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October 14, 2013 | Category: Blog, Resources | Author:

Communications wisdom from Opportunity Agenda

OA toolkit coverOur friends at the Opportunity Agenda have launched a new social justice communications toolkit called “Vision, Values, and Voice.” In typical Opportunity Agenda style, they’ve created a smart and fun-to-read publication; it’s even got an accompanying comic book with a superhero named Helvetica Bold. The organization’s mission is to “build the national will to expand opportunity in America,” and they focus on changing hearts, minds, and policy over time. Theirs is a long-term struggle that recognizes you’ve got to shape the big “narratives” that govern our lives as much as specific policies do. A couple selections from “Vision, Values and Voice” to whet your appetite.

On audience segmentation: “Remember that there’s no ‘general public’ when it comes to communications strategy. None of us have the resources to reach everyone, and fortunately, we don’t have to. Typically, we need to reach a much smaller group of decision makers—swing voters, policymakers, corporate board members—and a segment of people who influence them, such as faith leaders, donors, or customers. Think of audiences on a scale from 1 to 5, with the 1s being the most sympathetic and activated, and the 5s the most hostile and activated against your cause. Now segment—who are the 2s and 3s? How can you reach them? And how can you motivate the 1s to action?” (Page 9.)

On telling an “Opportunity Story”: “Research and experience across a wide range of social justice efforts point to several core principles for moving audiences and inspiring action. On most issues, we recommend a compelling ‘Opportunity Story’ that embodies these principles by:
* leading with shared values * promoting solutions * evoking familiar themes and metaphors, and * telling a systemic story.  That story should inform not only individual messages, but also broader narratives that bridge individual audiences and campaigns.” (Page 13.)

The toolkit includes tips on developing a communications strategy and practical examples to help social justice groups advance their own agendas. To learn more, download the “Vision, Values and Voice” toolkit. You can also read an interview with Opportunity Agenda’s director, Alan Jenkins, and more on the organization’s cultural strategies for social change, on pages 40-41 of Working Narratives’ publication, “Storytelling and Social Change: A Strategy Guide for Grantmakers.”