Finding Frames: New ways to engage the UK public in global poverty
This study looks at what can be learned from values (the guiding principles that individuals use to judge situations and determine their courses of action) and frames (the chunks of factual and procedural knowledge in the mind with which we understand situations, ideas and discourses in everyday life). Values and frames offer ways to look at the problem of public engagement with global issues (this report focuses on poverty) and to identify possible solutions.
The authors argue, that if we apply values and frames theory to the question of how to re-engage the public, we come up with some compelling insights into the impact of our existing practices and some striking solutions to the problems that these reveal. The shortcoming of the report is that it does not necessarily problematize the solutions that it proposes, but it does offer a very good critique of common problematic patterns in engaging broader public in global (especially development/poverty related issues).
This report is the product of a six-month study initiated by Oxfam, and supported by the Department for International Development (DFID). The aim of the study was to explore the potential for frames theory to be used as a practical tool to re-engage the UK public in global poverty. This report offers helpful insight into how reinforcing undesirable 'values and frames' through awareness raising, campaigning or other kinds of advocacy (and educational activities) can sabotage long-term goals of increased public awareness of the root causes of global issues.
Of particular value is the detailed and accessible explanation of the concept of values and frames itself that can help organizations adjust their message in ways that mobilize people for the right reasons. Using the example of Make Poverty History, the authors argue that advocating for quick-fix solutions (through buying / selling wristbands, working with celebrities, organising concerts etc.) was based on reinforcing of consumerist values and frames that not only compromised the long-term impact of the campaign (as consumerist behaviour has a short lifespan of interest), but actually caused a lot of harm, as it reinforced precisely those frames that are contributing negatively to the existence of global poverty.
Despite its massive outreach (1.2 billion people saw the live8 concert) and political support of key figure of that time, the actual political commitments were poor and many remain unfulfilled today. Further, research shows that public awareness (and deeper understanding) of poverty-related issues has not improved or was made worse by the campaign.