Reframing Race

Reframing Race

The Reframing Race programme is an initiative of the Runnymede Trust and Voice4Change England with the ambitious aim of ‘reframing’ the public conversation around race, racism and racial justice.  
The programme has been live since March 2019. We are now working with participating campaigners – also known as ‘Reframers’ – to develop more effective stories, metaphors and phrases that can move the public and decision-makers towards real commitment to the cause of racial justice. 
These stories, metaphors and phrases will be tested with segments of the public and the ‘messages that move’ audiences will be shared in guidance in September 2021. 
If you want to be kept up to date on our progress and/or want to help us to share the messages that emerge in our process please email: [email protected]  
Latest research

The Common ground | contested space report (December 2020) compares and contrasts how campaigners and the public think about racism and what should be done about it. The public thinking research was carried out for Reframing Race by ICM and their background findings and technical/methodology reports are available.  
The research reveals helpful strands in public thinking, e.g. that racism matters; it is learned and normalised in everyday life; and that individuals, institutions and the state all have a responsibility to act. But the findings also show important disagreements in ways that campaigners and the public think about racism and racial justice.  
Most profoundly, campaigners see racism as a systemic problem – based on a web of reinforcing laws, institutional practices and broader customs and ideas; whereas, as things stand, there is little understanding in the public that racism is designed into our systems. This means a mismatch in how campaigners and the public might think about solutions. 
Armed with new knowledge about public thinking, the next phase of Reframing Race will work with campaigners to develop more effective stories, metaphors and language that can move the public and decision-makers towards real commitment to the cause of racial justice. 

Early implications for campaigners

 From our research to date, emerging implications for campaigners and their communications are as follows. 

  1. Campaigners don’t have to meet public thinking ‘where it is at’. Campaigners should not try to brush over hot topics, where public thinking is problematic on ‘race’ and racism. Thinking on ‘race’ has always moved and changed shape, and with good interventions it can change again for the better.  
  2. Be clear about the audience and the goal of each piece of communication. Campaigners should be strategic on communications, i.e. clear on the purpose of and audience for each piece of communication and intervene precisely in the conversation. 
  3. Campaigners can build public commitment by showing that real change is possible, and is happening already. Campaigners can illustrate that another world, built on racial justice, is possible by citing real-life efforts and initiatives that make a meaningful difference. Campaigners also need to note that talk of ‘crisis’ may convey the urgency of a situation but can feed public fatalism and disengagement. 
  4. Connect specific instances of racism to the bigger, systemic picture. Campaigners need to join the dots between specific instances of racism and the bigger, systemic picture. This means learning to illustrate systemic racism in more tangible, relatable ways. And campaigners need to also understand that across the public there is little grasp of systemic or structural racism.  
  5. Trigger helpful existing public beliefs when talking about action on racism. Campaigners can talk about the importance of action on racism in terms of building togetherness and belonging and as a foundation stone for a better society.  

    Further resources 
    This University of Lancaster study, Race in the UK press (September 2020) commissioned by Reframing Race shows how newspapers portray issues around ‘race’ and racial justice. It shows how newspapers can report that there are racial disparities in society but often are silent on the role of racism in these and rarely carry much on meaningful solutions. See this blog for more. 
    These materials were developed in the scoping phase on Reframing Race and offer insights into principles for effective communications, including this graphic on racial justice and more on the framing approach in the following report, Making the Case for Racial Equality (October 2018).  

Take a look at V4CE’s full listings of reports.

Featured image via Cottonbro