Throughout our deep partnership with Missouri Division of Youth Services, the Five Domains of Wellbeing has become more and more embedded in the state’s juvenile justice system and is supporting youth in successfully transitioning back into the community and making sustainable, positive change. FFI collaborated with DYS to develop The Five Domains of Wellbeing for Youth and Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System, a new resource for anyone engaging with and advocating for these youth, with specific guidance for juvenile justice staff who wish to reinforce existing and develop new practices and systems that support wellbeing.
For me and perhaps for you, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was particularly relevant, resonant and poignant this year. In the face of forces and messages that can erode people’s access to wellbeing, we’re all called on to take peaceful action to hold the line. Many of us are joining larger conversations, groups, events and public statements, and there is an energy around many of these that is positive and infectious. Some of us are reclaiming our activist voices, and others, like my kids, are just discovering theirs for the first time. I find myself newly hopeful but (I think) not naive.
Yesterday, as news of activist voices in protests, counter-protests and marches dominated, I took a moment to reflect on where so much of access to wellbeing is enhanced or blocked: in seemingly small, invisible actions that are important and meaningful that have nothing to do with political party or polarities.
As an imperfect person, some of these are harder for me to do consistently than I like to admit, which is exactly why I need to engage in them: I need to own where my deep, fierce commitment to access to wellbeing isn’t always matching up to my actions. Hard work. I’d love your company.
So here are my first two commitments for January:
1) Have a conversation with someone who sees the world very differently from how I see it, do less than half the talking, and really listen for how that person’s perspective makes sense even if I disagree.
Why this increases access to wellbeing: Our drive for social connectedness to others is strong, as is our related need to feel we belong. But this drive can create echo-chambers and bubbles, and that fuels division.
2) In settings and situations where I feel safe as a straight, white, middle-class woman, taking a moment to try to identify whether there are things occurring that might make someone else feel less safe, and remedying those as much as possible, even if that pushes me to be less comfortable.
Why this increases access to wellbeing: Safety is a combination of external situations and our personal perspectives and histories. What is safe for one person many not feel or be safe for another person.
The response to my earlier post, Why It’s Time for a National Right to Wellbeing, was inspiring and galvanizing, and reaffirmed FFI’s deep belief that it is, indeed, the time for a right to wellbeing. So I invite you to join me in taking your own first steps in the small spaces of individual interactions in addition to whatever actions you’re taking in a larger sphere. FFI is working on simple ways to collect and disseminate actions people across the country are taking to build access to wellbeing; in the meantime, please feel free to share by email, Twitter (tag @FullFrameInitv and we’ll retweet it!) or on Facebook (@FullFrameInitiative).
You can also help seed a national right to wellbeing movement by sharing Why It’s Time for a National Right to Wellbeing with your friends, colleagues, allies, and those with whom you disagree, too. And please share with me resonant posts, organizations and work.
FFI is pivoting quickly to steer into this work more intentionally and explicitly. We all need to keep calling for change, and being the change we want to make in this world.
I look forward to hearing from you again.
The presidential election surfaced fissures that carve deep into the ideal of a common identity of America.
We at FFI are chilled, frustrated and outraged by the illumination of hate and base instincts of division and intimidation, and we are scared for and with each other and all the people across our country who are less safe than they were two weeks ago. We stand in solidarity with the many people writing and speaking about these real fears.
We are committed to being part of not just something that restores, but a movement that actually moves us all forward.
And we believe that an essential piece of the puzzle is wellbeing: a set of core needs and experiences we universally seek, in combination, and that we universally need for health and hope.
We all seek to be in relationships where we get and give value, to feel a sense of belonging to things bigger than we are; we need to know that core parts of our identity don’t expose us to danger or hatred; we need to know there are rhythms in our days and stability we can count on; we need to see that our actions and our work matter: that we have impact and can shape our future, our relationships, our environment; we need to be able to meet our and our children’s needs for food, clothing, shelter, school, health care, and more without shame or danger. And we all seek progress for ourselves and our loved ones, but in ways that don’t create havoc in other parts of our life.
These universal needs bind us all. Far from a nice extra, wellbeing is vital.
