Geoff Knott


Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in a community

ACEs are stressful events occurring in childhood e.g. physical abuse, have lifelong impacts on health, behaviour. How can they be prevented?

This challenge is closed


This challenge is closed




Problem Statement

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful events occurring in childhood (see video above and list below) and have lifelong impacts on health, behaviour. 

In 1995, a survey of patients in a health plan looked at their health as adults and the childhood traumas they had experienced. Ten traumas were listed: 
Sexual; Verbal; Physical abuse; 
Emotional; Physical neglect; 
Parent who is mentally ill; an alcoholic; 
Mother is domestic violence victim; Family member jailed; Loss of parent by divorce or abandonment. 

When the doctor saw the results, “I saw how much people had suffered and I wept.” 

People with many ACEs have a increased risk of poor health, educational failure, imprisonment, addiction, etc. Four+ ACEs significantly increase the risk of a person: 
Developing cancer (x2); Being a current smoker (x2); Having sexually transmitted infections (x2.5); Using illicit drugs (x5); Being addicted to alcohol (x7); Attempting suicide (x12). 

This does not mean that these conditions will only appear in people with a high number of ACEs but the risk of them appearing is much higher. 

Other ACEs have been proposed since the original study e.g. racial abuse, poverty, bullying, etc. These are mostly societal / cultural and are NOT the subject of this Challenge. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences therefore are a root cause of trauma, result in wasted lives and are a huge cost to society.


Pain Point

Individuals, communities and society pay a huge cost in dealing with the effect of ACEs - wasted lives, premature death, effect on communities e.g. anti-social behaviour, healthcare, justice, education costs i.e. tax revenues. 

What are the root causes for the original ACEs?

The original ACEs (Sexual; Verbal; Physical abuse; Emotional; Physical neglect; Parent who is mentally ill; an alcoholic; Mother is domestic violence victim; Family member jailed; Loss of parent by divorce or abandonment), are mainly family-based

These also split into several categories; Abuse and neglect, Illness and addiction, Control issues, Criminality, Dysfunctional family relationships.

Some thoughts about why ACEs occur:

Firstly, parents can pass their ACEs on to their children (intergenerational trauma) because of their own learned behaviour/trauma. What could be done to raise awareness of the effect of their parenting and/or change their parenting approaches? Would helping them deal with their ACEs change their parenting?

Secondly, do parents generally (not just those with ACEs) know how to parent well and know about ACEs? Where do parents go for advice? One person with lived experience of ACEs told me their source of advice were other members of their family. Is that the norm? What can be done to change parenting behaviours? Could parents help other parents by demonstrating good practices i.e. change social norms?

Dysfunctional family relationships seem to be another root cause. How can good, stable family relationships be encouraged and created?

Much of what goes on behind family doors stays a secret. Children may not feel free to tell their parents, another family member or someone in the community. Would early disclosure prevent further ACEs? Are children's stories dismissed too readily? How can children be encouraged to speak out? Can early trauma be spotted?

Parents are often stressed due to work, finance, illness, etc., This could lead to lack of quality time with children, lack of patience, etc. How can stress be reduced within the family setting?

They say it takes a 'village' to raise a child. Has the sense of 'village' (the community) weakened? Could this have allowed ACEs to increase? How could you bring back the 'village' as something that prevents ACEs?  

Thinking about these and other root causes, how do we successfully engage one of these groups; youth (future parents), parents, caregivers e.g. grandparents in PREVENTING some of these ACEs in the first place, in a low-cost way?


Current Solutions

Legislation has been passed in 20+ US states and other countries have taken a Public Health approach. However, these approaches seem to focus on action by state agencies e.g. schools, police, healthcare, local government i.e. professionals.

This means the focus is in REDUCING the effect of ACEs once they have occurred. There seems to be very little focus on PREVENTION which naturally involves parents. 

State agencies are developing/have developed ‘trauma-informed practices’ to mitigate the effects – moving from ‘why did you do that?’ to ‘what has happened to you?’ approaches. These have had some effect e.g. reducing school exclusions.

Parenting courses might seem an obvious solution but personal research of initiatives by non-profits shows that attendance at these is very low for reasons explained further on.



You don’t need to be an expert to participate in this challenge. We’re looking for people who empathize deeply with this problem, want to explore it more thoroughly, believe that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can be prevented, and can communicate a clear idea / vision.


