Open Framing

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.

*Working title!

Three ways to make difficult election conversations easier

Three ways to make difficult election conversations easierMake the last week count!

Download the PDF version.

Fear, anger and confusion are the overriding emotions people feel about the upcoming election. According to a recent survey, only 5% of us are excited and just 1% feel pride. We often hear that we are divided as a country—but we are also worried.

In the run up to December 12th, many of us will be having difficult conversations. Whether it is on the doorstep, over a cuppa or during a phone call with our grandma, we will be trying to understand what is driving people’s decision in this election in the hope that we will be able to change people’s minds. 

The way we frame any issue reinforces some ways of thinking, and feeling, over others. Last year, we pulled together years of research to identify the key framing challenges we are up against, and how to overcome them. In the run up to this election, we have selected three of these recommendations to give you a framing informed way of approaching conversations ahead of the election. Read more

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

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

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

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’.

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

How do we frame our way out of this mess? 1

HOW DO WE FRAME OUR WAY OUT OF THIS MESS? Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Narratives

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.

Read more

A new guide to testing your communications

When you communicate you usually have a good idea of what you want to say and the change you want to make. But when it comes to crafting a message, how do you know whether it will work?

Testing helps you find out whether your choice of framing (the emphasis you put on particular concepts) is likely to lead to the outcomes you are aiming for.

We believe that every campaigner can improve their communications with testing, and we insist that it’s possible to do this even on a low budget!

Read more. 

General Election Framing Guide 3

For anyone working towards a more equitable, democratic and sustainable societyOccupy Protester Shouting

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

Developing Discourse or Stunted Growth? Taking the Sustainable out of the Sustainable Development Goals

Where does poverty come from?

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?

poorerandpoor

In other words, the way we ‘frame’ poverty has a direct link with our political response.

It’s worrying, then, that an upcoming report from /The Rules suggests that the understanding of poverty that underpins the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) is faulty. Worrying because the SDGs, which replace the Millenium Development Goals, represent the political response of the entire international community to global poverty. Read more

Strivers and skivers? We’re all in this together 2

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.

Shame on you for being unemployed. Read more

Money talks: the impact of economic framing on how we act and feel

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.

bride and groom Read more