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Scholars have long argued that true flourishing stems from improving one’s character. Indeed, a variety of interventions that increase virtue (gratitude, generosity, curiosity, compassion) are known to significantly improve wellbeing. The goal of our proposal is to test whether this kind of character development can be leveraged to improve flourishing at scale in adolescents— a population with rampant declines in flourishing over the last decade— within the context of two different communities of practice: individual schools (direct-to-educator model) and specific flourishing-focused online communities (direct-to-adolescent model).

We plan to develop The Science of Flourishing for Teens (SFT), an educational resource for adolescents that explores the link between character development and flourishing. Our resource builds on The Science of Wellbeing, a course we developed previously for adults that was wildly successful in both popularity (3.6 million learners to date) and effectiveness in improving flourishing at scale (Yaden et al, 2021).

The current project will develop a teen version of this content, along with new complementary multimedia content specifically focused on character virtue development for online distribution in different communities of practice. We will then test the effectiveness of these resources for improving flourishing and character development at scale.

We will thus learn: (1) whether character virtue can be leveraged to improve teen flourishing, (2) whether such virtues are the core lever by which flourishing increases, and (3) what role communities of practice play in these flourishing increases (comparing a top-down direct-to-educator model vs a direct-to-adolescent model). In addition to supporting new content development/distribution and research, Foundation support will crucially enable us to devote real attention to organizational strength (professional development, technical infrastructure, consultations) as we grow.