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Framing 101

Discover how the science of framing can help us to be heard and understood. When we change the story and how we tell it, we can change the world.

Framing is the choices we make in what we say and how we say it:

  • What we emphasize
  • How and what we explain
  • What we leave unsaid

These choices matter. They affect how people hear us, what they understand, and how they act.

The science of framing helps us to be heard and understood. When we change the story and how we tell it, we can change the world.

For a quick glimpse at some of the basics of framing, check out Fast Frames — a six-part mini-series featuring quick advice that you can use to make your communications more effective.

Each of the videos in this series shares a specific framing tip to help you advance your social change work, including lessons on:

  • Leading with solutions
  • Talking about data
  • Alternatives to “vulnerability” framing
  • Using visuals to spark big-picture thinking
  • Telling more effective stories about the success of your social change work

Explore the resources below to take a deeper dive into the fundamentals of framing.

Showing 1 – 12 of 20


Tapping into the Power of Metaphors

Metaphorical language—which includes metaphors, similes, analogies, and other comparisons—is a powerful tool in social change communications. Metaphors that rely on everyday objects or...


Order Matters

We have all heard that when it comes to effective communications, it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. But it turns out that when you say it is also important. Through experiments...


What’s in a Frame?

Over twenty years, drawing insights from the social sciences and social movements, the FrameWorks Institute has created a list of a dozen significant framing decisions, or “frame elements.”


Five Questions about Framing

1. What is Framing? Framing is about the choices we make in what we say, how we say it, what we emphasize, and what we leave unsaid, and how these choices shape how people think, feel, and...


Don’t Feed Fatalism…Put Forward Solutions Instead

Most advocates say their top communications priority is to motivate the public to get involved in solving a pressing social problem. Given this goal, it is remarkable how much social change...

Frame Testing Recommendations

Unleashing the Power of How: An Explanation Declaration

Our Explanation Declaration lays out why explanation matters, points to the risks of narratives that lack explanation, and highlights explanatory tools and techniques.


Words That Change Minds

This feature article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy profiled the FrameWorks Institute and the way our work helps nonprofit communicators drive social change.


Five Framing Tips: Framing for Social Change

How can we frame communications so that they drive social change? This question underlies the work that we do every day as researchers and practitioners who support nonprofit organizations. The...


Framing and Policy Making

Policymaking is traditionally depicted as a process that unfolds in neat, predictable stages. First the issue is placed on the agenda and the problem is defined. Next, the legislative branches of...


Framing Stories For Change

Not all stories work the way we think they do.


Episodic vs. Thematic Stories

In his book, Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political Issues, Shanto Iyengar hypothesizes that different ways of framing news stories have different effects on how viewers attribute...


Six Common Framing Habits We Should All Seek to Break

What would it look like if we adopted a more evidence-based approach to talking about social issues? Among other things, we’d realize that a set of our communications practices should fall by...