Challenge requirements:

We are looking for ideas that must address the question, "Thinking about the root causes identified above and others you may think of, how do we successfully engage one of these groups; youth (future parents), parents, caregivers e.g. grandparents in PREVENTING some of these ACEs in the first place, in a cost-effective way?"

We are looking for ideas that can be piloted in any community (which can be location based e.g. estate, township or a group defined by a common factor e.g. new parents, ethnicity). The ideas can describe a service or technology or a mixture of both. Obviously one can suggest ideas which would cost $Ms to implement but this is totally impractical. Think of what can be simply done by a community themselves, a non-profit or a social enterprise / B-Corp. 

It's no good to just say for example, 'hold parenting classes'. Attendance at these is historically very low due to time pressure, both parents needing to attend, privacy, pride, fear of judgement, apathy, etc. They may not attract parents with high ACEs. Think of such barriers in the community. Ideas should therefore show how such barriers can be overcome to engage large numbers in the selected community.

As you would expect, people with a high number of ACEs tend to migrate to deprived areas due to the effect of their trauma and they often pass their ACEs to their children (intergenerational trauma). Having said that, the original ACE study was with 17000 middle-class individuals in a health plan in the USA – this correlated the number of ACEs with increasing health conditions. So ACEs are prevalent in any population.

Teams/individuals can create multiple submissions e.g. a solution for one group and a different solution for another, a solution for one ACE for a group and a different solution for another.


Submit your idea(s)!

Each submission should:

  1. Identify the group and community type.
  2. Identify the ACE(s) you want to prevent.
  3. Describe your idea for successfully engage one of these groups; youth (future parents), parents, caregivers e.g. grandparents in preventing some of the ACEs. Your idea should be implementable within 12 months.
    1. If your idea involves technology, describe the interactive journey a user might take. Make sure that anyone with limited technical knowledge or limited access to technology could still use the system. Describe what assumptions you have made and how it could be tested. Describe how it would be propagated in the group and community and what resources would be required to do this.
    2. If your idea involves a service, product and/or campaign, describe this and discuss how it could help overcome existing attitudes or behaviours that cause the ACE(s) you are focused on. Describe what assumptions you have made and how it could be tested. Describe how such a service, product and/or campaign would be introduced in a group and community and what resources would be needed e.g. staff, physical space.
  4. Explain why and how you believe your submission can be successfully implemented. Mention any risks that might cause the project to fail. Summarize any online or in-person research you’ve done to understand this population, the effect of ACE(s) and what actions potentially could work.
  5. Explain the impact your idea will have on the group and community. Try to quantify this impact. Describe how you will measure this. Optionally, share proof-of-concept data showing implementation and testing of your proposed solution.
  6. Can this idea be implement with relatively little cost? Given one community, what are the cost elements that you foresee? How much would these roughly cost (in USD) in first year?
  7. Thinking of marketing and/or awareness raising, what headlines would you suggest in order to get the message across to the community? Assume average reading age is 8 years old. What channels, materials would you use?
  8. Describe how you would measure activities and outcomes (impact)?
  9. Describe how the community can be involved and implement this idea themselves. Describe the appropriateness of the idea given the culture of the group.
  10. Describe any behavioural science nudges, if any. Point to any research that could support these nudges.


Judging Criteria

Judges will be scoring submissions based on the following criteria and weights.  

  • Feasibility and Research: How feasible is this idea to implement in practice? Is it backed by research? 20%
  • Impact: Could this idea produce a lot of impact in preventing ACEs? 20%
  • Cost: Can this idea be implement with relatively little cost? 20%
  • Awareness raising potential and messaging: Does the idea create widescale awareness in the community of ACEs and their effects? How effective, easy to digest is the messaging suggested in the submission (assume average reading age is 8 years old)? 15%
  • Measurement: Does the idea contain feasible ways to measure impact? 10%
  • Community action and cultural fit: Is this something that the community can do themselves (rather than 'to' them)? Is it appropriate culturally? 10%
  • Behavioural Science used: If nudges are described, are they based on other case studies i.e. proven? 5%

In addition, the judges will discuss, based on their knowledge, how innovative is this idea or has it been tried many times before (and failed). Based on this assessment, the idea may be rejected.

