Findings of NCFR Member Public Policy Survey 2: Moving Forward
Over the past year and a half, the NCFR Board of Directors has continued its work examining NCFR’s approach to public policy. This process of deliberate discernment has included gathering suggestions from the Family Policy Section and other section chairs, the Inclusion and Diversity Committee, and other current and previous NCFR leaders and members. We also have gleaned helpful advice from experts outside our field who have assisted other member organizations seeking to clarify their most effective role(s), reviewed the history of NCFR’s Board Governance Policies, and conducted two member public policy surveys. In this article, we summarize the findings of the second survey and then note current and planned organizational activities to support NCFR’s commitment to advancing Family Science.
The first member survey was launched in early March 2016 and received responses from 505 NCFR members, including researchers, practitioners, and students (ncfr.org/ncfr-report/past-issues/fall-2016/ncfr-board-update-results-ncfr-member-survey-addressing-research-and-polic). This survey assessed members’ attitudes about the current and future emphasis of NCFR on research, practice, and policy. There was general agreement that NCFR place emphasis on supporting and disseminating Family Science research, and prioritize getting family-relevant research into the hands of policymakers and the public. There also was endorsement for NCFR to promote social justice for all families in its work. If or how NCFR should make position statements showed variability among the responding members.
From December 2016 through mid-January 2017, a second member public policy survey was made available for members. This survey asked members to respond to questions about NCFR’s role in and activities supporting the work of policy, advocacy, and social justice in the context of Family Science. Survey 2 was responded to by 285 members (see Appendix A for a full description of respondents and Appendix B for a list of the main questions; both appendixes can be found at the end of this article). Table 1 shows the associated findings.
Table 1. NCFR Member Public Policy Survey 2 Summary Questions and Responses
Open-ended comments at the end of Survey 2 were consistent with feedback received from Survey 1. Across respondents, continuing to produce high-quality research addressing families and providing education about families were noted. Some members emphasized the need to remain focused on producing and disseminating high-quality research addressing families, others stated the need for greater engagement in policy and advocacy, and still others noted the need to do a better job supporting practitioners in addition to researchers. All of these perspectives are valuable for advancing NCFR’s mission “to provide an educational forum for family researchers, educators, and practitioners to share in the development and dissemination of knowledge about families and family relationships, establish professional standards, and work to promote family well-being.” Responses to the two surveys reinforced the importance of remembering that NCFR is composed of diverse members who have differing personal and professional backgrounds and interests. This diverse membership is a strength of NCFR. Diversity of ideas and experience is needed to solve problems facing today’s families and to determine future directions for understanding and supporting families.
NCFR Engagement in Education and Policy
We agree with NCFR members who believe that NCFR must continue to develop mechanisms to convey the relevant research to policymakers and others. The Board continues to see an effective role for advocacy and lobbying at the individual member level. Further, while most of our policy activities will be in the form of education, we recognize that there might be rare occasions when NCFR would be expected to comment publicly on the impact of policy on families.
Current Board members revisited guidelines for advocacy developed by NCFR’s 1999 Board of Directors. We envision these guidelines as helpful when considering whether NCFR, as an organization, should make public comments on policy matters. We added a sixth guideline, considering whether the action might jeopardize NCFR’s nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service. The six guidelines are as follows:
- The issue is important for families and/or NCFR members.
- The issue is informed by research and member expertise.
- There is a high level of member consensus regarding the research related to the issue.
- There is the potential for NCFR to make a timely contribution to the issue as a result of the proposed activity.
- There are resources currently available within NCFR to support the proposed activity.
- The proposed activity must not jeopardize our tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status, or nonprofit classification.
We think these guidelines will provide a consistent basis for determining when NCFR might comment publicly on policy matters. Let us know what you think, and keep in mind that your individual efforts to advocate for all families are as important as they have ever been.
Toward your individual efforts, NCFR provides many resources for policy education and advocacy. Below we summarize NCFR’s family policy resources that help to teach the policymaking process or how policies impact families as well as provide research-based policy implications. For a full description of the family policy resources, please see Jennifer Crosswhite’s article in this issue, “Policy Activities at the 2017 NCFR Annual Conference, and NCFR as a Whole”
Board members are interested in ongoing input and questions from members. We welcome your emails and we are happy to talk with you by phone, as well as in person at the NCFR Annual Conference. Members can contact NCFR Board members at [email protected]. You can visit the NCFR website at ncfr.org/board-and-governance/board/2017-ncfr-board-directors to see who is currently serving on the Board.
The Board would like to thank all of our members for the invaluable contributions you make to families. It is the daily work we do, as researchers, educators, and practitioners, that most powerfully advocates for the well-being of families.
Appendix A. Participant Demographics
Appendix B. NCFR Member Public Policy Survey 2 Main Questions
Q1. Many NCFR members are engaged in work that involves advocacy and “speaking up” for
families. From the list that follows, please select up to 5 resources/actions that you think are most important for NCFR to provide in support of this work.
Q2. Having a generally accepted definition of Social Justice in the context of Family Science can offer a guide for advocacy work. Please indicate how much you agree with the following description of a social justice framework: “Social justice—and operating under a social justice framework—refers to: Individuals and organizations actively (1) identifying the dynamics of socially structured and institutionalized oppression and privilege; (2) self-reflecting on our own socialization linked to social locations (e.g., race, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.); and (3) acting on systematic and hidden disparities with meaningful leadership in the field of Family Science.”
Q3 What are the specific issues pertaining to social justice and families about which you are most concerned? (Please describe up to 3)
Q4. Please select 3–5 social justice–related actions you believe are the most important for NCFR to support:
Q5. As we work together to address important family issues, how can NCFR promote constructive dialogue that allows those with differing perspectives to learn from each other and work together? Please rate how helpful you think each option is.