Principles and Questions for Advancing Equitable Wellbeing in Systems
“Our drive for wellbeing is universal. Our access to wellbeing is not.”www.wellbeingblueprint.org/blueprint
One of my greatest joys is weaving connections between initiatives with which I am partnering. Over the past several months this has shown up, in one instance, as creating bridges and partnerships between the Full Frame Initiative (creators of and conveners around the Wellbeing Blueprint) and a few other networks, including Food Solutions New England and the DC Legal Aid Transformations Network.
What these and many other networks that I am working with, have in common, is a commitment to social (and particularly racial) equity, characterized in large part by a vision of equitable wellbeing and a deeply rooted sense of belonging for all people, in food, public health, legal aid, and related fields. The Full Frame Initiative has developed a robust body of work, that brings nuanced attention to what supports individual and collective wellbeing, systemically. This includes focused attention on different domains of wellbeing, as well as a set of principles that are meant to help people design systems that give everyone access to wellbeing.
Inspired by FFI’s work, I took their set of principles and turned some of what was presented as a set of descriptive statements into questions that might help different kinds of social service providers and policymakers integrate wellbeing into their work. Curious to know which of these catch people’s attention, and what they might and or adjust for their particular system change work.
Principle 1: Start with what matters to people: wellbeing.
- Are our decision-making processes being informed by the lived experiences and expertise of people receiving services/most negatively impacted?
- Are we defining people by the issues they are facing? Are we seeing them as whole people with their own strategies for navigating systems?
- Are we asking people, and especially those who have been historically marginalized, to make unsustainable tradeoffs in our service models/policy work?
- Are our services trauma-informed and culturally responsive, recognizing the different challenges and values at play in people’s lives?
- Are we focusing on the level of the family and/or community, not just the individual?
Principle 2: Design and implement with, not for.
- Are we partnering with community to vision and frame issues, rather than engaging community for feedback around solutions designed by others?
- Are we ensuring that those most impacted dictate what matters, rather than externally determining what “should” matter?
- Are we shifting power to community and shift risk and burdens out of community?
- Are we allowing communities to be complex and non-monolithic?
- Are we valuing- not exploiting- people’s and communities’ vulnerability and shared experience?
Principle 3: Push against harms in communities already facing the greatest adversity; support healing and regeneration.
- Are we reaching/considering the least resourced/capitalized communities in our area?
- Are we respecting Indigenous and informal cultural norms and values?
- Are we collecting data on structural/systemic barriers and how people receiving services/most negatively impacted work around these barriers?
- Are we addressing biases in expectations for the outcomes of those receiving services/most negatively impacted?
- Are we explicitly supporting healing and tying our work to shifting harmful patterns of the past?
- Are we supporting and creating space for creative solutions, including from those receiving services?
Principle 4: Foster and build on social connections and social capital.
- Are we supporting people helping people before adding programs to help people, including removing obstacles to family/community members helping one another?
- Are we enabling and enhancing social networks in our policy work, especially for those receiving and providing services/most negatively impacted?
- Are we building on and not undermining social connectedness, belonging and social capital in community?
- Are we supporting bridging and linking capital (relationships that connect us across differences of identity, experience and power), not just bonding capital (relationships with those most like us)?
- Are we focusing less on individual change and considering how changes in relationships between and among people might be more useful?
Principle 5: Span boundaries.
- In our services/policy work, are we leveraging different and diverse aspects of the human experience, including arts, culture and joy?
- Are we seeking out uncommon partners and solutions?
- Are we Integrating with and advocating across other systems, leveraging other fields and sectors?
- Are we identifying and illuminating when policies of one system (including the one in which we work) create barriers in other systems for those receiving our services?
Principle 6: Build (on) assets and innovation.
- Are we striving to preserve innovations sparked by the pandemic and/or other crises?
- Are we ensuring that our services/policies we are advancing do not require (further) financial sacrifice and that they do support or connect to others supporting financial wellbeing?
- As we provide direct services, are we also attending/connecting to anti-poverty work and programs?
- Are we addressing policies that undermine people’s and communities’ ability to accumulate wealth, knowledge, data and other kinds of capital?
- Are we starting with what communities already have and diligently seek ways to avoid circumventing what works well, as defined by the people who are impacted?
- Are we hiring/compensating people with lived experience in navigating structural challenges?
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