National Human Services Assembly

Building the Case for Reframing

Module 1

Module 1: Building the Case for Reframing

The key to begin reframing in a comprehensive, meaningful, and lasting way is to build organizational and stakeholder support among leadership – such as the CEO and Board members – and external partners. To help secure an organization-wide commitment, craft a clear, concise pitch that demonstrates reframing’s success and significance. Emphasize the key points below to help: 1) ground reframing in the current policy and funding environment; 2) convey the role that narratives play in shaping public support; 3) explain the research that underpins the reframing recommendations; and 4) identify next steps.

What is the problem?

Key Point: The sector has struggled to build meaningful public support for human service programs and policies. As a result, human services are inadequately funded and public policies are frequently designed without tapping the sector’s deep knowledge and expertise.

  • Point to cuts or stagnation in public funding, private philanthropy, and/or individual donations.
  • Point to policy developments that contradict the realities, needs, and motivations of those who seek services. Example: added barriers to accessing essential services, such as onerous work requirements.
  • Point to government contracting practices that undermine the short- and long-term health of human service organizations.  Examples: delayed payments, insufficient allowances for infrastructure and operations, lack of appropriate cost-of-living adjustments.

Why is this happening?

Mapping the Gaps graphicKey Point: The public does not know the full story about the human service sector’s role or value to society, which limits the public’s support and engagement.

  • Point to research showing that the public’s common misconceptions about human services, based on ingrained default cultural narratives, limit support for the sector. Examples: focus groups and surveys revealed how the public focuses on individual attributes, like willpower and grit, as determinants for well-being, while sector leaders point to policies, systems, and community conditions. The public’s views impact opinions about services and their recipients.
  • Point to how traditional communication habits reinforce those misperceptions and alienate the public and policymakers. Examples: emphasis on meeting basic needs for people in crisis, highlighting problems without offering solutions, tone that blames policymakers, terminology such as “vulnerable” and “at-risk” that exacerbates beliefs that the sector is for “other people” rather than something that benefits all.

What is the solution?

Key Point: The National Reframing Initiative’s research-based approach to communications is designed to generate more support for human service programs and policies by increasing the public’s understanding of the sector’s role and its value to society.

  • FrameWorks’ research identified a rigorously tested new frame, the Building Well-Being Narrative, that has been proven to change attitudes about human service recipients, expand knowledge on how human services work, and stimulate support for policies that increase well-being for all.
  • Research shows that reframing is most effective when presenting human services as a story arc that relies on the complete Building Well-Being Narrative (human potential value, construction explanatory metaphor, and the full life cycle).


Graph showing how different narrative messages ranked with public thinking

What are the next steps?

Key Point: Reframing human services takes focus and dedication, but there are practical steps that we can take to incorporate reframing into our communications.

  • Be prepared to propose ideas for how your organization can start to incorporate reframing in its primary communications or new initiatives.
  • Offer suggestions for how to pace your reframing process and prioritize efforts based on your organization’s staff and resource capacity. Example: suggest starting sequentially with the most-used communications pieces that have the biggest impact, such as “about us” language.




Using the Frame

Overview: Explore steps for integrating the Building Well-Being Narrative into your communications, as well as some helpful tips, tricks, and samples for implementation are outlined here.

Learn More

Implementing the Frame

MODULE 2: Learn how to do a thorough review and revision of organizational communications and materials once your organization is on board with Reframing.

Learn More

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