by engaging with us via Twitter.

If you have any questions about the initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me at



The MaRS Solutions Lab formally partnered with The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in May 2015 to realize the WellAhead initiative and to support its communications and social innovation labs methodologies. Along with Joeri van den Steenhoven and Jerry Koh, director and manager of the MaRS Solutions Lab, respectively, we have learned many lessons over the past few months and we will be sharing our tools and insights here on this blog in the near future. Stay tuned!