Reclaiming Futures

Using Communication to Drive Community and Systems Change

As part of its Reclaiming Futures national program the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invested not only in programming but in capacity building and support for communications.

As a first step in developing a strategic communications plan, Reclaiming Futures sought to understand public perceptions about juvenile justice and drug and alcohol treatment. Northwest Communications Research Group studied national media coverage and conducted focus groups on the topic. It then recommended new messaging language and created a message map for Reclaiming Futures communications staff to use in publications and media relations.

Communications experts identified internal and external audiences and set three objectives:

  1. Convince internal audiences to support the reforms needed to implement the model in local communities.
  2. Engage local community members in creating prosocial opportunities for Reclaiming Futures youth.
  3. Convince professionals in other communities beyond the original 10 sites to replicate the Reclaiming Futures model.

To accomplish the third objective, communications created a strong brand for the initiative.

Through training and orientation, both the national program and local project staff were empowered to be effective communicators. In a 2009 survey, 8 out of 10 project directors said communications played an important role in their project.



This article is part of a special issue of Children and Youth Services Review on the RWJF-funded Reclaiming Futures Program.