Frameworks for Action
The Center for Social Innovation at UCR (CSI) provides a credible research voice that spurs civic leadership and policy innovation. Its reputation is built on the key pillars of social science, strategic policy awareness, innovation mindsets, and deep community partnerships.
An essential part of this work involves research and action frameworks that catalyze systemic change that advance our core values of resilience, inclusion, sustainability, and equity. This means working closely with community partners to develop data points and tools that are useful for their missions and visions. We use a mixed-methods approach to our social science research. This helps to ensure that the voices of our community partners are not just lifted up, but that they are truly central to the research and empowered through our collaborative work.
Through these important partnerships and research, we have developed frameworks that are actionable and ready to be used for change. Importantly, these frameworks are continually workshopped, modified, and refined through community feedback and input. Through this system we are able to develop frameworks that are useful, adaptable, and shaped by the communities we seek to serve.
DNA: Data, Narrative, Action
Data need to be presented in a compelling way that inspires investments and improvements in decision-making. The Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside has developed a method called DNA: Data, Narrative, Action that encourages stakeholders to make their case more credible through Data, more meaningful and memorable through Narrative, and more impactful through concerted and strategic Action.
The DNA Framework focuses on three major components:
- Data and Research (Policy Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Community Resources)
- Narrative Change (Framing, Messaging, Storytelling)
- Action (Civic Engagement, Strategic Planning, Enterprise).
Ready to RISE
Congress recently passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, approving a signature part of President Joe Biden's economic agenda. This new spending package will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in America's infrastructure over five years, touching everything from bridges and roads to the nation's broadband, water, and energy systems. At CSI, we believe that it is important that the community projects and initiatives that are funded are not merely “shovel” ready, but Ready to RISE with measurable metrics and standards for resilience, inclusion, sustainability and equity as core principles and values.
You can read more about the Ready to RISE framework in our most recent working paper on the topic, and in our 2021 report on inclusive economic development in the Salton Sea Region.
In the United States there are not many issues that are considered bipartisan. Infrastructure has long been touted as an issue that spans across party lines. A central component of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is this type of bipartisan infrastructure spending. In addition to the standard concerns about “roads, bridges, and tunnels,” the current conversation on infrastructure spending has expanded to include investments in climate resilience, broadband internet, and health systems that advance equity by race, income, and geography. At CSI, we believe that it is time to recognize that rebuilding our civic infrastructure is an equally important priority. Just as bridges help ensure the delivery of essential goods and services, investments in civic infrastructure are essential to the functioning of our participatory democracy. Without strong and resilient civic infrastructure, communities across the United States lack the trust and relationships needed to solve collective problems.
What do we mean by civic infrastructure?
Staying true to the root concept of infrastructure, we can develop a more functional model of civic infrastructure that includes all of the organizational structures, networks, and partnerships necessary for a well-functioning society. This definition includes not only infrastructure components—such as faith-based and community-based organizations, philanthropy, community media, educational institutions, and businesses committed to social impact—but also the network connections and distributions that are necessary for the components to work well together.
IE Rise Systems Change Framework
Building on the success of Census and COVID outreach efforts, leaders in the region launched the Inland Empire Roadmap for an Inclusive and Sustainable Economy (IE RISE). IE RISE is a two-county-wide collaborative that works towards amplifying community voices around a unified vision and activating shared values to reform systems to make them truly equitable. Through this collaborative effort, the IE RISE Systems Change Framework was developed.
Systems change is a relatively new concept in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, and it can mean different things to different people. Most broadly, it means “systems shifting the conditions that are holding the problem in place.” One of the most influential frameworks in this emerging field is the one produced by FSG (formerly called Foundation Strategy Group).
The revised framework on systems change noted above was based on input and feedback from the local community. Importantly, the community decided to add Community Voice and Shared Values to the framework. Community voice and shared values provide not only the baseline for this model, but they also act as a feedback loop in which the model can be continually refined and tailored to community needs.
Policies: Government, institutional and organizational rules, regulations, and priorities that guide the entity’s own and others’ actions.
Practices: Espoused activities of institutions, coalitions, networks, and other entities targeted to improve social and environmental progress. Also, within the entity, the procedures, guidelines, or informally shared habits that comprise their work.
Resource Flows: How money, people, knowledge, information, and other assets such as infrastructure are allocated and distributed.
Relationships & Connections: Quality of connections and communication occurring among actors in the system, especially among those with differing histories and viewpoints.
Power Dynamics: The distribution of decision-making power, authority, and both formal and informal influence among individuals and organizations.
Mental Models: Habits of thought—deeply held beliefs and assumptions and taken-for-granted ways of operating that influence how we think, what we do, and how we talk. This includes understandings about root causes of problems; what solutions are possible, available, and effective; and who are the leaders and stakeholders needed to produce durable solutions.
You can learn more about the IE Rise Systems Change Framework on the IE Rise website.