Reframing newsletter

Getting Creative with the Construction Metaphor

March 17, 2016

In the last newsletter, we discussed the importance of using the research-tested Construction metaphor within the context of the Building Well-Being Narrative to elevate public understanding of human services. The Construction metaphor helps us do two things.

  1. Provide a complete definition of how human services, and the experts who provide them, promote well-being.
  2. Explain how human services help when conditions, such as a struggling economy or an illness, disrupt or impede well-being.

We know that people rely on deeply held Cultural Models to fill in knowledge gaps. The dominant Cultural Models that the public default to on human services, as identified by FrameWorks Institute and summarized in their “Swamp of Human Services,” lead to a narrow view of what well-being is and what the solutions are for fostering and repairing well-being. The Construction metaphor helps us provide the public with a more complete and productive view by connecting our work to a concept that they more intuitively understand.

people painting house block quote

Once we have established that link between well-being and construction, we can transition to the next plot point, extending the metaphor to explain the conditions that can get in the way of well-being.

“Just as poor construction can make a house unstable, the well-being of people who have not received enough support in life can be threatened when they do not have the social relationships, community resources, and opportunities to thrive that they need. And when people’s well-being is unstable, a bad break in life—such as graduating from school during a recession or having to care for an aging parent with mental health issues—can, like bad weather, be catastrophic. While people with lots of support can weather the storm, people without enough support may struggle to do so.”

So how do you apply the Construction metaphor to your issue? We recommend taking some time to brainstorm how your issues and priorities can be described using construction concepts. Think about all of the expertise, processes, and materials that go into planning, constructing, and maintaining a building. Consider what would happen if a building was constructed on a shaky foundation or if there weren’t adequate resources to keep the building operating smoothly.