The Horizon Foundation, the largest independent health philanthropy in Maryland, had been engaged in a process to ensure its work was more effectively addressing racial disparities in Howard County. The organization had drafted a report that highlighted a set of health inequities in the county.
The foundation was set to release the report during a time of heightened polarization in the county, and reached out to Brevity & Wit for help with framing and messaging.
Working with the foundation’s leadership and members of the report’s target audience, and applying key insights from relevant literature, Brevity & Wit developed a frame and messaging that aligned the vision for the report with the values of the audience, that showed policy and systems level solutions exist, and that motivated problem solving and action.
Our approach can be described with three phrases: 1) Research, 2) Framing and Message Design, and 3) Graphic Design.
Drawing on a combination of design thinking, insights from the social science and communications literature, and interviews with key stakeholders so that we could understand the prevailing mindset in the county, we developed a main message for the report. We identified the audience, their most dominant values or aspirations, and key barriers, and then crafted a message describing the why, how, and what. This template guided us in re-writing the introduction and one of four sections of the report.
After soliciting feedback from the foundation’s leadership, we then held a workshop with Horizon’s grantees, where we shared what we had learned and sought comments on the re-written draft. The additional input shaped the next version of the draft and re-write of the remaining sections of the report.
Upon completion of the narrative portion, Brevity & Wit’s created a PDF report to be printed and shared online, with a special focus to use icons and design elements that were inclusive and highlighted systemic failures and solutions, not individual differences.
The approach and resulting report have been received positively by the foundation’s leadership and grantees in the equity initiative, and have been met with praise from institutions. “This report is a call to action for Howard County,” said Audra Nixon of the African American Community Roundtable, a Horizon Foundation grantee.
The report was picked up by major news outlets in the region including the Baltimore Sun, Maryland Daily Record and WTOP.
You can download the report here.