Fostering inclusion among ALL youth through the development of a framework for inclusive mindsets and behaviors

Special Olympics

Grounded in both research and practice, we have developed a framework for inclusive mindsets and behaviors that will serve as a foundations for the development of curriculum, strategies, and measures that can be used across contexts to foster social inclusion and positive outcomes in school, sport, and community settings.

Last Updated: December 2023
Competition Participation
100 & Change logo
Disabled persons' rights
  • Argentina
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Rwanda
  • Adolescents
  • Children & Youth (0-18 yrs.)
  • People with disabilities
  • 3. Good health and well-being
  • 4. Quality education
  • 10. Reduced inequalities

Executive Summary

Inclusive Mindsets & Behaviors (IMB) is a major intellectual and conceptual breakthrough that will illuminate and transform how global policymakers and educators think about DEI, Global Sustainability, School Climate & Culture, SEL and Youth Development. With renewed interest in barriers to DEI and the need for concrete solutions for meeting global development goals, IMB has the potential to advance these critical issues in two important ways: (1) IMB counters and neutralizes the weaponized words of the extreme political left and right that currently dominates the DEI conversation; and (2) IMB offers an evidence-based programming framework that supports implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

We believe that there is an "inclusive mindset” that encompasses not only dimensions of self-perception but also the perceptions of others and of social norms. We also believe an inclusive mindset is a combination of self-defining values and social, emotional, and cognitive skills. IMB provides an explanatory framework for understanding the basis for inclusive behavior among children and youth, but more importantly, it offers educators and coaches a way to understand young people’s tendency to reach out to those who are different from themselves. Our work and evidence suggest that such a mindset is malleable, meaning it can be developed. Inclusive mindsets may therefore be of interest to educators and scholars who are studying constructs such as belonging, compassion, and social connection/cohesion and trust. As part of a larger strategy to advance social and emotional development, we posit that inclusive mindsets are a way for teachers, coaches, parents, and young people themselves to advance critical skills, improve school climate, and promote a strong connection with families and youth-serving organizations. We also believe that an inclusive mindset may be both teachable and measurable and is therefore an important approach for advancing educators’ goals of reducing between-group tensions, bullying, and loneliness, while increasing a sense of safety in schools and other youth settings.

In service of testing and operationalizing our hypotheses, we have partnered with the EASEL LAB at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to develop a conceptual framework that defines a theory of inclusion, inclusive mindsets, and inclusive behaviors. In our current phase of work, we are working with the EASEL Lab to develop innovative strategies and curriculum that explicitly teach inclusive mindsets and behaviors in the contexts of Special Olympics youth and school-based programming across our global footprint. As part of this work we will develop and test content and measures aligned with the inclusive mindsets and behaviors framework across the world, with particular attention to understanding adaptation and relevance across different cultures and contexts.

Organization Details
Lead Organization

Special Olympics

Organization Headquarters
District of Columbia, United States of America
Organization ID
Number of Full-time Employees
10 to 25
Annual Operating Budget
$25.1 to 50 Million

Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity

Organizations may provide budget and employee data based on this proposal or the organization as a whole. For more information on this proposal or organization, please email us.

2023 Swift Grant Awardee

Together with Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Special Olympics will host a session on disability inclusion at the 2023 World Health Summit with participants with disabilities from the Global South. The session aims to mobilize global health actors to improve health outcomes for roughly 1.3 billion people with disabilities worldwide.


We have completed Phase 1 of the initiative. This includes partnering with the EASEL Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to complete a comprehensive review of the literature and development of a framework for inclusive mindsets and behaviors. We then launched a localizing research effort to test the framework and its theory of change in a range of context in the U.S. and globally. Based on those results, we have refined the framework and theory of change. We have also released a research brief to introduce the concept of INCLUSIVE MINDSETS & BEHAVIORS to the research and policy communities. In Phase 2 (current), we have begun developing content and measures that are closely aligned with the framework for further piloting and refinement within the context of Special Olympics youth and school-based programming across our global footprint. In 2023, Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools was selected as one of the most impactful and scalable innovations in education and received the “Academy Choice Award” by HundrED, a global mission-driven organization specialized in education innovation.

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