What the election surfaced is that across the country, and far more pervasively than many otherwise knew, people feel their wellbeing is thwarted and threatened. One possible response is to keep turning on each other and on the systems and institutions that should protect us, but that so many Americans no longer trust.
FFI rejects this, and we believe that many of you do, too. It’s a zero sum game if one person’s wellbeing is only increased when someone else’s is diminished.
The other possibility is actually a responsibility.
We all have a responsibility to steer into the magnificent and sometimes disquieting truth that we are more alike than we are different—not to excuse hate, vengeance, intimidation and oppression, but instead to address it head on and disarm it. To see each other in the full frame of our lives and align our interactions, practices, policies and institutions with what is required to provide equitable access to wellbeing. To create a space where one person’s wellbeing enhances another’s—not a zero sum game, but an exponentially more powerful and positive one. To leverage this moment not to get us back to where we were two weeks ago, but to really increase access for everyone, particularly those who grapple with poverty, violence, trauma and oppression.
FFI’s purpose is more relevant than ever. We will continue to support change that brings a wellbeing orientation to organizations, systems and communities, and we will accelerate our work to, in coalition and collaboration, assert a national right to wellbeing.
We cannot and must not do this alone. If you believe that we all have a right to wellbeing, please be in touch as we, together, shape a bright, urgently needed way forward.
I am an activist who became a social scientist because I wanted to engage in more complex investigations of the systems that disenfranchise and marginalize vulnerable populations. Through these investigations I believed I could gather the evidence to make compelling arguments about how systems could reduce their harm and more effectively fulfill their responsibility to ensure all groups in society full, fair and equal treatment. Over the course of my career I have been a part of research and evaluation projects throughout the United States, mostly involving individuals with low income, low education attainment and who are of color. While engaged in the research I often thought about the late New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s statement, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” I thought of my role on the various research and evaluation teams as occupying that folding chair for disenfranchised and marginalized populations who were not invited to the table. However, what I know now is that occupying a folding chair at the table is not enough.
Several years ago I was the only person of color on a team of three individuals evaluating a workforce development program operating in a midsized city in the midwestern United States. Although the city is predominantly white, most of the participants in the program were of color—mostly Black and Latino. In addition, the administration and most of the program staff were of color. Throughout the latter half of the evaluation, the program director told the evaluation project manager that she was not comfortable with how the evaluation was being framed. The evaluation manager explained to her that the evaluation was already in process and that the integrity of the research would be compromised if a different frame of the evaluation were employed at that point. While I was not a part of the early conversations of the framing of the evaluation, nor was I in a decision-making position on the team, I believed my seat at the table could make a difference. I believed my participation could influence data analysis and recommendations and ensure that the realities of the study population’s lived experience would be central to the study.
The actual result of the evaluation was findings and recommendations that recreated policies and practices that were in alignment with best practices of program delivery, but not the lived experience of the program participants.
One recommendation was that the program be more flexible; however, the evaluation did not consider what “flexible” meant to the program participants. It did not ask what a participant might have to give up in order to meet the program’s requirements, or weigh if the tradeoff would be worth it for them in the context of their whole selves. For example, although adjustments were made to the program curriculum to be more flexible (e.g., participants were given more time to meet soft skill training goals), other policies were left unchanged. The program’s strict policy for program participants to be on time for classes, meetings, and counseling sessions created undue burden for some program participants, even while staff were reporting concerns about retention. Despite the new flexible curriculum, one particularly determined program participant could not sustain her participation in the program; the new flexible curriculum did not increase her access to the program.
The participant, who had been living in a shelter, managed to acquire a bike to get to and from the shelter and the program. Throughout the fall she was on-time and engaged in the program. Once daylight savings time began, she felt vulnerable because she was riding back to the shelter from the program in the dark. She could not take public transportation because its very limited route and hours of operation did not meet her needs. In addition, once winter began, despite wearing four coats, she was unable to successfully navigate the rain, ice, and snow to arrive to the program on-time; ultimately, she dropped out of the program.
