Public Funding


Welcome to Talking about Early Childhood Development + Budgets and Taxes, featuring SWAMPED!—a compendium of research and resources on how Americans think about two important issue topics: the role of budgets and taxes, and how to increase public support for policies and programs that support early childhood development.

Based on a decade of FrameWorks’ research and field practice on budgets and taxes and early childhood development, this toolkit provides supplemental application materials, guides, and resources to front-line communicators for deploying recommended reframe strategies to shift the public conversation about both early childhood development and the role of budgets and taxes. It is complemented by an interactive, hands-on game, called SWAMPED!, designed to help experts and advocates improve and/or refine their framing practice in ways that combine reframing recommendations for both budgets and taxes and early childhood development issue areas.

FrameWorks’ research demonstrates that effective communications can help engage the public’s thinking and engagement with issues as complex as budgets and taxes and early childhood development. Here, we demonstrate how an empirically based communications strategy can bolster understanding about these two topic areas in tandem: early child development and the fiscal state and federal resources needed to improve it. By effectively explaining the role of budgets and taxes in potential policy directions supportive of early child development, particularly the ways the successful negotiation of fiscal government policies can ensure a more prosperous future for all, we demonstrate how the reform narrative benefits from the inclusion of these two relevant issue areas.

The following research and resources on early childhood development + Budgets and Taxes, including the game SWAMPED!, were developed by the FrameWorks Institute for The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Message Brief

Early Childhood Development Meets Budgets and Taxes, featuring SWAMPED!: A Message Brief
This new Message Brief combines and summarizes research findings from FrameWorks’ research on both budgets and taxes and early childhood development. In addition, it provides front-line communicators with a communications map for improving the public’s understanding of the linked topics of budgets and taxes in early child development, and for shifting support for potential policy alternatives.


This section provides a variety of framing tools intended to help advocates understand and apply the research findings and recommendations that include budgets and taxes when also talking about potential solutions and policy initiatives for early child development.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Highlight a few common questions about budgets and taxes and early childhood development, with examples of effective and less-effective responses to each.

Key Framing Guides

Navigating the Swamp
This is a supergraphic representation of the “swamp” of dominant patterns in public thinking about the role of government budgets and taxes in support of early childhood development. This visual serves as a reminder of the already existing themes in public thinking that front-line communicators must address.

Basic Message Template
This template is an outline of a message frame for communicating about the role of budgets and taxes as an integral part of meaningful policy developments for early childhood development. The Talking Points and FAQs also in this toolkit show a variety of ways to apply this basic message template.



Talking Early Child Development and Exploring the Consequences of Frame Choices: A FrameWorks MessageMemo
This comprehensive strategic MessageMemo synthesizes the research findings and makes recommendations for how to apply these findings in the context of FrameWorks' total research on early childhood development. As such, it provides a useful backdrop to this toolkit and offers several frame elements – e.g., values and metaphors – to further communications strategy.

How to Talk About Budgets and Taxes: A FrameWorks MessageMemo
This MessageMemo summarizes the findings from our research and provides advocates with a communications map for improving the public's understanding of the linked topics of budgets and taxes, and for shifting attitudes and support for policy alternatives.

Trigger Videos

The Budget and Taxes Trigger Video
This video is a compilation of On-The-Street Interviews that show what dangers lurk in the "swamp" of cultural models, and what prevents people from seeing how responsible budgets ensure the well being of communities and how taxes support those budgets. The video goes on to show advocates how the value "Prevention" and the simplifying model "Forward Exchange" help people see how budgets and taxes are related, and why they are an important part of a well functioning society. As such, it serves as a useful primer for the array of research reports that inform it.

Research Reports

A complete list of all research reports specific to the two topic issues, including those that use cognitive interviews, media content analyses, experimental surveys, and focus groups, can be found on FrameWorks’ Budgets and Taxes and Early Childhood Development respective web pages.

Budgets and Taxes
Early Childhood Development


Play Swamped!
The Game

A new, interactive game tool that shows how to take control of your messaging strategy through short, interactive exercises that focus on the most popular do’s and don’ts framers can make when linking early child development messaging goals to government, fiscal policies.


screenshots of swamped

FrameWorks Institute