Budget cuts loomed strongly in Oregon during the 2015 legislative session.

Constituents needed legislators to understand the importance of Oregon’s Independent Development Account (IDA) Initiative, a 15-year-old matched savings and financial education program that has helped transform people’s lives.

This was a familiar situation, but Neighborhood Partnerships found a way to ensure constituents’ voices penetrated the rhetoric to be heard loud and clear by legislators: landscape storytelling.

It’s a storytelling technique that links participants’ lived experiences to the impact of IDAs on their communities and on the larger policy decisions made at the capitol. Here are some examples of stories (although only one is from the 2015 legislative session).

Neighborhood Partnerships built up a network of nearly 300 IDA providers and participants across the state who experienced the benefit of savings matches, financial education, and coaching. The supporters learned how to connect their personal stories to the ripple effects on their communities. Training, networking, and other support from Neighborhood Partnerships helped communicate the stories.

The sheer volume of voices and their personal appeal had a big impact, especially through framing centered on hope and opportunity. Supporters showed up at the capitol in Salem three times during spring 2015 and met with almost all 90 legislators. The directness and variety of the stories drew empathy and understanding.

An extension and expansion of the initiative passed during the session, and many more future homeowners, college graduates, and small business owners will access better opportunities to thrive on their own terms through the Oregon IDA.

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