The Glories HATS Project® - A Social Innovation

Children’s health and the environment lie at the center of sustainable development and economic competitiveness. With health, education and workforce readiness interdependent systems. Yet across the United States, one in four children suffers from a neurological problem and this is just the tip of the iceberg.1

Research on both toxic stress and environmental hazards show the vulnerability of the developing brain to a wide range of clinical effects, including reduction in intelligence, impairment in reasoning ability, shortening of attention span, and alteration of behavior.2

The biology of human development is a rapidly moving scientific frontier showing both early stress and multiple, even minute exposures to neurotoxins can impact brain architecture.

This impact is shown to lead to a broad range of lifelong problems in both physical and mental health that impose devastating long-term chronic health and financial costs.3

Even mild degrees of impaired social functioning can have very important adverse effects in a child’s ability to develop the personal effectiveness, workforce, management and leadership competencies necessary for success in today’s fast-moving economy.

As a result, large numbers of youth with diminished capacity, who are under or unemployed, can have consequences in the form of social and aggregate economic distress.4

Adolescence has long been recognized as a period of heightened risk-taking and the health of adolescents is strongly affected by social factors at personal, family, community, and national levels.5

Since health and health behaviors correspond strongly between adolescence and adult life, the way that these social determinants impact adolescent health and their immediate outlook and long-term integration into a fast-moving economy is crucial to the future health of the entire population and the economic development of the nation6.

There is an unrelenting need to address these issues because, in today’s economic environment, adolescents will need the ability to deliberately shape their lives.7

Social innovation is a means to address these challenges.8

The Glories HATS Project® (GHP®) uses a social innovation framework to ignite a positive, respected, and reciprocal relationship between youth and healthcare professionals. This important bond is central to the significance of the GHP® because it provides the context in which we introduce:

  • a new product: the Glories hat – created by youth -- a symbol of peer-support for hospitalized children – a therapeutic psycho-social resource for patient care teams
  • a new process: an embedded community-based GHP® assembly system, forging project-based learning with Information Communication Technologies (ICT) linking youth, as respected resources, with hospital neuroscience units, medical professionals, medical researchers, and patients, to construct channels of empathy, teamwork, leadership, and issue awareness
  • a new way of thinking: encourages youth to learn, engage, and translate qualified environmental and health information into the community in local manageable empathetic entrepreneurial endeavors that raise issue awareness in support of children’s health and the environment

The Glories HATS Project® (GHP®) partners with children’s hospitals and their surrounding school districts to insert program materials (HATS Headquarters®) in multiple school sites arranged in a satellite configuration around the hospital to create a region-wide, youth-led ripple effect.

GHP® activates a multi-year, on-site, project-based, and incremental series of hands-on activities (four rotations of 10 ninety minute sessions, per site, per academic year), where youth:

  1. build teams to assemble Glories hats and “fill them with happy thoughts!”;
  2. utilize ICT to interact simultaneously with medical and healthcare professionals who show great appreciation for Glories hats and share health and environmental information;
  3. plan, organize, and lead community-wide GHP® workshops and health fairs in their communities;
  4. donate Glories hats for sick children to “wear a Glories hat and think happy thoughts!“ and
  5. use ICT to share best-practice with other GHP® sites.

GHP® evaluates:

  1. community levels of issue awareness on children’s health and the environment;
  2. pre and post levels of youth’s perceptions of self-efficacy and empathy before and after each GHP® ten session program;
  3. changes in perception of personal agency and initiative before and after their community leadership events that emphasize skill-building in empathy, teamwork, leadership and entrepreneurial problem-solving and
  4. quantify the value added impact of Glories hats in hospital patient care in areas of compliance, patient centric care, doctor/patient communication, and hospital length of stay.

Positioning youth as sole source creators of Glories hats, GHP® provides a relevant, high-quality, respected experience for youth to see the value they add to their communities at the time they are shaping their understanding of the human experience.

GHP® strategically increases their individual and collective self-efficacy, and strengthens and develops the entrepreneurial skills required to become self-reliant (initiative and personal agency).

Though GHP®, the well-being of both sick children and the health and life outcomes of GHP® participants are accelerated, implying a value-added economic return for hospitals and, in the long run, for the community, and the nation as a whole.9

At capacity, GHP’s® program delivery design looks to embed HATS Headquarters® in 6000 existing high school youth sites + 12000 middle and elementary school sites across the nation to actively link 3,400,000+ children and adolescents to qualified health professionals as caring role models guided by 300 children’s hospitals actively treating 6 million pediatric in-patients per year.  


1Lawrence W. Brown, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and President of the Child Neurology Foundation., February 21, 2012 (Minneapolis, MN)

2 Eric I. Knudsen, James J. Heckman, Judy L. Cameron, and Jack P. Shonkoff. Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce. PNAS, Jul 2006; 103: 10155 -

3 Westley Frances and Antadze Nino (2010), “Making a Difference: Strategies for Scaling Social Innovation for Greater Impact”, The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Vol. 15 (2).

4 Westley Frances and Antadze Nino (2010), “Making a Difference: Strategies for Scaling Social Innovation for Greater Impact”, The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Vol. 15 (2).

5 The Science of Adolescent Risk-taking, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, the National Academies Press, Washington, DC 2011

6 Lancet. 2012 Apr 28;379(9826):1641-52. Epub 2012 Apr 25, Adolescence and the social determinants of health, Viner RM, Ozer EM, Denny S, Marmot M, Resnick M, Fatusi A, Currie C., UCL Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK.,

7 Eric I. Knudsen, James J. Heckman, Judy L. Cameron, and Jack P. Shonkoff. Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce. PNAS, Jul 2006; 103: 10155 - 10162. Retrieved 11/08/2012 from

8 Social innovation is a complex process of introducing new products, processes or programs that profoundly change the basic routines, resource and authority flows, or beliefs of the social system in which the innovation occurs. Such successful social innovation has durability and broad impact.
9 Larson, R. W., Wilson, S., Brown, B. B, Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., & Verma, S. (2002). Changes in adolescents’ interpersonal experiences: Are they being prepared for adult relationships in the twenty-first century? Journal of Research on Adolescence, 12, 31–68.  

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