Request For Proposal: Narrative Change Strategist
(Please upload any applicable resume(s), and the proposal as one document)

At UpTogether, we believe every person is an expert in their own life. 

But too many systems in our society have been set up to prevent hardworking people from getting ahead. 

That’s because, in the U.S., there is a broadly held stereotype that if you’re experiencing poverty or financial hardship, it’s solely your fault. After all, others have “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” and you can too. 

We know that’s not true. Poverty is a policy choice. That’s why starting in 2023, we renewed our focus on our bold goal of changing systems and policies. 

Because systems are created — and maintained — by people, if we can change people’s false beliefs and rally together to demonstrate our collective power, we can change systems.

That’s why one of the primary tactics in our systems change strategy is narrative change and why we are looking for a consultant or agency to help with our narrative change work in Boston.

Project Outline 
Our narrative change work in Boston is centered on our learnings and the lived experiences of those who took part in the Trust+Invest Collaborative (TIC), an 18-month randomized control trial. TIC is a partnership between UpTogether, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), the City of Boston, a Harvard-based research team, and a team of family evaluators. Its goal is to better understand how access to community, cash and choice improves people’s lives and wellbeing and to use that evidence to generate the support needed to change social service systems and policies to better support families.

We are looking for a consultant or agency to bring a narrative change strategy to life that builds on UpTogether’s legacy and leverages established partnerships to position UpTogether to drive systems change through narrative change in Massachusetts. 

Working with TIC participants, family evaluators, and thought/funding partners, the selected consultant or agency will create a narrative change strategy to help us debunk the predominant deficit-based narratives of people living with low incomes, reveal the ways existing policies have created and maintained poverty, and highlight UpTogether’s approach as a means of socioeconomic mobility. There are five common narratives that we want to counter:

  • The American Dream – AKA poverty is a personal choice; pull yourself up by your bootstraps;
  • Poor people can’t manage money – Deeply-held belief that people, particularly people of color, experiencing poverty can’t be trusted to manage their money;
  • Laziness and dependence – Poor people are lazy and want the government to take care of them;
  • Complacency – If we help them, they won’t look for a job; and
  • Poor people are uneducated and can’t make decisions for themselves.

Our hope is that a narrative change strategy will help shift the beliefs of policymakers, funders, the general public, the media, and energize momentum for new policies so everyone can thrive. 

Scope of Work 
The consultant or agency will work alongside the East Coast Partnership & Revenue and Membership & Communications teams to create and deliver a narrative change strategy that captures people’s true lived experiences with government systems, financial hardship, and who have had access to unrestricted cash payments and community. The strategy should inspire, educate and mobilize UpTogether members, legislators, media, and funders. 

Specifically, we are looking for a consultant/agency to:

  • Develop a narrative change strategy that is grounded in: 
    • Local (greater Boston, Massachusetts, New England) values and politics 
    • UpTogether’s legacy and future vision 
    • The lived experiences of TIC members and family evaluators
    • The perspectives of advocacy partners (government, nonprofits, funders).
  • Engage a wide range of UpTogether members, who took part in TIC, to gain a deeper understanding of their successes and the challenges that have affected their family’s ability to thrive.
  • Identify ways to incorporate TIC qualitative study data (quantitative data will be ready in 2024) in the strategy. 

A successful strategy will: 

  • Increase public awareness of how policies and practices harm(ed) people, particularly people of color;
  • Highlight UpTogether’s approach as a means to change policies and systems, repair harm and advance racial wealth equity; and 
  • Increase interest in UpTogether’s strength-based approach by philanthropic funders and government agencies.

Skills/Experience Desired

  • Deep alignment with UpTogether’s mission and approach
  • Experience developing narrative change strategies for social issues
  • General sense of culture, people, politics in Massachusetts and/or New England 
  • Familiarity with issues and narratives related to racial and gender justice, immigrants, and poverty and working families
  • Experience creating messaging for multiple audiences (including nonprofit, media, legislators, and organizers)
  • Excellent people relation skills with ability to build connections and work collaboratively with multiple teams and members 
  • Ability to speak Spanish or to provide Spanish translation and interpretation services 

Process for changing Scope of Work
Changes to the Scope of Work will require discussion by both parties and written approval from UpTogether.  As UpTogether begins implementing our 2023-2025 strategic plan, we may need to make slight adjustments along the way due to unforeseen circumstances. In the event modifications are required, we will amend the Scope of Work and have both parties sign.

Timeline for Work 
The selected consultant or agency should be available to begin on or around May 1, 2023. 

Proposal Requirements
All proposals must be 15 pages or less and include:

  • Cover letter with name, address, phone number and email address of the key contact person
  • Background of the agency/person and its experience engaging with people with limited incomes, particularly those who are Black and brown 
  • Approach to meet all deliverables 
  • A proposed project timeline
  • Two work samples and/or case studies of projects of a similar nature, size and scope
  • Two references from projects of similar size and scope
  • Total project fee
  • Resumes of team members who will be working on the project

Selection Criteria

  • Quality of work samples and/or case studies 
  • Experience with storytelling and/or narrative change
  • Demonstrated understanding of the lived experience of people with financial hardship
  • Demonstrated alignment with UpTogether values
  • Ability to begin work in Q2 2023

Submission Details and Timeline
Proposals are due by Friday, March 24th at 5 PM (ET).