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September 23, 2014
The Full Frame Initiative (FFI) is a national nonprofit organization that works to break cycles of poverty and violence through systems change. FFI believes lasting change occurs when people are supported in the full frame of their lives – meaning people are dealing with complex problems and need multi-faceted support. REACH has been working with FFI for over five years because we agree that domestic violence affects every aspect of someone’s life and requires us to pay attention to the full context of their experience. Here’s a piece from an FFI staff member about why they believe REACH is doing full frame work.
I recently had the honor of being present to hear a REACH staff member, Jenna, answer a question posed to her on what made her organization different from other domestic violence organizations. Jenna chose a powerful story about a woman who I will refer to as Kate. Kate had recently left her abuser and had moved to the area with her two young children. Jenna did not have much of a rapport established with her yet, as they had only talked on the phone a few times, when Kate called her and told her that her 6 month old baby had died. Jenna asked how she could help and Kate said that the most important thing to her was that her 5 year old son had a suit to wear to the funeral. Jenna went to her direct supervisor, retold the scenario and, with no hoops to jump through and no questions asked, was given the necessary funds to assist her client obtain the suit.
To me, this story illustrates a new narrative when engaging with clients. REACH demonstrates the ability to work with individuals that, yes, may be facing lots of challenges, but focus on people, not on their problems. Although REACH is a domestic violence organization they don’t make the violence someone has experienced the central or only issue. Although this woman clearly faced serious safety concerns, she was not defined by them.
The Full Frame Initiative, in partnership with colleagues and allies, has spent years understanding and documenting the common DNA among social service programs that truly help people break cycles of poverty, violence and trauma. Like REACH, these organizations put people, not problems, at the center and help people make progress in Five Domains of Wellbeing – social connectedness, safety, stability, mastery and meaningful access to relevant resources. Importantly, using this framework also means allowing people to determine their own priorities, and recognize and name tradeoffs that are sometimes inevitable. The Five Domains of Wellbeing are universal – research tells us we are all striving to progress in these areas, regardless of race, income level or class, gender, challenges and assets, and so on.
Jenna’s story is about allowing people to express what’s important to them because what matters to people, ultimately, really isn’t that different, and our paths to success and wellbeing are far more aligned than divergent. The organizations that are part of the Greater Boston Full Frame Network describe the value of their work in terms of bearing witness to lives of those they work with. By responding to Kate on her terms and being part of her experience, Jenna formed a connection that carried their relationship forward, and ultimately allowed Jenna to know Kate in the full frame of her life.