Open Framing

Our Open Framing work seeks to give civil society powerful, participatory tools to change cultural narratives and achieve lasting, transformational social change.

Over the past decade, we have worked for a more connected, united and effective civil society through many initiatives, including Common Cause, Campaign Lab, Comms Hub. We’ve published reports, created toolkits and run hundreds of workshops and training sessions for charities, think tanks, trade unions, artists and grassroots activists. And we’re eternally grateful for all the collaborations, support, and inspirations we’ve had on this journey!

Now, we’ve developed this new branch of work and we’re hoping to be able to draw on, build on, and further strengthen these collaborations…

Latest Open Framing posts:


Building Our Narrative Power Fourteen change-makers Reflections from the first residential of our narrative leadership programme

Since launching Building Our Narrative Power last summer, we have had the incredible opportunity of working with 14 community organisers, campaigners and activists. The folks we’re working with come from a variety of different backgrounds and social justice struggles. We have been working together to shape the programme, bringing in their ideas, skills and experiences to co-design a year of learning and leadership development.

Group Photo!
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Global Narrative Change PIRC goes to a conference in Bogota: and learns a lot! Confluence 2023

On a Wednesday afternoon, just before logging off, I received an email: “Save the date for a global convening on narrative change that IRIS, Puentes and Global Narrative Hive are co-organising this October in Bogotá.” A work trip to Colombia? Yes please! The opportunity to learn about narrative change outside of the UK and to learn from global narrative change practitioners felt too good to be true! 

The first day of the conference arrived, and I felt the awkwardness and excitement of a first date. I was not sure who to approach, where to sit, or what to do with my hands. Then the facilitators welcomed us to the space and I began to relax. Matthew Armstead led us in the diversity welcome. I felt welcome as they named aspects of my identity: bisexual, survivor, in my 20s, feeling nervous, religious background. 

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Guest Blog Epistemic injustice: an invitation to ask new questions Emily Kenway

Who is allowed to know things in our society? Duwayne Brooks wasn’t. When Duwayne’s friend, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist attack in south-east London in 1993, he told the police what he’d seen: six white thugs killing his friend while shouting racist abuse. But his testimony was discounted because, as a young Black man, Brooks was not considered a credible witness by the Metropolitan police.

The political philosopher Miranda Fricker describes Brooks’ experience at the hands of the state as ‘testimonial injustice’ – an injustice perpetrated when someone’s account is rejected because of prejudices about their characteristics. Systemic oppression makes you unbelievable, no matter what you saw, no matter what you say. Examples abound: consider sex workers who are told they can’t have been raped because they’re sex workers; women who urge doctors to believe their physical pain, only to be told it’s in their heads; children whose disclosures of abuse are smoothed over for the sake of adult peace; trans people whose gender identities are derided… the list goes on.

This is, for Fricker, part of an overarching problem which she calls ‘epistemic injustice’, and which I’m introducing here as one portal (of many) into understanding why we need to ensure narrative change is led by those currently excluded from that work. Episteme means knowledge, so ‘epistemic injustice’ is a way of conceptualising the many oppressions perpetrated in the realm of knowledge. Who gets recognised as knowing things? Which knowledge counts? How must knowledge be packaged and communicated to be credible? I’m sure we can all think of many encounters with gatekeepers of these capacities, both our own and those we’ve witnessed.

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Email Course Getting started with Narrative Change Register Now!

The basics of framing, storytelling and testing for social change, straight to your inbox.

Registration is now closed. We hope to run the course again in 2024, so keep an eye on the website and our newsletter.

Working on communications and creative action when you’re trying to make change can often leave you feeling stretched. Really stretched. We’re rapid-responding, reacting to the latest news story, campaign setback, or key moment. Whilst fighting for liberation amidst multiple crises, we don’t get the time we need to analyse how society’s stories and beliefs are shaping the landscape we’re campaigning within. We don’t get the creative space we need to let our radical imaginations loose. And we don’t get the support we need to work out how our ideas will play out further down the line, affecting the way people think, feel and act in the longer term.

