Framing Equality

Why did a group of people in Russia want to ban LGBTI groups from using the rainbow flag (stolen from nature and the children, apparently), and how have movements like La Manif Pour Tous in France, protesting that sex education must ‘leave my gender stereotypes alone’ (not a joke), gained any serious support?

We think it’s got a lot to do with framing…

Framing Equality Toolkit is one awesome must have toolkit for all #LGBTQIA+ rights activists in Europe and elsewhere!
Soudeh Rad, Activist & ILGA-Europe Co-Chair


The Framing Equality Toolkit summarises the learnings from our multi-year projects with ILGA-Europe, aiming to better understand how to interact with the narratives around LGBTI equality across Europe.


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 the task

What are you communicating 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 the 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 communications work?

Your newly crafted communication 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 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.

As part of the project, we worked with Legebitra (Slovenia) on developing and testing some message frames. They ran focus groups and the staff all watched them with popcorn. They were fascinating, and infinitely helpful. Their refined campaign launched succesfully: 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.


Example pages

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Latest Framing Equality posts:

New Publication Media That Moves 1 Creating anti-racist representations of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK media

The Media that Moves project is one of the best things we have been involved in. It gives us the strength to go forward on the right road to tackle the negative news that journalists publish about us every day.”
Mena Mongan, Community Engagement Officer at London Gypsies and Travellers

We know the media environment around Gypsy and Traveller people is harmful, discriminatory and racist. This in turn fuels the damaging policy, exclusion and prejudice the communities face to this day. The bigger question is why? And what can be done to move towards anti-racism in the UK’s media?

Launched today, Media That Moves is a report from PIRC in partnership with Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange and London Gypsies and Travellers. Based on 30 interviews with journalists, editors and activists and workshops with the Gypsy and Traveller community, the report examines the role of the media in perpetuating negative stereotypes, influences on the media, dominant narratives, and where they come from. Read more

#blacklivesmatter Narrative is fractal 5 Why we need more than words to truly face racism

Narrative is more than words

He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle.
Roxie Washington, mother of George Floyd’s daughter

I don’t think many people truly believe the old sticks and stones adage anymore. But working in the world of framing and strategic comms, it’s easy to take it to the other extreme and believe the power of words to be paramount. But words are just one vehicle for the meaning we extract from and use to shape our lives.

What causes my gut to wrench and the grief to wrack my body when I hear of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade is, only in the simplest of senses, caused by the words I read on a screen. The immediate pain lies in the stories themselves, located beyond the words: the brutal events, the violent interplay between the characters, the horror of the ending. The lives taken: the whole, messy, beautiful humans who will never again walk through their front door or laugh or hug their loved ones again.

And each of their stories is another tile in an incomprehensibly vast mosaic of a narrative that taps into a deep well of familiar pain, a dull ache that I’ve held for as long as I remember.  Read more

New Publication Testing Comms Guide Launched A resource to help civil society test communications

Testing tells you whether your choice of framing—the emphasis you put on particular concepts—is likely to affect the change you were hoping for.

While working on the Framing Equality Toolkit with ILGA-Europe and LGBTI campaigners from across Europe over, we found that doing any kind of testing was really rare, we made this handy guide to help…

Download the guide!

New Publication A new framing toolkit for equality activists across Europe

LGBTI Flag and Symbol

Download our new toolkit for Framing Equality here! 

Interested in attending or hosting a workshop in the UK in the new year? Get in touch!

We’re in Poland in the unpredictable summer of 2013. Progressive movements are collectively rolling their eyes at an attack on gender equality from the fringes of the religious right. It looks ridiculous: an attempt to discredit what they call ‘gender ideology’. The gender equality ‘agenda’ is denounced as a threat to social order; sexuality education, they say, is a tool used by paedophiles. Members of the progressive movement—including feminist and LGBTI groups and academics—are writing sneering responses in the media: teaching gender equality in schools is about improving the prospects of young girls; and no, masturbation lessons are not on the agenda. Read more

Pride & Prejudice Six framing lessons from London Pride

This month, people marched across London in the culmination of Pride. But in the lead up to the festivities, the organisers faced some pretty fierce criticism for this year’s Love Happens Here campaign. The PR company behind the campaign apologised after receiving complaints about the centring of straight people’s voices, the use of homophobic slurs and stereotypes, and the exclusion of trans* stories.

Sounds kind of like the opposite of Pride, right?

There are some juicy lessons in this experience for a framing geek like me. And they chime pretty well with a lot of the lessons we’ve learnt over the past couple of years in our Framing Equality project (read more here). Read more