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Flipping the script: Narratives about poverty, race and mobility in the U.S.

Human Services

Everyone should have the chance to reach their full potential, no matter who they are or where they live.

Centering racial equity, we work with our partners in the field to advance social and economic mobility, driven by a two-generation approach to ensure economic success from one generation to the next.

To achieve our North Star, it’s important that we all understand the current narratives about poverty, race and economic mobility, both desired and undesired, and are aware of the role that we all play in promoting them.

Narratives are the stories we tell ourselves and each other to help make sense of the world. They are fundamentally social in nature and animate a public conversation. We see them reflected and reinforced in the media, which means that they can be observed and measured.

In this webinar, we, along with our partners at the American Public Human Services Association, Ascend at the Aspen Institute and Protagonist, discuss why narratives matter and what’s behind them; the 11 current narratives about poverty, race and economic mobility in the public conversation in the U.S.; and what sharpening communications to shift the narrative looks like in practice.

A note that as you learn more about these narratives, some may feel familiar, and some might feel uncomfortable. Remember, these are what is being reflected in the media, so while they’re not always based in truth, because people believe them, they have power.

There are ways to flip the script. With this information, we can create productive narratives that advance the solutions we know are key to supporting families and communities in realizing economic success from one generation to the next.

Prevailing public narratives: What narratives are you advancing?

Build your own playbook

Want to learn more about how you can build your own narrative playbook? Dive into real-world examples from the field and watch these short videos, produced in partnership with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, featuring the work of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, American Public Human Services Association and First 5 Alameda County.


Ascend at the Aspen Institute

First 5 Alameda County

A key focus of this effort was to understand how narratives evolve, starting with the public discourse. Crucial to our learning has been the recognition and importance of narratives driven by people in communities.

Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, chief executive officer of Springboard to Opportunities and Chastity Lord, president and CEO of Jeremiah Program, reinforce this point in their discussion about shifting the narrative of the conversations surrounding poverty to those closest to the issues. We have to change the narrative by changing the narrator.

Additionally, we take lessons from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her perspective on the danger of a single story. Our developing playbook will include examples from the field and communities that reinforce these important principles relative to narrative change efforts.

Going forward, we’ll be sharing practical tips that will help equip human services organizations to shift public narratives in ways that support greater social and economic mobility from generation to the next. The initial examples in the playbook represent ways to advance desired narratives at macro and micro levels.

Other resources from the field:

APHSA: Advancing Productive Narratives

How to Talk About Two-Generation Approaches to Supporting Families