Why are we doing the course?


Opponents of basic principles of justice, shared prosperity and environmental stewardship have developed a remarkably wide-ranging and creative set of tactics to challenge any policy intended to address inequality, preserve our planet and acknowledge the equal worth of every member of society.

How do people working on these issues move from reacting against dominant frames for economic, environmental and social issues to having our messages emerge from and reinforce our own?

The good news is that the facts are on our side. But those who win the narrative battles get to write the policy, so being correct is insufficient. Decades of cognitive research and election results demonstrate that when audiences are presented with effective narratives, framed with careful attention to wording choices and echoed at sufficient volume, progressive issues and candidates can win even where our opposition wilfully lies and vastly out-spends us.

The participant profile

  • 26 determined and skilled communicators with considerable influence over messages deployed by key progressive organisations and movements.

  • A multi-national cohort, with participants from North America, UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

  • Working on diverse issues such as the rise of right-wing populism and threats to democracy, climate justice, immigration and asylum seekers and public services defence.

  • People of colour and others with lived experience of the issues strongly encouraged to apply.


Course modules

Conceptual metaphor

What is it, how to spot it and use it to best advantage for your cause.

Framing semantics

Identifying the elements in your storyline, such as heroes, villains, quest, tools and so on and using each to best effect.

Passive versus active constructions

Why the ubiquitous passive voice harms advocacy, how to spot it and make writing and speech active and engaging.

Narrative strategy

How and when to battle the dominant, conservative storyline by developing and inserting your own.

Public opinion research

How to truly understand qualitative and quantitative research methods and findings, how to know when research is called for and how to best structure it given your objectives and budget constraints. Participants will emerge from the fellowship equipped with the skills to diagnose common messaging pitfalls and correct them. Further, they’ll be trained how to make the absolute best case for their new approaches in order to counter the natural tendency to keep doing what we’ve always done.


How to take research and/or analytic findings and put them into practice, ensuring their use beyond the typical presentations and trainings, through creative campaigns that include branding, ads, events and social media.

Course structure

The program will kick-off with an opening workshop, 23-25 June in Melbourne, Australia to learn the basics of decoding language for greatest impact. While in Australia, participants also have the option to attend Progress 2019, a major Australian progressive conference, held June 20-21.

Subsequent meetings will happen through online video-conference once a fortnight:

  • Webinar 1 - 9 / 10 July

  • Webinar 2 - 16 / 17 July

  • Webinar 3 - 23 / 24 July

  • Webinar 4 - 30 / 31 July

  • Webinar 5 - 6 / 7 August

Participants will generally be given a choice between two Webinar groups to join but our goal will be to divide the group into two, enabling more time for questions and discussion with smaller groups:

  • Webinar Group 1: 5pm London | 9am San Francisco | 12 pm New York

  • Webinar Group 2: 10am Melbourne | 5pm San Francisco | 8pm New York

Throughout the course, participants will complete extensive readings from linguistics, psychology, behavioural economics and related domains. They will complete short written exercises to cement each week’s learnings and apply them to the culminating project, analysing the language of their own issue and suggesting how to reframe it. Participants will also participate in constructive critique of one another’s work.

Finally, at our culminating two night residential retreat, September, 3-5, at the Pocantico Conference Centre (near Tarrytown, approx 45 minutes from New York City), each participant will present a final reframing project both in written form and orally. Participants will receive feedback and coaching both on the content of their presentations and on speaking persuasively in public.

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Applications close on March 30 at 6PM in your respective timezone (PST/EST, GMT, AEST)