Despite the program staff’s best intentions to prepare a very hard to employ population with remedial education, job readiness, and vocational training, some program requirements were too high a cost compared to dropping out of the program. Although program staff attempted to be more flexible in program delivery, our recommendations did not direct them to engage program participants in defining what a more flexible program would look like to them. While best practices serve a purpose, they are only effective if they can be operationalized within the context of the reality of the messiness of the lived experience. Because program participants were not seen in the full frame of their lives, they were required to make unsustainable tradeoffs to participate in the program.
Evaluation is not inherently benign. Who is sitting at the table not in a folding chair but in a decision-making chair matters. How an evaluation is framed and by who matters. Evaluators are the experts who lead the framing of the inquiry. Framing is imperative for determining the question or set of questions the evaluation will be focused on. The questions are critical for determining the methodology. The methodology determines what is critical for the evaluators to pay attention to. There are real consequences from how an evaluation is framed, conducted, and evidence marshalled; our findings are depended upon for making critical decisions about policy and practice. The consequences of not engaging the study population meaningfully in framing could result in policies and practices that not only continue to focus on problems not people, but also that continue to institutionalize injustice.
La Tonya Green, PhD is FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge. She is responsible for generating knowledge and evidence about the applicability and effectiveness of the Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Wellbeing.
We are delighted to announce the release of SHIFT: FROM SHORT-TERM CHANGE TO LASTING WELLBEING THROUGH THE FULL FRAME APPROACH A toolkit to help the philanthropic community support transformative practice.
This toolkit was developed for the philanthropic community and other stakeholders interested in supporting long-term, sustainable change for people living at the intersection of poverty, violence, trauma and oppression.
An increasing number of organizations are moving beyond short-term fixes to support wellbeing by applying the Full Frame Approach. The Full Frame Approach is a way of working with people facing multiple challenges that supports them in the full frame of their lives, recognizing that people who face complex problems need support as multi-faceted as the lives they lead. Through the Full Frame Approach, programs attend to the Five Domains of Wellbeing—social connectedness, safety, stability, mastery and meaningful access to relevant resources—while minimizing the tradeoffs that come with change.
By focusing on whole people and wellbeing—not discrete problems—programs that take the Full Frame Approach are able to support deep and lasting change, even for people and families who have been previously involved in systems and services for years.
- Learn more about the Full Frame Approach, and how it supports wellbeing and lasting change
- Identify Full Frame Approach indicators in practice, through case examples
- Find concrete tips and actionable steps for supporting the Full Frame Approach
- Reference sample grant guidelines, application questions and grantee reports
FFI created this resource through a collaborative effort with our partners in philanthropy and with four exemplary community-based nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston—Julie’s Family Learning Program (South Boston), On The Rise (Cambridge), REACH Beyond Domestic Violence (Waltham) and The Salasin Center of Western Massachusetts Training Consortium (Greenfield).
The goal of the toolkit is to inspire a meaningful transformation in the way in which human service programs operate and are supported so that many more people and communities facing multiple challenges can break cycles of poverty, violence, trauma and oppression. We hope you find it thought-provoking and inspiring in our shared goal to successfully address the entrenched social problems that prevent people living at the margins from achieving their full potential and wellbeing.
We welcome your feedback on the toolkit and invite you to continue the conversation with the Full Frame Initiative by sharing your insights, expertise and questions. Let us know your thoughts and reactions, and how you plan to use this toolkit to support this transformative practice.
For more information, please contact:
Anna Melbin, Director of Strategic Capacity Building
Recently, the Full Frame Initiative held a day-long training in St. Louis City with Court personnel, Division of Youth Services staff and Children’s Division staff. The training covered several topics, such as an overview of the Five Domains of Wellbeing, understanding tradeoffs and reviewing a court case. One of the other topics explored in the training was natural community supports. Each group was given a St. Louis City Neighborhood and asked to identify the actual name of community members from the mail carrier to the middle school teacher. Participants were not allowed to Google information but only use personal connections. The activity was a powerful way to solidify the importance of natural community supports.
