How often are human services mentioned in the media or political arena, and how often do those mentions fairly and accurately describe the work that we do? The up-hill battle we face to get support and recognition for the work that we do only makes it harder when our programs and organizations sustain cut after cut and waning public support. We know that human services are a critical part of the fabric of community, and they work to foster the best in people, including their independence. Yet, it is becoming clearer and clearer that our efforts are unable to obtain the public support we need to deliver quality, efficient, evidence-based services and supports that work. Rather than continuing to try to convince Americans using the same arguments and tactics, we are finally seeking a deeper understanding of WHY the support is not there.
Over the last year, the National Human Services Assembly, in conjunction with our partners at the Frameworks Institute, has undertaken a major initiative to reframe how the general public and policy makers understand the human services sector. Frameworks’ report, Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Human Services offers incredible insights into the thinking – the deeply embedded cultural models—the understandings, assumptions, and patterns of reasoning—that the American public brings to thinking about human services issues. There are distinctive differences between their perceptions and the viewpoints of human services experts. The report focuses on comparing both the public and the expert’s perspectives in order to uncover the gaps and overlaps of understanding. This helps identify the missing links needed for everyday people to make informed judgments over the allocation of public resources and prioritize human needs on the national agenda.
We are now in the second phase of our research. FrameWorks is conducting surveys and doing further work to understand what frame – language, metaphors, and values – will allow us as a sector to better connect with and engage the public. Look for a new frame for human services in Fall 2015! In the meantime, go here for more information on this project and how you can begin reframing now.