Innovation in Action

Within the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) network, researchers, practitioners, and community members co-create and evaluate new ideas in a diversity of project settings.

The work of FOI is guided by the theory that we must build the capabilities of adults in order to achieve significant outcomes for the children in their care. These same capabilities also enhance adults’ employability and increase the economic and social stability of the family, thereby further reducing sources of family stress. Expanding adult capabilities also improves their capacities as caregivers, enabling them to help young children build effective coping skills to overcome adversity and strengthen the foundations of lifelong resilience. Building on this evolving theory of change, we view the communities in which families raise children as important contexts for designing and testing new strategies for enhancing protective factors and reducing identified sources of toxic stress that impose enormous burdens on parents of young children.

Programs by Area of Focus

Each project helps test FOI’s overarching theory that we must build adult capabilities to improve outcomes for children through a more specific theory of change that targets the unmet needs of particular subpopulations. The following categories represent different areas of focus within the Frontiers of Innovation portfolio. Within each category, you’ll find selected project examples, with details about their theories of change, activities, and what we have learned from them so far.

Programs by Name

The following featured projects represent different areas of focus within the Frontiers of Innovation portfolio. You can also view an interactive version of the FOI portfolio, organized by project developmental stage and number of participants reached.

A coach filming a mother and children in a home setting. Photo courtesy of FIND.


Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND) is a video coaching program that aims to strengthen positive interactions between caregivers and children. It uses select clips of adults engaging with children to reinforce developmentally supportive interactions, or “serve and return.”

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The Intergenerational Mobility Project

By applying science to social service program design, the Intergenerational Mobility Project seeks to mitigate the effects of poverty and its associated stressors in order to support motivated low-income families as they work their way across the economic divide.

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Two women and child looking through books

MOMS Partnership®

The MOMS (Mental health Outreach for MotherS) Partnership® is a multi-neighborhood, community-driven partnership that develops interventions to meet the mental health needs of under-resourced, overburdened mothers in at-risk neighborhoods.

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This project supports parents as they work with their children to build regular family routines. By focusing on real-life daily situations such as bedtime and mealtime, this intervention seeks to strengthen executive function skills in adults and children, while also increasing predictability within young children’s lives.

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Man and boy doing puzzle together

Urban Thinkscape

Urban Thinkscape transforms neighborhood spaces into opportunities for playful learning by infusing them with activities that challenge the mind while encouraging caregiver-child interactions.

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A mother and daughter play with toys together.

Forming Bonds in Adversity: Fast-Cycle Iteration in Action

Supportive, responsive relationships with adults are integral to a child’s early development. But when caregivers themselves experience ongoing, extreme stress, their capacity for responsiveness can be undermined. Formação de Vínculo na Adversidade (“Forming Bonds in Adversity”) seeks to address this challenge in Fortaleza, Brazil.

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Dad giving baby a bath

Very Cool Dads: Co-Creation in Action

This program, based at Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City, enables low-income, working fathers who have demanding work schedules and children younger than 6 months old to take on a more active role in their babies’ lives.

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