Claire and Fourth R
Claire Crooks, is the Director of the Centre for School Mental Health and a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Western.

Healthy relationship program highlights WORLDiscoveries success

on September 19, 2022

The Fourth R is a comprehensive school-based program designed to include students, teachers, parents, and the community in addressing youth violence and bullying, unsafe sexual behaviour, and substance use.

Based on the idea that education needs to involve more than the traditional three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – the Fourth R stands for relationships. The program emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships in stopping violence.

The Fourth R was developed at Western’s Centre for School Mental Health and London’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health by researchers David Wolfe, Claire Crooks, Ray Hughes, and Peter Jaffe. The curriculum and has been adopted by more than 5,000 schools in Canada and the U.S.

“The best part has been working with educators, administrators, community mental health professionals, child protection professionals, and folks from the youth justice system right across the country to make our resources as locally relevant and feasible to implement as possible,” said Crooks of the Fourth R Project, which has been running for 20 years now.

The Fourth R consists of curriculum and learning materials promoting healthy youth relationships by building the capacity of schools and communities through innovative programming, research, education and consultation.

Crooks, the Director of the Centre for School Mental Health and a Professor in the Faculty of Education at Western now heads up the initiative and continues to develop updates and new research to contribute to the curriculum.

Crooks and a team of researchers is currently working on adaptations and evaluations of the Healthy Relationships Plus program for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in school and community settings, as well as looking at fit and feasibility in the youth justice system.

Another major focus of her work is on developing and evaluating culturally-relevant, strengths-based approaches with Indigenous youth.

“We have learned to be flexible because education has changed, curriculum standards change, the issues facing youth change, and the policy context changes,” said Crooks.

The team is proud of how they have been able to scale up and out in terms of the number of youths reached – with curricula spanning grades seven to nine for both the public and Catholic school systems, in addition to small group formats and two mentoring programs for Indigenous youth.

The Fourth R and a diverse portfolio of licensed technologies that range from medical imaging technology to paediatric hearing aid prescription software are all factors that contribute to another banner year in revenues for WORLDiscoveries.

WORLDiscoveries, the business development arm of a research partnership between Western, Robarts Research Institute and Lawson, moved to fifth place, from sixth, in the Canadian rankings of AUTM, which works with more than 800 research institutions worldwide.

WORLDiscoveries returned $6.4-million in revenue from a portfolio of 207 licences, 44 of which were signed in 2020, the most recent rankings measurement period.

“We have had another record year in terms of revenue and making an impact on bringing technologies and innovations to market. Successful translation of university research to market is an important way to building a vibrant commercialization-focused community at Western” said Souzan Armstrong, Executive Director for WORLDiscoveries.

Management of the Fourth R’s operations was assigned to WORLDiscoveries in 2020, which involved building a new website and electronic delivery system for the program’s 100 products tailored to both Canadian and American school boards.

“The WORLDiscoveries team helped me understand that commercialization meant we could provide resources and services to a much larger number of organizations and schools. It also took a lot of pressure off my research team to try to maintain an inventory, pack, ship and invoice clients – all things that we are not really set up to do as a research centre,” said Crooks of the transition.

Crooks encourages researchers interested in commercialization to work with end users and potential customers as early as possible.

“Too often in our field, researchers and program developers come up with a product and then try to start making it attractive to customers. You need to understand the different levels of decision-makers, their needs, preferences, and mandates, and the logistics of the setting where the product will eventually be used,” she said.

Support for the Fourth R and other direct-to-market products are just some of the services WORLDiscoveries offers to researchers across London.

The department also offers expertise in patenting technologies, formulating intellectual property strategies, product development, licensing, and new company startups.

ecommHealthy relationship program highlights WORLDiscoveries success