The Submission Form also defines the percentage of marks given to each judging criteria.



There will be up to 5 prizes:

  • Highly Promising: Up to 5 teams/individuals will receive $500.

Teams may consist of up to 3 people; prizes awarded to a team should be divided evenly by the captain among the team's members.

See the Official Rules section below for more information about eligibility, prizes, and restrictions.



Participation Eligibility:

The challenge is open to all adult individuals and private teams. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (see:

No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of social work or paediatrics is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions. 

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

Registration and Submissions:

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the website, on or before the posted contest deadline. No late submissions will be accepted.

This challenge allows multiple submissions per individual/team. Should you have multiple entries to submit to this challenge, they will be considered separately. Whether or not multiple entries from the same individual or team may be chosen for a prize is up to the discretion of the Challenge Sponsor. You are not required to submit multiple entries, if that option is available.

Intellectual Property Rights:

As detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement, by entering, Innovator agrees that: (i) all Submissions become Challenge Sponsor's property and will not be returned; and (ii) Challenge Sponsor and its licensees, successors and assignees have the right to use any and all Submissions, and the names, likenesses, voices and images of all persons appearing in the Submission, for future advertising, promotion and publicity in any manner and in any medium now known or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity. 

Selection of Winners:

Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of but a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the determination of the Sponsor.

In the case of no winner, Sponsor reserves the right to withhold the Prize amount. In place of the original prize amount, Sponsor must issue a Consolation Prize to the team or individual closest to the winning solution in the amount of at least 15% of the total original prize purse.

Awarding of the Prize:

The Individual Submitter or Team Captain is automatically designated as the Recipient of the prize monies. The Individual’s or Captain’s name must also match the Authorized Person on the receiving Bank Account. No changes are permitted to the prize Recipient after the Submission Deadline date. If you wish to change who would receive the prize monies, those changes must be completed prior to the Submission Deadline. View our Knowledge Base article here for how to change Team Captains.

Judging Panel:

The determination of the winners will be made by the Sponsor.


Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to adhere to the HeroX Intellectual Integrity Policy and promises to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.



Challenge Updates

Results of judging the submissions for the Challenge: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in a community

Feb. 8, 2022, 4:52 a.m. PST by Geoff Knott


Thank you for your interest in Preventing ACEs and a special thank you for those that made a submission.

The judges have reviewed those submissions and have unfortunately agreed that there is no winner. 

Entries were either ineligible i.e. did not meet the guidelines or scored low against the judging criteria.

We realise this will be disappointing but we hope that you have enjoyed the Challenge and learned much about ACEs.

Kind regards,

One week to go!

Jan. 22, 2022, 4:30 a.m. PST by Geoff Knott


Counting down!

There is now only ONE WEEK left to submit your solution for the Preventing ACEs Challenge.

Don't put your preparation off. The deadline is 30TH JANUARY. 

We'd hate to think you worked hard on a submission, just to miss the deadline by a hair (that's right - no late-night, sad email exceptions - the cut-off on this platform is out of our control!).

All that aside, thank you so much to all of you for your interest and your desire to make a difference. The wisdom of the crowd is nothing without the crowd, and that's you!

We can't wait to see the best solutions.

May you have inspiration,


Two weeks to go!

Jan. 14, 2022, 4:42 a.m. PST by Geoff Knott


How are the ideas coming?

There are now only TWO WEEKS left to submit your solution for the Preventing ACEs Challenge.

Don't put your preparation off. Be sure to have at least 75% of your submission complete a full week before the deadline of 30th January for maximum flexibility. We'd hate to think you worked hard on a submission, just to miss the deadline by a hair (that's right - no late-night, sad email exceptions - the cut-off on this platform is real!).

All that aside, thank you so much to all of you for your interest and your desire to make a difference. The wisdom of the crowd is nothing without the crowd, and that's you!

We can't wait to see the best solutions.

May you have inspiration,


Getting inspiration

Jan. 5, 2022, 2:20 a.m. PST by Geoff Knott

When looking at a problem, some ideation techniques can help. These exercises can make the process productive and fun. 

Ideation techniques are often used to create a list of as many solutions as possible, which a team can then narrow to the most viable options.

Often teams major on well-used techniques such as brainstorming, mind-mapping, etc., but there are other exercises which perhaps are less well known:

Reverse thinking or worst ideas

This technique flips the logic of ideation upside down: instead of thinking of the best way to solve the problem, we think of the way to worsen the problem, a way to create more problems, and so on.

