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Promoting Social-Emotional Competence of School-Age Children: Overview of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati Project

For the past two years, DCRC has partnered with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC) in an innovative project designed to measure and promote the social-emotional competency of children in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region. The UWGC is leading this cross-sector collaborative partnership intended to support the UW’s Education Bold Goal that by 2020, at least 85% of youth graduate from high school prepared for life, college, and career.

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Research has clearly shown that social skills in children are critical to student success both in school and in life, and is associated with a variety of positive outcomes in behavior, well-being, and academic performance (Durlak et al., 2011).  The UWGC project is an example of a collective impact initiative, in which partners come together to address and achieve a large-scale impact.  Collective impact initiatives are distinct in that they 1) share a common agenda, 2) share common measurement systems, 3) include activities that are coordinated and mutually reinforcing, 4) include continuous communication, and 5) have a backbone organization for the coordination and management of the entire initiative (Hanleybrown, Kania, & Kramer, 2012).

To help meet UW’s Education Bold Goal, the UWGC selected the DESSA-mini as their common measurement tool to assess the social-emotional competencies of children and youth in kindergarten through 8th grade across 22 after-school, youth development, and prevention/intervention UW partner agencies.  In addition to their use of the DESSA-mini, the partner agencies participated in an ongoing community of learning in which they shared their results, ideas, and experiences with their efforts to promote the social-emotional competence of the children and youth within their programs.

During the pilot year of the project (2012-2013) approximately 4,000 children were assessed pre and post across the partner agencies.  Notably, results showed that nearly 300 children and youth were moved out of the “need” range and into the social-emotional “typical” or “strength” ranges, indicating the positive impact being made within these programs.  Data will soon be available for Year 2 of the project, while the UWGC learning community continues to share and expand their efforts.  For more information on this exciting project, please visit

by Jennifer Fleming, Research Associate with DCRC


Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405-432.
Hanleybrown, F., Kania, J. & Kramer, M. (2012). Channeling change: Making collective impact work. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Available online at:


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