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Reframing stories of the Great Recession

Photo by Carrie Sloan on Flickr.com

It’s not news that the Great Recession has taken its toll on nonprofits and those they serve. The mom on food stamps for the first time, the widow who lost her home to foreclosure, the shuttered community counseling center–these are all important stories that put a face on the economic downturn. But how do nonprofits move beyond these personal stories to spur systemic change?

Our free Brown Bag forum happening next week on Tuesday, Reframing Stories of the Great Recession, looks at how agencies can reshape their communications strategies to move to a narrative that engages policy makers in the midst of city and state budget crunches and ongoing belt tightening in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

“Demand outweighs the supply because budgets are being slashed across the board. I think this narrative is tired” says Thom Clark, president, Community Media Workshop. “Nonprofits need a media strategy that goes beyond recounting the human impact of an agency’s financial dilemma. The media is hungry for new angles to tell the ongoing recession story. Nonprofits should be at the center of this news frame.”

The panel discussion with some of Chicago’s top journalists and policy makers includes Laura Washington, Woods Fund; Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times; Chip Mitchell, WBEZ; Sarah Karp, Catalyst Chicago; Ralph Martire, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; Amisha Patel, Grassroots Collaborative; Amy Rynell, Heartland Alliance; and the Workshop’s Thom Clark.

When/where: Tuesday, August 24, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Columbia College Chicago, 33 East Congress, Room 219

Visit the Workshop’s website or call us at 312-369-6400 to sign up today.

Framing 201, or why can’t I have a clone?

A friend, Sharon Carney of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, writes of what I suspect is a common, more advanced communications dilemma:

I’ve been struggling with some messaging issues lately for a project I’m working on and thought CMW might have some tools available for help. Basically, my challenge is that the project is complex — it’s a multi-layered response to a number of inter-connected issues, and I’m finding it difficult to package in a pithy way. I have no trouble skewing to the different aspects depending on the audience, but it’s that general, pull-it-all-together kind of message that I’m unsatisfied with.

Ideally, I’d love to sit down with someone like myself who generally understands the issues but isn’t waist-deep in the day-to-day and can lend some outside perspective (why can’t I have a clone?); but in the absence of that kind of assistance, I’m hoping for some other kind of resource.

Do you have a template or toolbox of some sort that might help? Or suggestions for “pulling myself out” of the project enough to achieve that outside perspective? I also thought there might be an upcoming workshop opportunity focused on streamlining messages for complex stories, but I didn’t see anything that seemed feasible considering my location.

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