This technique removes that fear because it welcomes bad ideas. It often provides a more fun environment, as participants try to entertain one another and use their creativity to create ridiculous ideas.

Once your team pitches their worst ideas, list the attributes that make those ideas bad. Now the participants must think about the opposites of those negative attributes to find what would turn those bad ideas into possible solutions. Even just discussing the worst ideas can lead to connections or sources of inspiration that can lead to positive solutions, demonstrating their unexpected value.

Use the power of analogies

Finding similarities in different things and differences in similarities.

First of all, you have to phrase the situation that you are working on. Secondly, we come up with an analogy, an example from a different sphere where the situation is somehow similar. When we have found a good analogy, we focus on it and stop thinking about the initial issue for a while.

Team members think of ways to solve the new situation. The ideas are collected and later applied to the initial problem. Some of them might not be applicable, whilst others can bring a completely new solution.


Mixing two unrelated things to come up with new ideas.

Where do we find these unrelated things? First of all, we have to make a problem statement or the question (by the way, defining the problem properly is crucial for the other ideation techniques as well). The question should start with “How might we”. For example, “How might we make our customers order their medicines for delivery?”.

After that, we pick two categories. One of them should be related to our topic, another — not related at all. Let’s say it can be “pharmacies” and “Disneyland”. Give your team a few minutes to create a list of all the things that come to mind under each category.

Then take one item from each category and combine them in an unexpected way: for example, “painkillers sold by Mickey Mouse”. Don’t expect each combination to be a potential answer to the initial question. The objective is to generate new ideas, and only then evaluate them and see if there is something real.

Strange Child

What if one organization involved in the problem had a strange child with another organization, taking taking the unique things that they both do to create something strange but unique?

Start by thinking of an organization or initiative operating in the problem area i.e. ACEs e.g. schools, parenting classes, health service, etc. Then think of a business with a unique proposition or business model and think of all the things that make it unique. For example, Netflix have (or had) things that make them unique; monthly subscription model, creation of their own content in-house or personalized recommendations using your data.

Strange child asks one fundamental question; 'What if we took these unique factors and combined them with the services of the organisation operating in the problem area?'.

By smashing the offerings of businesses together you can create something that is often more than the sum of its parts.


There are many more such techniques but I hope these give you ways to think about the problem in a new way!

Happy ideating


Behavioural nudges

Dec. 27, 2021, 1 a.m. PST by Geoff Knott

This article is not directly related to ACEs but gives examples of how behavioural nudges were used to improve the reading age of young children. This could spark ideas about nudges that could prevent ACEs.


Many reports have stressed how important it is for parents to read regularly to children under 5 as a predictor of good attainment.

How could this be encouraged?

Evidence suggests that wealthier parents spend more time engaging with their children, particularly when it comes to educational activities. The speculation is that low-income parents, strapped for time and money, may be so focused on immediate needs that they are forced to ignore other important considerations. Failing to connect with their children can have costly long-term implications.

Researchers from the Universities of Chicago and Toronto held an experiment that used behavioural nudges to encourage parents to engage more with their children. The participants in the study were 169 parents whose children were enrolled in a subsidized preschool program. All 169 parents received electronic tablets that were pre-loaded with over 500 children’s books and kept track of the amount of time parents read to their kids using the device. In addition, a randomly-selected subset of these parents received various 'nudges'.

On average, parents who received 'nudges' read 88.3 minutes more to their children than parents in the control group—an increase of over 100%.

What were the 'nudges'?

The program consisted of three nudges:

  1. Parents were asked to set a 'minutes' reading goal at the beginning of each week. Then, at the end of each week, parents were informed how many minutes they had read to their children using the device. They also received a congratulatory text when they reached their reading goal.
  2. A daily text message that stressed the importance of reading to children, and encouraged parents to do it more.
  3. A mass text message to all parents that commended the parent who had read the most in a given week.

The experiment shows that behavioural nudges can increase parental engagement and benefit children. It is important to note, though, that the sample for the study was drawn from a self-selected group of parents, who valued preschool programs enough to enrol their children in one. However, gains could be significant if the results hold true for all.


More nudge examples are shown in the Wiki link above.