Understanding Communities of Deep Disadvantage

I was part of a University of Michigan team that collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to roll out a new Index of Deep Disadvantage developed by researchers at U-M and Princeton in January 2020. Communications goals included: explain the multidimensional index and what differentiates it from other measures of disadvantage, identify regional clusters of disadvantage across the country, and delve into the unique dynamics driving disadvantage in different communities to improve policymakers’ understanding of daily life in those areas.

  • I edited a series of first-person “Stories from the Field” written by graduate student research assistants about their experiences in communities of deep disadvantage in Kentucky and South Carolina. I helped improve narrative structure, performed fact checking and general copy editing, and recommended strategies to highlight communities’ assets while providing concrete examples of the causes and consequences of disadvantage impacting the region. 
  • I contributed to national and regional press releases and media outreach that resulted in coverage in 18 news outlets. This included outlets focused on rural issues (Daily Yonder), the geographic regions highlighted in the research (Ohio Valley Resource), scientific research, and a local newspaper in Kentucky that published three of the “Stories from the Field.”
  • I helped facilitate and develop the concept for a two-part podcast series on rural poverty and the research findings from Rural Matters.

In addition to the media coverage, the communications strategy resulted in nearly 4,000 views of the project landing page within three months of launch and responses from a U.S. Congressman, philanthropists interested in addressing rural poverty, researchers, and service providers who are active in the disadvantaged regions.

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