Building a New Narrative on Human Services:

A Communications Toolkit

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Welcome to Building a New Narrative on Human Services – a collection of framing research, recommendations, and sample communications designed to help leading voices explain the importance of human services.

This toolkit models the recommendations emerging from a Strategic Frame Analysis® – a multi-method investigation into the communications aspects of a social issue that yields evidence-based, actionable reframing tools and strategies. FrameWorks Institute conducted this research on behalf of the National Human Services Assembly (the Assembly), an association that represents more than 80 of the largest national nonprofit organizations. The reframing research and toolkit are a key part of the Assembly’s National Reframing Initiative, which seeks to build public understanding of human services to encourage more vibrant civic participation and deepen support for effective programs. This project is generously funded by the Kresge Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

This toolkit includes three types of content:

  • Communications guides, intended as “job aids” to be used while crafting communications that align with FrameWorks research.
  • Sample communications, intended to be used in external communications. These include annotations that unpack the framing strategy being illustrated, so that the recommendations can be extended to new communications.
  • Links to research reports, intended to be used as reference material.

When communicating with the public or policymakers, communicators are encouraged to borrow the toolkit language verbatim if desired, or to adapt the examples to the immediate needs of a local communications context. No citations or special permissions are needed for these public-facing applications. For other uses of toolkit materials – such as incorporating these materials into trainings or another communications resource - please refer to FrameWorks Institute’s terms of use for guidance on seeking permissions.

For 15 years, FrameWorks Institute research has demonstrated that effective communications can help activate the public’s engagement with complex social issues. Our approach seeks to find ways of explaining an issue that can build a broad base of public will for an issue, identifying frames that can build engagement and understanding across lines of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education, or political affiliation. To learn more about the approach to reframing that informs this toolkit, visit our website.

The Big Picture

New to framing? These materials offer a succinct overview.

MessageMemo: Talking Human Services

Talking Points

Quick Start Guide to Framing

Anticipate Public Thinking

Public thinking is like a swamp – and it can be hard to get your messages through.
With a map, you can navigate it.

The Swamp!

Visual summary of relevant findings from cultural models research.

You Say…They Think

Anticipate how messages go astray – and how to keep them on track.

Key Framing Guides

Useful guides to keep communicators on frame.


Stay on message in the face of tough questions.

Message Cards

Download brief summaries of tested frame elements.

Communications Samples

These materials model how to apply the tested frame elements to your social media communications.

Sample Legislative Testimony

Sample Editorial

Additional Research & Resources

“Handed to Them on a Plate.”

Compares the perspectives of human services experts and ordinary Americans to arrive at a set of priorities for building public understanding.

Framing Child and Youth Development.

A MessageBrief drawing from a decade of research on how Americans think about child and youth development, offering new insights and recommendations for communicators.


We might have anticipated your question in Why These Themes? If not, send us an email at