In recent years, progressives have been captivated by the idea that the key to social change is in finding the right magic words to "reframe the issue." But these exercises in reframing often fail because they never challenge underlying conceptual assumptions, and thus fall into the same pitfalls as all other communications efforts.
American Environics instead begins from the premise that the challenges we face are conceptual, political and societal and thus demand more than "messaging" or superficial "reframing." The process that AE goes through with its partners is more time-consuming and difficult, but it is what is required to seriously reconceptualize an issue and invent new Strategic Initiatives.
Our team of cognitive scientists offers the following services:
- Narrative and Framing Analysis of Content. AE evaluates existing advocacy materials from a range of organizations (left, right and center) working on a particular issue, as well as media coverage, to identify the overarching narratives, frames, roles, fillers, presuppositions and entailments for each. In addition, AE staff will conduct interviews with organizational leaders to evaluate their discourse for these elements.
- Cognitive Focus Groups and Individual Interviews. Too often researchers conduct focus groups with the assumption that people know completely why they believe what they believe, and that they can represent those beliefs accurately and objectively. AE's cognitive focus group and individual interview protocols are created to find underlying patterns of reasoning and categorization. These cognitive focus groups are followed by very close linguistic readings of transcripts to identify the heuristics-or mental rules of thumb-people use to arrive at particular opinions. AE also uses focus groups to test Strategic Initiative concepts that emerge from an evaluation of patterns of reasoning.