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Building Our Narrative Power Dreams of a foodie Dreaming... #2

When I started thinking about what to write I had been cat sitting for my best friend who has a pretty decked out kitchen – and I was planning to make the most of all the fancy appliances. While that did not happen, I instead was left with the feeling of being nourished. I ate well, spent time in nature, I moved my body and finally did some reading of a book I’m excited to borrow once my best friend is done with it.

gold maine coon cat sitting on floorboards
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Building Our Narrative Power Why a participant-led course? Dreaming... #1

When we think of learning, we often think of schools, colleges, universities. But learning is an ancient thing, that existed before all of these institutions and will exist long after. Its something that crosses species: like how honeybees dance to teach others where to find the best flowers. Every species on earth is what it is today because it learnt from the generations that came before.

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Apply Now We’re launching ‘Building Our Narrative Power’ Applications now open

Are you a changemaker, a storyteller, or someone who’s looking to shift the way people think, feel, and act? Then we’d love to learn, grow, and build collective narrative power with you.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.
Thanks to everyone who has applied, we’ll be in touch soon.
If you’re interested in supporting the programme as a mentor, trainer, or content partner, email our Workshops Lead, , with a bit of info about you, how you’d like to be involved and any useful links 🙂

We’re excited to launch the ‘Building Our Narrative Power’ course—supporting people who have lived experience of the issues they are fighting for, to skill-up and shape the narrative for justice and social change, to create waves of action and lasting progress. We’re looking for 16 people who are all passionate about transforming societal narratives across social, climate, and economic justice.

FIND OUT MORE

Webpage graphic

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Building Our Narrative Power Skill-up to shape the narrative for justice and social change

Are you a changemaker, a storyteller, or someone who’s looking to shift the way people think, feel, and act? Then we’d love to learn, grow, and build collective narrative power with you.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.
Thanks to everyone who has applied, we’ll be in touch soon.
If you’re interested in supporting the programme as a mentor, trainer, or content partner, email our Workshops Lead, , with a bit of info about you, how you’d like to be involved and any useful links 🙂

We’re PIRC, and we’ve spent the last 15+ years helping people make change through the stories that we tell. It’s the work of narrative change: changing the current of how people think, to create waves of action and lasting progress.

We’re excited to launch the ‘Building Our Narrative Power’ course. We’ll bring together 16 people who are all interested in changing the narrative across social, climate, and economic justice, and are impacted by oppression. For example: white supremacy, transphobia, anti-immigration policies, poverty, police violence, ableism, or living on the frontline of climate breakdown. 

This course is free and expenses will be covered. We also have a limited number of full and partial bursaries available, to pay folks for the time they devote to the course.
Read on for full details!

What’s it all about?

‘Building Our Narrative Power’ is a year-long course about using narratives for justice and social change. It will include in-person residentials, online workshops, discussion groups, practical exercises, and mentoring, followed by tailored post-course support. And if you join us, it will be co-designed by you.

We know that the professional narrative-change sector in the UK has been dominated by a narrow range of people: mostly white, straight, middle and upper class, non-disabled, and strongly favouring western academia. This programme aims to challenge that, taking what’s worked and shifting what’s not. All participants will have lived experience of what they’re working to change.

We will support you to develop the skills, knowledge, community, and infrastructure to go deeper with your narrative-change work, and train others to do the same. We will also hold space for co-learning, resource redistribution, sharing, growth, and rest.

We’re dreaming of a strengthened and resourced community of narrative changemakers, collectively helping to birth new narratives that bring new worlds into being. If you’d like to be part of this, we’re keen to hear from you!

Who is the programme for?

We are inviting 16 people with lived experience of the issues they are working on to join us. Folks will be focusing on a range of different justice-related issues, from different backgrounds and experiences, thinking intersectionally about their work. You might be paid for this work, or doing it unpaid alongside your community.

We are looking for community leaders, or those who’d like to step into deeper leadership. We see leaders as the people who uplift others, can be held accountable by their communities when they get things wrong, who work to do better, and encourage others to be leaders too. If you are the person in your community who enjoys supporting others and sharing learnings with peers then this is for you.

You are invited to join in pairs, because we know how much easier it is to develop new ideas when you’ve got a collaborator from the start. You can either apply together or be matched through the application process.

