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Responding Knowledgeably: From Welfare Reform to Well Being (1997)

Jean W. Bauer, Ph.D., Professor, Family Social Science, University of Minnesota
Bonnie Braun, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Outreach and Associate Professor, Family Social Science, University of Minnesota

Jean Bauer and Bonnie Braun seized the opportunity to educate citizens on the complex public policy issue of welfare reform. The 1996 welfare reform legislation dramatically changed 61 years of government assistance to families. Responding Knowledgeably: From Welfare Reform to Well-Being was designed to (1) increase awareness of the historic and contemporary nature of public assistance legislation in the U.S., (2) facilitate exchange of information, concerns, and ideas among community and professional leaders, and (3) refocus the legislation from the problem (welfare for a few) to the opportunity (well being for all) using research and theoretical frameworks. The program focused on the "five I's" of information, issues, impact, implications, and imperatives. Educational forums with the public started six weeks after passage of the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Program elements included state and national satellite broadcasts, a national welfare reform think-tank, in-service training for extension faculty, presentations to professional society meetings, and development of a welfare reform web page. For this public policy programming to be effective, it had to reach large numbers of people, with diverse levels of knowledge and attitudes, dispersed across the state and nation within a short time frame. Bauer and Braun built the capacity of this program to meet the needs of multiple learners with the innovative use of electronic technologies. While ultimate outcomes remain to be seen, reaction to this program from citizens and public officials has been very favorable.




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