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Targeted universalism jettisons a one-size-fits-all policy formula in favor of an approach that is more outcome-oriented and excludes no one.

BERKELEY, CA: The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley on Wednesday released its first primer on the “targeted universalism” framework, which allows for creative, new policy remedies to pressing social problems as an alternative to traditional approaches inadequate for achieving goals of universal access and inclusion.

"Targeted Universalism: Policy & Practice" provides a roadmap to design policy that can serve groups otherwise excluded, while also promising to improve outcomes for people situated in relatively privileged positions. This is accomplished by re-imagining the range of implementation strategies needed to accomplish the universal goal.

The targeted universalism framework was developed by Haas Institute Director john a. powell as a response to the constraints of the two dominant approaches in policy thinking: the targeted approach, and the universal approach. Targeted universalism borrows the strengths and avoids the weaknesses of both targeted and universal approaches. Yet, it is also categorically distinct in both conception and execution.

Listen to a podcast interview about the primer with Director john a. powell below

Among the core strengths of the targeted universalism framework is its potential for ingenuity and boldness in policy thinking, which opens up the possibilities for experimentalist design in a nuanced fashion that rejects an “either-or” approach.

The new primer, co-written by powell, Haas Institute Assistant Director Stephen Menendian, and Targeted Universalism project director Wendy Ake, demonstrates how targeted universalism overcomes the limitations and vulnerabilities of the targeted and universal approaches by offering goal-oriented measures that uplift all members of society, but most notably groups that are otherwise left out of the benefits of policy design.

While built as a conceptual model, the primer also offers many examples of how targeted universalism is already being used in cities across the country as a response to local problems. In Baltimore, for example, the city’s health department instituted a program to ensure that all school children who needed eyeglasses received them.

Under the program, vision screening for children was put in place that targeted students who were unable to reach the universal goal of the city to improve classroom learning. Once students’ vision problems are addressed, the city can then look at other barriers to learning as part of a long-term agenda to reach the universal goal.

Watch an animated video explainer on targeted universalism below

Years in development, the primer offers historical and contemporary examples and imagery to illustrate the limitations of traditional approaches and how a targeted universalism platform can spur innovative policy design to solve enduring problems. At the same time, the targeted universalism policy development process unlocks potential for transformative change by breaking out of a one-size-fits-all mold.

The primer is designed to be updated as the framework is put into practice and feedback is received. The Haas Institute encourages participation among policy-oriented stakeholders in operationalizing the framework, documenting the experiences throughout the process, and sharing the results so the approach can continue to evolve and be refined.

While this document is the Haas Institute’s first publication on targeted universalism, the framework has served as a foundational model that has guided the Institute’s work for years. In 2017 the Institute produced an animated video explaining the tenets of targeted universalism, and earlier this year the Institute added a curriculum module based on the animated video which helps teach the framework.

Media Contact

Marc Abizeid