You will bring a project or focus to apply your learning to during the programme. Some examples of focuses might be:

  • “We’re a transgender mutual aid group with a few journalist contacts. We want the media to tell fairer and kinder stories about trans people, and we want to learn from other movements about their experiences of media visibility.”
  • “We’re part of a network of residents who want our neighbours to put pressure on our local councils for more affordable housing, and we want to have a joint message to do that.”
  • “I work in campaign communications in a national disability charity. I want us to advocate for an intersectional approach in our sector, but I don’t know where to start.”
  • “My friends and I have experience of navigating the anti-immigration environment in the UK. We want to organise with others to tackle some of the deep beliefs in the UK that made anti-immigration policies possible—beliefs like ‘fear of the unknown’.”
  • “We have lived under the flight paths of London City Airport and want to join-up with other people with similar experiences, to create a narrative-change guide on ‘sacrifice zones’.”

You will be supported to build narrative power by creating narrative strategies for your groups, developing communication guides, creating cultural content, intervening in public debate, training others, and seeking opportunities for cross-movement narrative alignment.

Programme structure and vibe

The programme is made up of seven peer-learning sessions, including two in-person residentials and five online sessions, throughout 2024. This will be followed by tailored post-programme support for up to a year..

We want to challenge traditional learning methods, so we will co-design the programme with you, taking your guidance on what you need, while providing offerings, ingredients, and support.

The course

We’ll co-design a course to build narrative power across the communities we are from. There will be space, time, and support to develop your own projects. You’ll share your experience and skills with one another too. We’ll invite you to share your learning hopes for the course, and also consider what you might like to offer/ teach/ share with one another. Don’t worry if you’re not sure yet—our coaches and mentors can work with you to figure it out.

At PIRC, we’ve got lots of ingredients we can offer to the course, including workshop activities, toolkits for building narrative strategies, and communications research findings. And we’ve got a community of staff, associates, and trainers excited to run sessions with you.

Our first session will be a five-day residential where we’ll offer some introductory workshops to build a shared understanding of the role that narrative work can play in social change, explore the history of storytelling, and the deep roots of why we think the way we do. We’ll reflect on our relationships to ‘leadership’, and set intentions and dreams for the course.

  • Developing a decolonial approach to narrative change
  • Analysing the narrative landscape: understanding how society thinks about our issues
  • Finding the points of intersection across our issues, building shared and complementary narrative strategies
  • Identifying moments and opportunities for narrative shift
  • Firing-up our radical imaginations, and developing narrative and framing ideas collaboratively
  • Testing narrative and framing ideas

We’re also part of a wide ecosystem of narrative change and strategic communications practitioners who offer support in many of the areas listed above, plus:

  • Campaign strategy
  • Creative communication skills-building (e.g. video-making, graphic design, media stunts)
  • Influencing pop culture (e.g. film, TV, books, music)
  • Navigating traditional and alternative media (e.g. broadcast and print journalism, social media)

Follow-up support

After the 2024 course, up to a year of tailored support is available in 2025, helping you run with your learnings from the course. This could look like: further sessions with your mentor, one-to-one coaching from the PIRC team, book clubs, action learning sets, signposts to training opportunities, link-ups with other narrative change practitioners or potential funders, platforms for sharing your work across our movements, and more.

Practicalities

Dates

Once you join the programme, we’ll explore your hopes and dreams for the course in Autumn this year, before the main sessions start in 2024.

We’ve set the date for the first residential session in January 2024, and the rest is open for us to work out together with you. For now, here’s an idea of what we’re imagining:

  • Session One: 29 January – 2 February 2024, 5-day in-person residential
  • Session Two: TBC: March 2024, 1-day online workshop
  • Session Three: TBC: May 2024, 1-day online workshop
  • Session Four: TBC: July 2024, 2 x half-day online workshops
  • Session Five: TBC: September 2024, 1-day online workshop
  • Session Six: TBC: November 2024, multi-day in-person residential
  • Session Seven: TBC: December 2024, 1-day online workshop

Location & Venues

We are currently working on the logistics for the programme. Our first session will take place in person, in Wales, at the Centre for Alternative Technology. You can view venue access information here. Any further in-person sessions will take place in wheelchair-accessible venues, and we will fully consider everyone’s access needs while booking and publish full access information for the venues ahead of time.

Supporting your participation

Places on the programme are free, with all course costs covered, and travel and food expenses too. But if your organisation is able to cover your travel expenses and/or make a donation to the course costs, that would help us make more bursary funding available – increasing access for others

There are a limited number of bursaries and part-bursaries to pay for time spent on the course. We are offering this to combat the inequality in our society that undervalues the unpaid work of grassroots organisers, and leaves opportunities like this most accessible to those from more privileged backgrounds. We want to ensure this project is accessible to everyone, and particularly to facilitate people who are affected by economic injustice to attend and share their expertise.

