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Self-Sufficiency Awards

Guide for developing the SSA Narrative

First and foremost, you do not need to be a professional writer to develop a story about your nominee. By reading through this guide and following the "BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END" framework below, you will have all the tools you need to write a meaningful story. CAAP communications staff will edit your story, so you do not need to be concerned with a polished product. It is more important to get correct and complete information about the nominees’ struggle, and how he/she overcame barriers, than it is to have the story ready for publishing. You can, however, help limit the number of times CAAP's communications staff contacts you for clarification by being as thorough as possible during your interview with the nominee and when writing the story.

Here's the framework that the Conference Committee asks you to follow when writing the narrative.

BEGINNING: Tell us about your client. Give us their background, and include some personal details. Tell us how your client arrived in financial distress. What were the circumstances that led to their situation? How did they find your agency? Why did your client choose to engage your agency? In the beginning, what was your client's physical condition or mental state-of-mind?

MIDDLE: Tell us about the experience of engaging your client. In chronological order, what programs/services did you recommend your client to engage, and did your client follow through with the help? Did your client hit a roadblock or two? If so, how did they overcome the challenges, and what kept them going?

END: Tell us about the progression of improvement that you noticed in your client as they worked through the help provided by your agency and by partnering organizations. Tell us how your client is doing now. What was the impact your agency had in assisting your client to self-sufficiency? What are your client's future plans? What was your client's biggest lesson learned, and what was your biggest lesson learned in working with your client? Please include a direct quote from your nominee.

At a minimum, the length of your narrative should be about 430 words and no longer than one-and-a-quarter pages (about 650 words). Use 11 or 12 point font and single spacing.

Self-sufficiency award recipients are the face of Community Action and represent a snapshot of all of your clients. It is important to have complete and correct information about your nominee to show why he/she was selected. The information that you provide will not only be used by the selection committee, but it is also the story that will be published in the self-sufficiency awards book, featured on the CAAP website, and used to promote Community Action throughout the state and beyond.

The following are some tips to consider when interviewing your nominee:

When interviewing your nominee, meet somewhere that is quiet and comfortable. Help the nominee relax and feel comfortable talking to you. Explain the purpose of the interview, letting the nominee know that the story is intended to help others while at the same time showcasing both the nominee and Community Action. Be sensitive to the needs of the nominee as well as to any of your agency’s policies regarding confidentiality. Use follow-up questions if you feel the answers will enhance your nominee’s story.

When writing your nominee’s story, include dates at frequent intervals so that the reader can follow the timeline of events that led to your nominee’s self-sufficiency. Include the name and role of your agency’s staff, resources, and programs that empowered the nominee. Use acronyms only after you have written the name in full, followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis. [Example: Community Action Association of Pennsylvania (CAAP).] This includes the name of your agency. Most readers, particularly those outside the Community Action network, do not know what you mean when you use acronyms. Use words that emphasize the nominees’ drive and determination in reaching and/or exceeding their goals.

The awards luncheon will be held on October 2nd in State College, PA. Support and encourage your nominee to attend the Self-Sufficiency Award luncheon. It is very important that all nominees and a representative of the nominating Community Action Agency attend the ceremony and other events for maximum statewide and local exposure. Your award winner may not be able to attend the ceremony without your agency’s support regarding work, travel, lodging, child care arrangements, or other services. Children of the nominee are welcome to attend. And remember, Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds may be used for supporting your nominee’s attendance including transportation and lodging costs.

The following are a list of questions to consider when interviewing your nominee:

1. What is the full name of your award nominee?
2. Who is dependent on your nominee for support? (List name and relationship to nominee.)
3. Give the month and year that your nominee came to your agency for support.
4. What situation or series of situations caused her/him to seek your agency’s help?
5. How or from whom did your nominee hear about your agency or services?
6. Give the names and titles of any caseworkers or others who helped the nominee move toward self-sufficiency.
7. What were your nominee’s initial goals?
8. What were his/her additional goals?
9. When and how were these goals achieved?
10. Describe the challenges, barriers, or adverse circumstances your nominee faced and how he/she overcame them with the help of Community Action.
11. What personal traits helped your nominee succeed? (Examples: initiative, self-determination, strength of character.)
12. What programs or services did your agency provide that helped empower your nominee to become self-sufficient? (Emphasize the comprehensiveness of your agency’s programs and services so that readers understand the critical role played by the agency.)
13. Provide positive comments from your nominee’s caseworker or another person from your agency who was directly involved in her/his progress.
14. Provide a direct quote from your nominee describing how he/she feels about your agency helping him/her become self-sufficient.

Additional questions to ask the nominee are:

1. How did our Community Action Agency affect your life?
2. What programs or services do you feel helped you the most?
3. How did our Community Action Agency affect your family’s life?
4. What does self-sufficiency mean to you?
5. What are your future plans?