Real change will be possible only when we have changed the cultural narratives and mental models that shape how economic issues and solutions are identified. Narrative and culture shifts are also essential to building public and political will around progressive economic policies that will successfully address racial and gender wealth inequities and transform our current punitive social safety net programs. We are perhaps most challenged to overcome America’s highly dominant language and frame around personal responsibility.
- Work with organizations and philanthropy to identify ways in which they may be inadvertently playing into harmful meta-narratives around personal responsibility, deservedness and anti-Blackness.
- Incubate local narrative change efforts focused on arts and culture.
- Work collectively with nonprofit organizations to develop common language, new frames and narratives across economic issues.
The COVID-19 crisis has revealed how deeply flawed our social safety net is. It is increasingly clear that what people need most is a direct, sustained, unrestricted cash benefit. The question on many people’s mind is, “How do we get there?” The answer: Start with Black women. Black women have been the subject of the most horrid and false narrative—the myth of the “welfare queen”—which depicts them as dishonest and undeserving of public benefit programs. Politicians have used this narrative to systematically dismantle our social safety net.
The Power of Narrative in Economic Policy | November 2019
In 2016, the Insight Center embarked on an ethnographic research project to develop a policy agenda to address economic inequality. We were eager to understand which bold economic policies would resonate with a cross section of Americans—rural, urban, liberal, conservative and across race. We wanted to test how policies like baby bonds and guaranteed income held water across groups, and how they needed to be messaged to garner support. What we found was no matter what the policy platform is, our work could fail without first tackling narrative.
Personhood Before Work | January 2018
Insight’s research on economic security and race reveals that most Americans equate joblessness with a lack of agency, and thus being diminished as a person, or somehow less moral. This narrative is is based in harmful stereotypes rooted in anti-Blackness and discourages investments in social safety nets, which in turn pushes more families and individuals into poverty.