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Reframing Developmental Relationships

A Communications Toolkit

This toolkit is a resource for bringing strategic goals to life in your messaging and communications about developmental relationships.


Relationships are at the core of human life: a fundamental human experience that begins at birth.

As we grow, we interact with friends, family, teachers, coaches, and more who help us find who we are and who we can become. These developmental relationships allow us to learn new skills, forge our identities, and develop our dreams and goals. But because of the familiarity of relationships, it is easy to default to assumptions about who we have them with, what they look like, where and why they happen, and how and when they take place.

In partnership with the Search Institute, FrameWorks Institute’s researchers developed a framing strategy—guidance on what points to emphasize and what to leave unsaid—for experts, advocates, and practitioners to make an effective case for investing in relationships.

These recommendations form an overarching strategy with four main objectives:

  1. It explains what developmental relationships are and emphasizes their importance in young people’s lives.
  2. It engages messengers who can highlight their own experiences with developmental relationships.
  3. It highlights the environments that support relationships, and points to policy changes that can make them more widespread.
  4. It centers inclusion and equity in the overall messaging about why relationships matter.

This toolkit is a resource for bringing these four strategic goals to life in your messaging and communications about developmental relationships.

Learn the Strategy

Get to know the recommendations with a quick overview of the strategy. The Try This … Not That resource outlines new language to incorporate into messaging. The downloadable message cards outline a recommended value and metaphor that are effective tools for explaining the role of developmental relationships. Learn more about the research that supports the strategy on the Frameworks Institute’s Website.

Practice the Strategy

Practice applying the strategy by reviewing sample communications. The ready-to-use talking points, an example of a fundraising letter, and workshop invitation are guides for applying a framing strategy for developmental relationships to actual communications. Each sample document is annotated to show how the framing recommendations have been applied.

Share the Strategy

Take framing to the next level and share the strategy. Scroll through to find a guide for Framing on Social Media, an overview of strategies for centering equity in communications and a collection of slides outlining the strategy.

The resources in this toolkit are designed to help youth-serving organizations, communications and development staff, and other staff who work with young people. With a shared framing strategy, advocates can amplify each other’s messages about the importance of relationships.

Use this toolkit as a resource to share a tested strategy for communication about the importance of developmental relationships. We invite you to share it with your colleagues.