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Wellbeing Blueprint

The Wellbeing Blueprint is our roadmap for building a country where everyone has a fair shot at wellbeing. It lays out our shared path forward with policy and decision-making recommendations grounded in six guiding principles.

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The Wellbeing Blueprint took shape in 2020 when a group of changemakers came together to turn a crisis into a turning point.

For generations, marginalized communities responding to injustice had been sidelined, under-resources or ignored. Then COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd shook the nation to its core. We realized that now is the closest we’ll get in our lifetime to meaningfully rethinking and rebuilding our systems from the ground up.

The Wellbeing Blueprint lays out our shared path forward with policy and decision-making recommendations grounded in six guiding principles.

Read our executive summary below.

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Our drive for wellbeing is universal. Our access to wellbeing is not.

American systems are fundamentally unfair. Racism, sexism, homophobia and other oppressions are baked in. This is structural — it goes deeper than the individuals who work in these systems. These structures mirror public narratives and attitudes: people caught up in systems are the ones who need to change.

We have to focus the change where it belongs: on the systems themselves. But to only re-imagine each system individually — child welfare, housing, courts, finance, healthcare, education and more — misses the opportunity to create a far more just, impactful and hopeful way forward. We have to start with people and communities, centering what every person needs to thrive.

Here are six ways to do it:

  • Principle 1: Start with what matters to people: wellbeing
  • Principle 2: Push against harms in communities already facing the greatest adversity
  • Principle 3: Build on social connections and social capital
  • Principle 4: Build financial security
  • Principle 5: Span boundaries
  • Principle 6: Sustain transformation beyond the pandemic

Principle 1: Start with what matters to people: wellbeing

People need to be connected to others and to be helpful. We all need to feel we belong and are safe. We need to experience some predictability to life, that we have some influence over what’s happening around us, and to experience purpose and growth. We need to know that small steps forward aren’t going to cause everything to come crashing down or cost us what was working in other parts of our life. We need to be able to hold onto, and build on, what matters to us. In combination and balance, these needs and experiences comprise our wellbeing.

We must structure our communities and systems to align with, tap into and amplify the human drive for wellbeing. Making access to wellbeing more equitable is vital to preventing many of the harms our systems are set up to address.

Where to begin

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  1. Be public about the historical roots of our fields and agencies, and our journey towards equity and wellbeing.
  2. Use restorative and transformative practices to repair communities harmed by systemic racism and structural inequities.
  3. Center community in decision-making processes.
  4. Change structures that force unsustainable tradeoffs.
  5. Shift service models from defining people by the issue(s) they are facing to services that center on wellbeing.
  6. Adjust benefits and expectations in recognition that people need support to cope and mitigate the trauma we are all experiencing, including people who provide services.

Principle 2: Push against harms in communities already facing the greatest adversity

We didn’t all come into this crisis on a level footing — the communities that have been most impacted by COVID-19 are those that have historically been most impacted by systemic racism and disinvestment. When we strengthen these communities’ access to wellbeing, we strengthen everyone’s access to wellbeing.

There is much to learn from communities that have been marginalized and under-resourced, from navigating systemic barriers to problem-solving in the face of crisis. Times of economic and social turbulence can be periods of innovation, as people figure out ways to help themselves and their neighbors. In order to shrink disparities, we need to minimize the tradeoffs of change so people don’t need to sacrifice what’s already working in order to access resources and help their communities.

Where to begin

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  1. Start with the least capitalized communities when deciding where to bring resources.
  2. Address bias in expectations for the outcomes of people involved in systems.
  3. Support and create space for the innovations that can emerge out of crises.
  4. Collect data on structural barriers and how people work around these barriers.
  5. Guard against implicit bias when “entering” people’s homes remotely.
  6. Separate sanctions, fines and fees from treatment and help.
  7. Reduce barriers to accessing services, including cognitive barriers by service providers.

Principle 3: Build on social connections and social capital

Our drive for social connectedness is universal — we count on others and need others to count on us. But in economically distressed communities, particularly communities of color, social connectedness is often highly regulated or even criminalized. The result can be unnecessary creation of programs to do what social networks would otherwise do, and the hamstringing of community potential and health.

Where to begin

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  1. Remove obstacles to family members helping one another.
  2. Enable and enhance social networks.
  3. Support community-driven change.
  4. Hire people with lived experience in navigating structural challenges.

Principle 4: Build financial security

Before COVID-19, almost half of American families couldn’t come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense. Public policy historically blocked people of color from many of the most important avenues for wealth accumulation, including homeownership and post-secondary education. The financial impact of the pandemic is therefore also concentrated in communities of color and those already facing economic hardship. Economic recovery must address immediate financial security and the persistent racial wealth gap.

Where to begin

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  1. Backstop loss and provide low-barrier financial aid to people impacted by the pandemic.
  2. Ensure access to basic nutritional and economic supports.
  3. Don’t fund staffed anti-poverty programs when what’s needed are direct payments.
  4. Address inequality perpetuated by policies that undermine families’ ability to accumulate wealth and savings.

Principle 5: Span boundaries

Spanning boundaries between fields as well as sectors is essential to long-term economic recovery and greater equity. As systems leaders, we must advocate for structural shifts across systems and be open to advocacy from other systems to lead to better outcomes.

We must leverage community assets and people’s talents in community assessment, design and change processes, which too often leave out whole dimensions of the human experience. We also must allow for joy and levity — people can be in crisis and still laugh.

Where to begin

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  1. Leverage all aspects of the human experience, including arts, culture and joy.
  2. Advocate for change within and across systems.
  3. Identify and illuminate when policies of one system create deep barriers in other systems.

Principle 6: Sustain transformation beyond the pandemic

While some changes will need to be reversed, altered or further refined, defaulting to sustaining wellbeing-oriented systems forces important accountability and reflection. Even when the pandemic is past, this expansive thinking is vital to fully appreciate the landscape before people, and ensure that we are all moving towards a fair shot at wellbeing.

Keep pushing, partner unexpectedly, build movement, keep learning and stay curious.

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