Making an Affirmative Case for Public Services

The role of government, public spending, and taxes will be at the heart of policy and budget debates both nationally and at the state level in the coming year. Due to this current political and fiscal climate, it is even more urgent to know how to make an effective case for public systems and structures.

It is understandable  that we might be asking ourselves and each other whether or not we should throw out our past playbooks as we begin a period of "playing defense." The answer is "No." The best defense is still offense.

Our advice for making an affirmative case for public services in the near-term is to:

1) Stay aspirational and keep focus on the future;
2) Defend against budget cuts in ways that make the case for why public structures matter to "all of us", and, in particular, why they matter now; and
3) Recognize and reframe the dominant discourse about state budget crises.

The Best Defense is Still Offense: PDF Guide

This guide (PDF version) includes strategies for defending public services and the revenues needed to support them. We examine dominant narratives about public budget challenges, and offer lessons from success stories in several states.

Recording of 12/13/2010 Webinar and Powerpoint

This video presentation is a recording of our webinar held on 12/13/2010. This webinar draws on our research and fieldwork, as well as the work of key partners around the country.

The gadget spec URL could not be found


Patrick Bresette, Public Works: The Demos Center for the Public Sector

Wade Buchanan, The Bell Policy Center

Carol Hedges, Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute

Noah Berger, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center

Judy Meredith, One Massachusetts

For further resources, there is a powerpoint version of this webinar. Additional powerpoint and narrated presentations can be found in our presentations section.

Incentives Award

Public Works is providing $500 awards to organizations who write op-eds or other persuasive communications that make the case for public services, systems and structures and utilize our lessons for effectively communicating about government. The current fiscal and political climate presents many opportunities for communications about government and its role—whether it's the release of your governor's budget proposal, the Congressional debate about extension of the Bush tax cuts, or the continuing national discussion about addressing the federal debt and deficit. These awards are designed to encourage organizations to raise awareness and build support for government, regardless of the specific media hook. If your organization writes an op-ed or other persuasive communication that makes an effective case for the public sector, submit it to us for consideration for a $500 award.

Please review the criteria for applying for more information.