Take a minute to listen to a group of 5th graders who wrote an article titled “You Really Don’t Know Us,” about their community. It is extremely powerful to hear from the youth about their community. Think about the neighborhood you work in, what are the natural supports in your community? Think beyond paid services because most paid providers will not be in the family’s life after the intervention. Think about who can help the family to make change that lasts.
Written by Carla Gilzow, Quality Assurance Unit Manager with Missouri Children’s Division.
The Full Frame Initiative (FFI) recently began an intentional examination into how, as an organization, it can step up its efforts as a racial equity champion. This summer, I was invited to a day-long conversation with a small group of FFI partners and allies to a consultative session “to inform the design of a process and structure that would allow FFI to better address the critical intersection of wellbeing, race and oppression.” Having been on the staff of FFI and now serving as an FFI Senior Fellow, I was excited to participate. Moreover, as an African American woman and “social justice warrior” I was especially eager to explore this critical topic with the leadership of FFI and several admired colleagues. We were able to have a relatively candid conversation that day: about the challenges of advocating for racial equity within the systems that stubbornly uphold status quo policy and practice despite their rhetoric; about the dearth of funding that incentivizes and supports a shift to equitable practice and policy; about the difficult conversation race and racism is in diverse company; and about how an organization like FFI, which has been predominantly “white,” steps into and embraces an appropriate role. The conversation was a forthright beginning, and together with a follow-up conversation I led with some of the other participants, some concrete recommendations were lifted up, upon which FFI can act. Additionally, the conversation revealed some important process points that can inform FFI’s actions as an ally of organizations of color at the forefront of the movement to undo systemic and systematic racism within the human services sector and beyond.
With regard to recommendations upon which FFI can take action, there are several building blocks in FFI’s existing approach and Five Domains of Wellbeing framework to build from. These strengths include:
- A focus on people from marginalized communities who are not inherently broken but who struggle mightily because of/in spite of the conditions that confront them in toxic environments
- A desire to co-create (read: recognize that solutions cannot be prescribed from outside these communities) conditions that are more supportive of wellbeing
- A strengths-focus, that assumes that all people (even those, maybe even especially those, in the “deep-end of the deep-end”) have strengths and assets to build from
- Movement building, which acknowledges that programs that fix people are not the answer, but that the challenges faced by marginalized communities are systemic and require a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained effort by many stakeholders
- That value-based structural changes are the only means to transformed institutions, policies and practices that currently maintain inequity and disproportionality
One recommendation is for FFI to use its influence to ensure that the voice and participation of intended beneficiaries of color center any discussions/decisions about what works to support their pursuit of wellbeing. For each of the Five Domains of Wellbeing, FFI is encouraged to include even more explicit descriptions of how each domain is experienced by people of color at the intersection of poverty, violence and trauma. For example, how does being African American or Latino affect one’s perception of safety when one’s very identity is questioned or debased or serves as the basis for racial profiling? FFI should revisit existing documents, communications and training materials and make a focus on race equity more explicit (for example, by incorporating more cases, examples and statements that name people of color and their struggles and triumphs in striving for the same respect and opportunity available to others). FFI had already taken steps to make changes based on these recommendations and is continuing to do so.
With regard to FFI’s actions as an ally of organizations of color at the forefront of the race equity movement to undo racism, FFI intends to courageously delve into the question of what being such an ally means. The answers are not so simple, and I for one am glad that FFI recognizes this. I know that FFI has made serious attempts to diversify its staff and create a more inclusive environment where all staff contribute their value. In the meantime, how does an organization like FFI, which has been predominantly “white,” lead without minimizing the leadership of organizations of color? Are there specific realms of action that FFI should lead on versus follow? And given the hard-scrabble existence non-profits have to grow or even sustain their own work, where do FFI and allies find the space, time and resources required to build the trust necessary to forge strong, diverse racial equity partnerships? And yet it starts simply by recognizing the importance of sincerely asking these questions and acting responsively. I know that FFI is serious about asking and answering the tough questions and will seek able consultation to help them in developing a long-range plan of action. FFI recognizes the critical importance of engaging informed allies in its networks for change; it is encouraging that it recognizes also the critical importance of being/becoming an informed, engaged ally for/with others in the common ground network for race equity.