We’ll be looking at various ways to support people to participate: such as covering childcare, and ensuring venues and facilitation are accessible. Please let us know if there may be barriers to your participation so we can work to address them.

We want to support participant wellbeing throughout the programme. There will be a quiet space, crafting materials, nature connection activities, energisers, and long breaks. We want to prioritise rest and gentleness. We are also currently fundraising for individual wellbeing budgets

Get in touch

Want to get involved or find out more? Please let us know if you have questions about any of this! Email Faith, Kaan and Hannah at for more. You might also find an answer in our FAQs below.

FAQs

Is this programme for me?

We’re looking for folks who are excited to learn more about the role of narrative change and strategy in our movements. Maybe you are:

  • Thinking about how storytelling, communications and framing can help bring about change
  • A frontline campaigner who’s really into using stories as part of your work
  • Already involved in narrative-strategy, strategic communications, or culture-change work

We know that lots of us are doing this work, and not all of us call it by the title of ‘narrative change’ or see ourselves as ‘leaders’. If you want to change big societal narratives and beliefs about your issue, and you’ve got some ideas or questions about how to do that, then this course is for you!

This programme is for those with lived experience of what they are trying to change. We are looking for people who want to decolonise narrative change work, both as part of the programme and outside of it. With this in mind, we will:

  • Celebrate and prioritise rest, gentleness, and space for growth and change
  • Take a transformative justice approach where we can all be accountable for our mistakes
  • Experiment with breaking-down power dynamics in learning spaces
  • Co-design the programme with participants

If you want to be part of designing your own learning experience, as part of a community of people who want to do the same, then this could be a space for you.

We want to help push movement resources to the grassroots, the frontlines, and those who are facing marginalisation. Please think about whether this programme is for you, or if there are other folks you could support to apply instead. And if you’re not sure, drop us a message on . We’d love to chat!

What do you look for in applicants?

We are looking for people who, like us, have an interest in narrative change and narrative strategy—the “how” of transforming how society thinks and feels about climate, social and economic justice.

We are looking for people who are excited about learning more, collaborating across movements, and sharing experience with others on the programme and in your communities.

How will the bursaries work?

We have a limited number of support bursaries available which allow for payment for your time attending and working on the programme. If this time is not covered elsewhere (e.g. your current employer / organisation)—we can make monthly payments based on the amount of time you have dedicated to the programme.

Is my bursary taxable?

Unfortunately, as this is not a full-time course, any bursary received will be regarded as taxable income. If you do not already, you may have to complete a tax return for the years covered by the programme. Both www.citizensadvice.org.uk and www.gov.uk can provide more information.

What if I’m on benefits—will a bursary affect that?

We are looking into the details and will provide more information as soon as we can. However, it is likely both the bursary and attending the residential may have an impact on benefits. Until we can clarify the situation, we would recommend speaking to www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

What expenses will be covered?

We can cover all reasonable travel, accommodation and sustenance expenses incurred by attending the course.

The first residential will take place at the Centre for Alternative Technology, where we will stay overnight. Most people will stay in twin rooms, but we will check that you are okay with sharing before allocating you a room. There will be some single rooms available. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snack breaks will be included.

I don’t live in the UK, can I join the programme?

Unfortunately not this time, but we have trained in other countries before and we would like to again. If you’re from outside the UK and interested in working with us, get in touch to explore what might be possible, by emailing .

Where will the programme take place?

The first residential (29 January – 2 February 2024) will take place in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The centre is open to the public during the daytime, but the bedrooms and our training spaces will be off-limits to the public. The closest town is Machynlleth, which has a train station and regular bus services—visit the CAT website for more information.

Follow-up sessions will be a mixture of online and in-person, and the in-person locations will be decided based on good locations for the group and affordability.

Will the programme be accessible?

We are deeply committed to making the programme as accessible as we can, while also recognising that some access needs can clash with each other. Once participants are offered a place, we’ll work with you to make sure the programme is as accessible to you as possible, while clearly communicating any limitations there may be, and looking for solutions together.

I have specific dietary requirements (e.g. halal, vegan, gluten-free). Will there be something for me to eat?

