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Over the past five years, we have worked for a more connected, aligned and effective civil society through Common Cause, Campaign Lab and a number of other initiatives. 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’re developing a new branch of work and we’re hoping to be able to draw on, build on, and further strengthen these collaborations to create something great …
The Open Framing Project* seeks to give civil society powerful, participatory tools to change cultural stories and achieve lasting, transformational social change.
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
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? Read more
Social movements across Europe face some common framing challenges. We asked over 200 campaigners—environmentalists, feminists, anti-racists, new economists, and many more—what we’re up against, analysed the trends and pulled together the key lessons.
If you’re part of a group organising for social change, we’re sure you’ll be familiar with times of fear, grief and despair in the face of the rhetoric from those in power in the UK, Europe, and across the Atlantic. But then we see bright flashes of hope in social movements changing the story: Black Lives Matter and #MeToo; activists refusing to lie down in the face of horrendous corporate and state failures, such as in the case of the Grenfell activists or the women’s strikes in Spain and Poland; and campaigners worldwide fighting tirelessly for the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
We at PIRC spent the past year talking with activists and advocates from across Europe about framing.* In workshops and interviews, we dug into the framing challenges and opportunities our movements are facing.
For anyone working towards a more equitable, democratic and sustainable society
It’s just seven days until the polling stations close.
Depending on your constitution (and/or the most recent poll you have seen), you might feel we are living in exciting (or terrifying) political times, or you might agree with Brenda in Bristol that there is just too much politics these days. Either way, it’s important not to lose sight of the long-term changes we are working towards. Knowing how to communicate effectively is a key part of creating this change.
At PIRC, we work with others to explore how to best frame the issues we care about (creating a nicer, more equal, happier, greener world). From the varied groups and issues we’ve worked on (including our current work on Framing the Economy), we’ve summarised five things anyone working for a more equitable, democratic and sustainable society should keep in mind when communicating with people in this week before the election (whether you’re out door-knocking, sending your final email campaigns or writing blogs). Read more
Whatever your answer, it’ll shape what you think we should do about it. If you think it’s natural, for example, then perhaps all we can do about it is alleviate suffering rather than get rid of it. Perhaps we shouldn’t do anything about it at all.
Your answer will subsequently have an impact on how effective you are at addressing poverty. Will you introduce incentive schemes because you believe poor people are just not trying hard enough; or higher taxes for the rich because you believe historically there has been an unfair allocation of resources? Do you reduce or increase social benefits, like unemployment or child benefits?
In other words, the way we ‘frame’ poverty has a direct link with our political response.
The binary rhetoric that currently surrounds the welfare state reflects a deep moral narrative with a crippling social impact. ‘Strivers’ and ‘skivers’ are two sides of the same coin. That coin is shame.
One side represents the deserving, and the other side the undeserving. Rachel Reeves, the UK Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, recently said that: “We [the Labour Party] are not the party of people on benefits.” She faced some criticism for these words, but these are messages we hear daily, from government and opposition alike.
We’re here for hard-working families. We’re here for the taxpayer.
In this narrative, employment equals worth, while unemployment casts you into the world of the untouchables.
Economic policies are created around this notion of worth. Unemployment must be a choice—you’re shirking—so let’s coax you out of it. You don’t need benefits in your first week of unemployment since you should be looking for work. We’ll put sanctions on you if you’re unemployed for too long.
We’re ‘consumers’ or ‘taxpayers’ and we care about things like ‘pay-off’, ‘return on investment’ and ‘growth’: that’s the bottom line. Right?
Well, I’d put my money on it.
But, actually, when did that happen? When did we start to pepper our meetings, our work, and even dinner conversations with such words and phrases? Sometimes, our use of economic framing has an obvious trigger; take ‘credit crunch’. In one of the recent economic crises, journalists repeatedly used it (with a straight face), and then before you knew it, the 2008 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary carried a new definition of the word ‘crunch’, as meaning “a severe shortage of money or credit”. It was always pretty difficult to pass that particular term casually into everyday conversation, but now we officially associate crunch with economic recession, as well as biscuits.
Economic frames easily creep into everyday language via news media, or advertising, or political rhetoric, but we have little awareness of the effect that might have on the way that we think and behave. Psychological research is finally shedding light on this.