Want Agreement? Change the Frame

More resource sharing than thought piece this week, but I wanted to share the excellent work that the FrameWorks Institute does.

Their mission is to “advance the nonprofit sector’s communications capacity by identifying, translating, and modeling relevant scholarly research to frame the public discourse on social problems.” What this means is that they help nonprofits figure out the most effective ways to spread their message and gain support with the public.

The Institute is largely comprised of social scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists, and their work is based in solid, rigorous research.

I’ve been following their work for some time, and my firm had a chance to listen to their CEO, Nat Kendall-Taylor, earlier this week.

Nat discussed an instance where the Institute was researching how to change the public mindset on addiction in a specific market. What they discovered was that material that played to the value of empathy actually led to a decrease in support for the addict. This is because empathy is based on an individual connection and individual circumstances, and when the public viewed addiction as an individual issue or choice, they were less likely to feel the need to act or support organizations who were acting to help than if the materials played to values such as interconnectedness.

Even more alarming was that over 90% of material the nonprofits were putting out on addiction played directly to the value of empathy. Their work was actually driving people away from the result they wanted to see.

The Institute tackles stereotypes head on, and finds ways for nonprofits and others to work around these ingrained notions in order to have their point connect with their audience (and not drive them toward the very thing they are combatting). This message brief on race, for instance, explains why in their research talking about white privilege wasn’t an effective means to improve people’s attitude toward racial diversity, but how playing to the values of interdependence and opportunity for all were more successful.

They have a ton of free resources on their research of dozens of issues, from elder abuse to rural communities to gender equity to taxes—and many, many more. Anyone interested in how to spark a mindset shift among an individual or a community should look into the Institute’s research.

Image: Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson

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