Yes! We will ask about people’s dietary requirements in advance and make sure everyone is catered for. Our first venue, CAT, serves exclusively vegetarian and vegan food—if this will be a problem for your dietary requirements, please let us know.

I’d like to support the programme as a mentor, trainer, or content partner—how can I get involved?

Amazing! Email our Workshops Lead, , with a bit of info about you, how you’d like to be involved and any useful links 🙂

I’d like to offer financial support for the programme—how can I get involved?

If you are an individual

We are looking for bursary sponsors! If you have found our work useful and are inspired to contribute to bursaries, we invite you to become a sponsor.

Throughout history, we’ve seen that real change happens when people most affected by an issue take the lead. However, too often, well-funded organisations lead narrative change projects on behalf of communities, instead of supporting or taking leadership from those who are directly impacted.

If you, or anyone you know, has the financial means, we invite you to help us create a more equitable and just world. Your sponsorship will support community leaders with lived experience to further develop their leadership skills to carry out narrative change work. Your contribution will enable people to access our programs, workshops, and other resources that they might not be able to access otherwise.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a bursary sponsor, contact Sara Cowan at .

If you are a larger funder

We have various costs that we still need help with! If you think we might fit with your funding priorities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Sara Cowan at .

Decolonising Narratives: Part 3 How can we decolonise narrative work? Decoloniality as queering

We are living off expired stories. Stories that expire can no longer dance with you. They are lethargic or stuck, they can’t move things in generative ways any more, but we often feel we cannot let them go. Many of these expired stories give us a sense of security, purpose and direction—precisely because they seem stable and solid.

Vanessa Andreotti

Reeling in the grief of the summer of 2020, I reflected on how the work of narrative change was itself “living off expired stories”; its practices embedded in racism.

Here, I’d like to try shifting gears and evolving where we’re at. What might the work of learning and doing narrative change look like if we moved it beyond coloniality, capitalism, patriarchy and whiteness?

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Decolonising Narratives: Part 2 The Crumbling Foundations Unpacking the narratives at the foundation of our broken systems

“Narratives are powerful. They can swing juries and elections. They can fill prisons. But they can also fill the streets.”

The Narrative Initiative

As we shared in our first blog of the series, we believe that our societies are built on narratives. These narratives—of our past, present and future—provide the scaffolding for our political systems, for our social structures, and for our own thinking. They shape how we understand and value our relationships, how we classify ‘us’ and ‘them’, how we treat others, our expectations for ourselves, our communities, our leaders.

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Comms Good Practice To segment or not to segment? When to use audience segmentation in campaigns

Segmentation research needs to serve our strategy, not be the strategy. And we should only do it if it’s the best way to understand our audience, if we keep our communications rooted in our values, and if we can actually target the segments we find. 

On the face of it, audience segmentation is a no brainer for campaigners.

Sorting people into groups makes sense because there are real and important differences between us—like our beliefs about what causes poverty, or whether the UK should have left the EU. We know that some of these differences are significant in how people respond to communications. And campaigners need to communicate in ways that are relatable and compelling for different audiences.

If the golden rule of communication is to understand who you are communicating with, then segmentation surely helps you do that? 

It definitely can. But without the right tools and strategy to hand, it can be used in a crude and damaging way.

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New Publication Don’t parrot… 1 A short guide to avoiding common communication pitfalls

A guest blog by Ralph Underhill, PIRC Associate and Director of Framing Matters. Framing Matters and Health Poverty Action have just published ‘A Practical Guide for Communicating Global Justice and Solidarity’. Here he introduces common communication traps.

President Nixon famously said, “I am not a crook”.

With those 5 words, he managed to reinforce the idea, in the minds of millions of Americans, that he was, in fact, a crook. What he should have said is “I am an honest man”. When he used the word ‘crook’, he was parroting the language of his opponents, and simply reinforcing that negative association in people’s minds.

This is the first communications trap, which I call the… Read more

Guest Blog Aid is just a sticking plaster… Why we need a new way to talk about international issues

Ralph Underhill is Director of Framing Matters and a PIRC Associate. Along with HPA he’s just published ‘A Practical Guide for Communicating Global Justice & Solidarity’.

Giving to charity is supposed to be a good thing. That is pretty uncontroversial, most people accept that. But what about the word itself? What associations does it bring to mind? And most importantly, are these associations actually helpful to your cause?

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