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Reframing in action: Talking about poverty to solve poverty in the UK

August 24, 2020

The FrameWorks Institute’s research is at the core of a high-impact, award-winning narrative change initiative in the United Kingdom. Working in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), and collaborating with a wide range of organisations, FrameWorks is helping to change the national story of poverty.

The research

Our 2018 research, How to Talk about Poverty in the United Kingdom, identified a tendency to deny poverty’s existence and to blame individuals for hardship they experience. Our research showed the importance of telling a new story – one centred on the reality and the root causes of poverty. One that would ignite and fuel demands for greater compassion and justice. One that showed that this is solvable.

The impact

This new story of poverty has now been told and retold many times:

The story of the reality of poverty and the need to solve it is replacing the dominant ‘strivers vs. scroungers’ narrative. It is providing experts and campaigners with a powerful and effective way to advocate for change. JRF has used the framing insights to achieve a 25 percent increase in the quantity of media coverage and secure policy changes resulting in increases to welfare payments.

How the collaboration worked

Changing the frame on an issue takes great research and a commitment to applying its conclusions in practice. Following the completion of the 2018 research, FrameWorks and JRF worked together to achieve the following:

  • Identify, cultivate and support organisations that could quickly apply the recommended strategy, to show how it works in practice and build momentum
  • Train hundreds of communicators, advocates and experts flexibly and on demand
  • Equip and support activists with direct experience of poverty to frame their own stories and campaigns
  • Train high-profile spokespeople to use the frames in media interviews
  • Shape responses to breaking news stories
  • Integrate framing choices into campaigning strategies
  • Develop a range of framing products and resources
  • Develop visual content and campaign films
  • Share the research with storytellers, documentary makers and content producers.

This collaboration is changing discourse and influencing policy. It is awakening public will for change. But it is not over. COVID-19 risks worsening poverty, inequality and division in the UK. A compassionate and just society is possible, but the stories we tell – and how we tell them – matter greatly.  FrameWorks and JRF are continuing to support and inspire campaigners and advocates to win hearts and minds, change policy and help shape a better society.