We all tend to tell the stories that reaffirm our existing beliefs. So where we flock together with others that share our assumptions, we tend to communicate in ways that work for us – but don’t persuade anyone else of those things we are already persuaded of… we have become closed, not open.
Technology and social media widens the envelope of who we reach, but can reinforce the same effect of people clustering around affinities of belief.
The idea of framing is that we have a mental model that we project on and out into the world. One classic work of political science that examines this is by George Lakoff: Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. His argument is that we live our life in stories and metaphors, and prompted by one or another story, we respond – and vote – in different ways.
A excellent new Report on this is published by the New Economics Foundation and partners. It explores the frames that can reach out to a wider audience and that reinforce positive values of social justice or environmental sustainability.
When it comes to the economy, many people feel a sense of fatalism or helplessness. It is a force which acts on people, but is not one which they can shape.
Two frames the authors explore to overcome this are to harness people’s frustrations with this, pointing to big business which is running that economy, or to harness their values, by setting the economy within a wider frame of the common good. With those starting points, conversation can go wider.
I think these are great tools for those who work in co-operative education or want to communicate the benefits of co-operative action. They are worth testing. And if they are reinforced by other organisations and campaigns that share the same values, the multiplier effect could potentially be significant.