UnSystem Innovation Cohort


5 agencies representing 15 jurisdictions in 4 states
5 simultaneous experiments
Monthly in-person work sessions
3-year commitment to transformation
20 leaders and innovators fed-up with traumatizing families

From 2018 to 2021, the Alia UnSystem Innovation Cohort jurisdictions committed themselves to a shared aspiration, making big and small changes toward creating systems where:

Family connections are always preserved and strengthened.

Ten public child welfare agency leaders representing 5 jurisdictions and 14 counties were selected in 2017 to participate based on their commitment to family-honoring practice and their ability to redesign their systems.  


Each jurisdiction was paired with one professional and one lived experience guide. The guides were crucial to the process and brought broad and deep expertise of the child welfare system from inside and out, with professional and sometimes overlapping personal experience. Their contributions offered the needed bookends of our systems change perspective – from the widest view historically and geographically, to the most intimate and personal.

Team Alia, the Cohort agency leaders, and every Cohort guide committed to bringing UnSystem concepts, principles, and practices to reality on an agency and community-wide level. Over three years of practice (including during the COVID-19 lock-down), here is what they achieved together for the kids and families in their jurisdictions:

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A series of three case studies capture the work of the Cohort – what we did, what we learned, and what we achieved. Each report is packed with reflections on the change process for immediately applicable insights.

The principles of an UnSystem emerged from a gathering of 100+ innovative stakeholders from in and outside of child welfare at Ten of Ten for Kids, a 3 ½-day human centered design event Alia held in May 2017.

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