Join us in envisioning a coordinated and strategic vision for communications around housing and community development in the Twin Cities that seeks to shift our messaging to center equity and elevate directly impacted communities. Our table is open to all advocates and community members with an interest in or experience with affordable housing and community development. We are building this project as we go and we need your input!
Contact Carolyn Szczepanski, carolyn.szczepanski[at]mhponline.org for more information or to be added to our email list!
Shifting the narrative around affordable housing
- There’s a narrow pool and definition of “experts”: Too often the narrative about affordable housing and community development is told by “the experts” rather than those impacted. Too often, when those impacted are included their voices are tokenized or they’re cast as victims. We need to share stories that emphasize the agency and assets of those who have the most stake in affordable housing and community development — on their terms, rather than in service to our missions.
- Communications around affordable housing continues to be a challenge — we need new and unified strategies: Despite the urgent and compelling data on the need and clear social good, industry and advocacy leaders continue to struggle to shift public opinion and policymakers’ approach to affordable housing. Our regional narrative (concentrated poverty, national leader in disparities, etc) is old and tired. We need to ignite a new conversation within our community.
- Data alone isn’t a winning strategy — we need better storytelling: Numbers are important but they don’t move policy, win media or change public opinion on their own. In fact, often the way we cast or present data further alienates or "problematizes" impacted communities. We need to center personal stories and innovative ideas that make an emotional connection to the issue — and actively dispel false stereotypes about the causes of housing barriers, and who lives in / needs affordable housing.
- Compiling compelling stories: Compelling stories on the real-life impacts of affordable housing and equitable community development exist across the Twin Cities. With more intentional focus, we aim to compile, elevate and share those stories of the people, projects and possibilities that can move the region toward stable housing and opportunity for all. We need to cultivate and amplify new voices that can inspire hope and the opportunity to reach for our full potential.
- Changing our practices and using new tools: The way we create and how we tell stories is important. Many of us who aren’t directly impacted by housing challenges need to recognize the biases and perceptions we bring to our work and learn how to co-create and work in more equitable ways in our storytelling practices. We also need to innovate the tools we use, including photography, video and other media.
- Convening stakeholders in consistent, strategic ways: Because of the nature of our work, many of us necessarily work in silos. We often don’t have the time or capacity to understand even what our closest partners are working on — and struggle to keep track of national trends or best practices that might serve us in the Twin Cities. If we invest time to build an infrastructure that connects us, we can leverage our collective work to be more efficient and effective in our messaging — and do more to advance our collective visions with little additional effort.
- Convene monthly in-person meetings: Find a standing date and time but rotating location for an in-person gathering. Identify productive structure with agenda and minutes.
- Create and resource a Speakers Bureau of directly impacted residents — Provide leadership development around storytelling and policy, and compensate speakers as “experts” in various settings where such expertise is sought (i.e. panels, legislature, etc)
- Facilitate professional development: Many of us who aren’t directly impacted by housing challenges need to recognize the biases and perceptions we bring to our work and learn how to co-create and work in more equitable ways in our storytelling practices.
- Create an editorial / communications calendar to unify behind the work of partners, create a consistent presence and initiate media topics (or respond to other’s articles) that clarify, inform, offer alternative perspectives, help to shift the narrative for our region.
- Create a list of “experts” for media that push them to consider the ways housing intersects with other issues — and actively pushes them to seek out impacted leaders as experts in this area.
- Build collaborative relationships with non-housing groups and create targeted messaging and story ideation around how housing and community development intersect with specific key areas in 2018, including Education, Health and Workforce / Employment.
- Produce bi-monthly profiles: Partner with direct-service providers, community organizations and housing developers to create high-quality, positive profiles of folks who benefit from affordable housing and community development — including photography and possibly video.
- Create our own media: Engage with community-based reporters that can take a deeper dive into the keys issues and intersectional nature of housing and community development.
Twin Cities Housing Speakers Bureau
Rather than those who are directly impacted by housing challenges, too often the narrative about affordable housing is told by “the experts” — nonprofit leaders, elected officials or the private sector. Frequently, when residents are included their voices are tokenized or they’re cast as victims. We need to share stories that emphasize the agency and assets of those who have the most stake in affordable housing — and provide funding and support for them to share their personal stories and innovative ideas to actively dispel false stereotypes about who lives in or needs affordable housing and advance true solutions.
The Twin Cities Housing Speakers Bureau will elevate the expertise of directly impacted residents and provide funding and support for them to act as the housing experts they are. It will provide leadership development around issues identified by Speakers’ Bureau participants, and financially compensate speakers for their time and expertise. Learn more about upcoming opportunities to engage here.
Contact Laura Proescholdt at laura.proescholdt[at]mhponline.org with questions or ideas!