Firsthand framework for policy innovation

Building a system where everyone is heard requires finding new ways to listen.

Increasingly, policymakers and practitioners are trying to engage with communities, connect with public input, and be responsive to the needs of diverse residents. However, the path towards this goal is not well paved. 

Too often, community input is gathered in the context of existing power structures, such as public comment periods or sponsored town halls, that fail to reflect diverse residents’ true priorities and experiences. Additionally, civic engagement efforts are often ill designed, so that they fail to elicit useful input, or the links between public input and subsequent policy change is absent or unclear. 

The Firsthand Framework provides a structured process for engaging communities as partners in policymaking. Expanding upon a methodology developed by Everyday Peace Indicators, the Firsthand Framework aims to engage and quantify the direct experiences of communities, in order to help public servants understand social problems and source solutions in new ways. 

Gathering Firsthand Indicators

The Firsthand Framework process begins by identifying the signs and signals (the “Firsthand Indicators”) that people use to gauge public safety, health, well-being, belonging, and other complex outcomes. Indicators are sourced through interviews and focus groups, and validated through larger town halls and surveys.

Multi-system Mapping

The Framework then maps the Firsthand Indicators to reveal the complex and dynamic policy ecosystem and identify the ways in which both positive and negative cycles are generated and reproduced. This kind of multisystem mapping reveals new pathways for practitioners and communities to solve thorny and interrelated problems.

People-Powered Policymaking: Communities Know What They Need

We believe that the people closest to social problems are also closest to their solutions, and that the policy process works best when policymakers, researchers, and those with lived experience work hand-in-hand.

The Firsthand Framework translates nuanced, community-specific knowledge into quantitative indicators that can be counted and used to identify and pilot community-sourced solutions, ensuring that policy reforms authentically represent community perspectives and priorities.

Who can use the Firsthand Framework for Policy Innovation?

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Organizations can use the framework to better serve their communities. Firsthand Indicators can serve as a needs assessment, can be leveraged for project planning, grant writing, and as an advocacy tool.

Policymakers can use the framework to understand social problems and community outcomes, and to design and evaluate policy reforms.

Researchers can use the framework to measure outcomes across communities and over time, and to inform the measurement of problems and policy effects through a combination of observational, survey, and administrative data.

Featured Firsthand Framework Projects