Case Study: Communicating for Social Change Toolkit

Usually, the saying goes, “all talk and no action.” This project flips that idea on its head. Instead, the Canopy wanted to explore the impact of the stories we tell on our ability to create change. Turns out that talk and action need to go hand-in-hand. Through support from the Telligen Foundation, the Canopy developed a series of tools to harness the power of language to impact issues from substance abuse to a lack of healthy food.

We started by looking into the way we frame things using narratives. Like the way you frame a picture to highlight an image and tell your eye where to go, humans use stories to help the listener’s brains focus on specific details and ignore others. This is framing. It happens when we tell a neighbor about an issue affecting your hometown, when activists highlight stories on social media to inspire them to vote, or when corporations produce a commercial to highlight their social responsibility. The Canopy team then developed training that would help communities understand the narratives that were impacting their local issues.

Next, we looked to support facilitators and did a deep dive into the way stories play a role in the conversations we have about social issues. Did you know that stories help us to disagree with one other without feeling aggressive? Or that people are more likely to respond directly to stories than they are to arguments during a discussion. The training developed after this exploration helps facilitators encourage stories at the right time throughout a dialogue. 

Interested in bringing these tools to a group you work with? Contact us.

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