Giving Compass’ Take:
• Susan N. Dreyfus and Tracy Wareing Evans argue that we need to reframe human services in order to build public support, improve services, and increase impact.
• What role can funders play in shifting perspectives on and approaches to human services?
• Read about nudging change in human services.
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.
To more effectively tell the story of human services, framing science encourages us to begin by identifying a shared value. Negative frames like “poverty” and “charity” can overshadow the intended message by dividing people into categories of either “givers” or “takers.” By contrast, utilizing shared values encourages audiences to see themselves in the issue, as when human services are framed as “common sense solutions,” that reflect American pragmatism.
When we talk about human services, we want to land in the shared values that enable audiences to see a bigger picture, one in which they can see themselves. Researchers with the FrameWorks Institute found, for example, that using construction metaphors centered on families’ experiences when describing what human services do, helped broaden the public’s perception of how human services CBOs help families and individuals achieve well-being. Foundational building blocks help families achieve well-being and those building blocks, such as health, education, workforce supports, are integral to all families.
In addition to how we talk about human services, we must also reframe how CBOs operate, shifting from a charity model to a business model: outcomes-oriented, able to invest in innovation and new capabilities, and funded to enable those innovations.
Because CBOs traditionally focus on services delivered (i.e. number of foster beds filled) rather than outcomes achieved (i.e. children successfully living with their families or children achieving other lasting permanency), outcomes can be hard to measure. For-profit corporations can point to profit and shareholder value to demonstrate their success, but it is much more difficult to capture and measure outcomes for highly people-oriented services that play out over the long term. But philanthropic funders and government grantors tend to structure grants around what can be measured (services provided) rather than what should be measured (outcomes achieved). This not only restricts funding for CBOs but hobbles their ability to shift strategy to better outcomes.
Read the full article about reframing human services by Susan N. Dreyfus and Tracy Wareing Evans at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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