Framing Equality

Framing Equality Toolkit!

Download our new toolkit for Framing Equality here!

It represents the learning we’ve done over the past two years, working with ILGA-Europe, on a project aiming to better understand how to interact with the narratives around LGBTI equality across Europe. Why? Because we’ve repeatedly been confronted with the reality that change is not a linear process; neither does it come with a lifetime guarantee. Just as slowly as narratives of acceptance and togetherness are normalised; narratives of division and hatred spring up suddenly. So we’ve been interested in how you create change that lasts. How not to just win the single campaign, but the long-term cultural shifts. The types of shifts that require changes in the way we think about issues: changes that can only occur when we change the narrative.

What have we learnt?

We’ve boiled it down into three (deceptively) simple steps:

1. Define task

What are you framing for?

It may sound ridiculous, but it’s unbelievably easy to lose sight of your vision. We can get so focused on the tasks at hand that we forget why we’re doing it. Reconnect with it! And then connect that vision with how your audience currently understands your issue in order to define your framing task.

What the hell does this mean?

For Intersex Awareness Day, 2016, IGLYO, OII and interACT produced a video called We Are Here, showcasing five young intersex people talking about their own experiences. It was strongly connected to their vision: an end to pathologisation, discrimination, secrecy and isolation; and an informed, empowered, connected intersex community. The video is centred on the voices of young intersex people, talking informatively (‘the issues are…’) and positively (‘you are perfect’), expressing clear goals in advance of this vision of empowering its audience—particularly other intersex people—both through clear information and through creating this sense of community. IGLYO also use a participatory process to shape their campaigns: several days of intensive work with young people in which participants reflect on their own lived realities and find ways to share their story that not only benefits them, but can help others or progress a cause.

2. Create frame

How do you inspire and motivate your audience?

It’s easy to think of other people as really other. But most people are driven by really similar motivations: wanting a nicer society and a better life for themselves and those around them. We need to find ways of finding common ground & speaking to people’s best selves. Make it real, and talk about how change is possible.

What does this actually look like?

Campaigners in the Yes Equality campaign in Ireland built common ground with their audience by talking about an Irish society that many could relate to: with strong families, full of generosity, and with a concern for fairness and equality. They had spokespeople from across Irish society: from grandmothers to children. The acceptance of equal marriage was painted as part of the collective Irish future, representing their generosity and fairness. It was a positive campaign, built around real stories and voices.

3. Test & refine

How do you know your frames work?

Your newly crafted frame is just a beautiful idea until you see how it works in the real world, with people outside of your closest circle. Seeing how people actually respond to what you’re saying is an irreplaceable part of framing development, whether it’s in a focus group or big survey run by a research agency, in the pub, or at a place of worship.

We’ve got a whole separate guide on testing (coming soon) if you want to read up on methodologies; including how to do it at low cost.


We think that any testing is better than no testing. Obviously, the more time and other resource you can put into it, the more certain you can be of your results. But it’s good practice to test, and then once it’s out in the world for real, reflecting on how it went. This helps you to keep learning and iterating.

We worked with Legebitra (Slovenia) on developing and testing some message frames late last year. They ran focus groups and the staff all watched them with popcorn. They were fascinating, and infinitely helpful. Their refined campaign has just launched: see the video below.

Download the toolkit now

This toolkit is the result of two years of conversations, workshops, research, and thinking with ILGA-Europe and its members, and inspired by activists and campaigners across the globe. Read more about our methodology in the toolkit.

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