A New Story for the Safety Net System
How we tell our story matters. Montgomery County safety net providers have recognized that a necessary element of strengthening the safety net system is to improve how we communicate the value of the safety net system to the broader community.
In their article "Reframing Human Services for Greater Impact" published in the Standard Social Innovation Review, authors Susan N. Dreyfus & Tracy Wareing Evans highlight the importance of reframing the human services narrative to inspire innovation and underscore the widespread community benefits the safety net sector provides.
“To realize the full value of human services community-based organizations, we need to change both the narrative around what they do and the structures for funding them, stressing shared values and a commitment to outcomes,” they write.
Policy and communications experts have found that the traditional way of framing safety net services in the community- such as using terms like “vulnerable populations” or “charities” or even “safety net”- conjure up negative associations in the public. As well, the traditional narratives focus on the direct services provided, rather than quantifying the community benefit or outcome achieved by safety net services. This only serves to undercut the true value of what the safety net system does for our society.
Local safety net providers participating in the Safety Net Resiliency Initiative also recognize this need to shift the narrative. In 2018, Design Teams on Communications and Advocacy developed two strategies for HealthSpark to support: a Communications Campaign to craft a new set of messages to promote the value of the safety net, and an Advocacy Coalition to bring together providers to collectively advocate for safety net resources and positive social policy.
Message Agency is currently working on crafting this new Communications Campaign and will be releasing their findings report in summer 2020. Their current work draws on many of the reports referenced in this article, such as the FrameWorks Institute toolkit on "Building a New Narrative for Human Services".
The Advocacy Coalition is also building momentum through the work of PA Health Access Network (PHAN). PHAN is highly engaged in Census advocacy and building the infrastructure and support for a longer-term advocacy effort among Montgomery County safety net providers. Their work will be shared later in 2020.
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