Audrey Jordan is FFI’s Senior Fellow of Community Engagement. Through her fellowship, she is exploring ways to “translate” and document how the Five Domains of Wellbeing are understood by people and communities with lived experience with poverty, violence and trauma.
Have you ever been in the hospital and asked a loved one to stop by your favorite spot to get you a treat? Maybe it was that banana split from your favorite ice cream parlor or the wings that you eat every Sunday while you watch the game with your friends. That treat represented some type of normalcy in the midst of a situation where you might not have had much control.
We all seek to build stability in our lives through creating rituals of predictability or habits. The Full Frame Initiative often refers to these as anchors. They are incredibly important to our wellbeing, but may not make sense or may seem trivial to others. These small practices and habits are especially critical in moments of uncertainty.
Everyone has a right to wellbeing, but not everyone has equal access to it. One way Full Frame organizations support program participants’ wellbeing is by allowing staff to have flexible roles so that they can prioritize what matters most to each person they work with. This includes prioritizing things that may—from the outside—seem trivial.
One member of our Greater Boston Full Frame Network, On The Rise in Cambridge, MA, understands that the roles their staff play in the lives of the homeless women who are part of their community might be seen as unorthodox in more traditional agencies. On a recent visit to On The Rise, a couple of front line staff told me stories of hospital visits to the women they work with, and the support they provided.
One advocate talked about how, on her way to visit a participant in the hospital, she stopped at this woman’s favorite spot to pick her up her favorite dish—a heaping plate of fried clams. In relaying the story, the advocate wanted me to understand the significance of this: that staff at On The Rise don’t dictate to people what they need because of their situation. Instead, they let the person decide what is helpful. Another advocate from OTR recounted a story of a woman who has been in the hospital for two years and continues her relationship with On The Rise. The woman called up the advocate and gave her a detailed list of very specific soaps and shampoos to bring to her. This is an example of someone who is really trying to hold onto the routines that contribute to her stability, not someone who is being picky or difficult.
From the outside, bringing someone clams or shampoo may not seem like a traditional staff role or equate to formal program service delivery. But Full Frame organizations have a completely different approach to the work—one that makes them particularly effective in supporting people’s wellbeing. On The Rise sanctions flexibility of staff roles because that is what is required. Their staff members understand that Full Frame work will often challenge the traditional notion of boundaries and of what constitutes services. However, navigating the messiness of that process is worth it to them because it’s the best approach for the women they work with.
Leora Viega Rifkin was FFI’s Network Engagement Manager. She staffed the Greater Boston Full Frame Network and in her role spent time at the member programs to document how Full Frame practice looks in a variety of practice settings. For a list of Greater Boston Full Frame Network members, click here.
Trichia Long and Jennifer Booher from Missouri Division of Youth Services presented a workshop at the annual Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative conference in Springfield, MO at the end of June. They introduced the Five Domains of Wellbeing to an audience of juvenile officers, judges, detention supervisors, private residential managers and Office of State Courts Administrators staff members. Trichia and Jennifer facilitated a rich discussion on putting a focus on people’s wellbeing and understanding tradeoffs. The participants were interested and engaged, recognizing some of the system’s barriers to wellbeing but eager to learn more about the framework. We thank Trichia and Jennifer for their expert facilitation skills and continually strong partnership with FFI!
FFI has released a report and action plan calling for the Domestic and Sexual Violence field to reclaim its social justice roots, critically examine how it responds to the reality of DV/SA survivors’ lives (especially when the violence is not the only challenge being faced) and move forward in new ways to ensure that survivors, their families, and their communities are part of efforts and services that recognize their assets and strengths. This report draws heavily upon the work and perspectives of the members of FFI’s newly launched DSV Cohort Demonstration Project, and is informed by FFI’s statewide project in CA examining how survivors and other stakeholders define survivor success. It discusses the current “state of the field”; outlines the Cohort’s action plan; and includes a summary of the initial summit of the national DSV Cohort and allies Atlanta in December 2013. The DSV Cohort recently reconvened in Indianapolis for two-days, to start moving on the action plan. For more information, please contact Anna Melbin.