In 2011 and again in 2012, thousands of Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities, as well as those struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and drug and alcohol addiction, found themselves facing a new challenge – dramatic cuts to the programs they rely on every day to providing for their most basic needs. The social service agencies serving them were backed into a corner, facing severe cutbacks to programs offering shelter for victims of domestic violence, community housing for people with intellectual disabilities or autism, and counseling, medication, and mobile crisis teams for those with mental health needs.
Working with the United Way and a broad scope of community partners, Denny Civic Solutions created and mobilized a coalition calling for restoration of these cuts, while supporting an innovative approach to funding programs that produce high-end results without increasing the burden on taxpayers.
Comprised of a passionate group of human service providers, funders, consumers, and public officials, this civic campaign focused on transforming a well-worn strategy of opposition into one that merged a proactive, positive agenda with a specific plan for its adoption through the mobilization of elected county leaders.
Named the Campaign for What Works (C4WW), this effort developed and promoted ideas like the creation of an Innovation Fund within the Department of Public Welfare. This new fund was designed to promote efficient, innovative programs through county competition that would help people in need and save taxpayers money.
As the Campaign grew (gaining momentum from a hard-fought regional victory that restored $22 million to Allegheny County’s family support centers), a win-win strategy was developed to help funders, providers, consumers, and lawmakers find common ground. And, when issues needed to be addressed or policy differences resolved, the civic campaign identified specific target audiences at both the grassroots and “top roots” levels, developed key messages for each, and deployed paid, earned, and social media to get the word out. Like all of the strategies executed by Denny Civic Solutions, the effort was successful because it relied on detailed issue, target audience, and public opinion research.
Today, C4WW is recognized by public policymakers, elected officials, media, and human service provider associations across the state as a leading civic campaign protecting the human services sector. More importantly, this effort is driving change that will bring dollars back to Western Pennsylvania to help people who are most in need of support, protecting families and children throughout our region.