This summer, ReFrame asked ourselves these exact questions in regards to the ReFrame Academy, a five-day immersive narrative power boot camp. Despite the recent passing of our operations and event management expert, Stephanie Gasca, we resisted the temptation to stick with the familiar and instead embraced what the moment demanded. With another challenging election cycle on the horizon, ReFrame took a bold step by offering not one, but two parallel Academies, both in person and virtually. It was a significant gamble. Would people be willing to travel given the uncertainty of COVID and competing priorities? Would those fatigued by Zoom and online training sign up for a week-long boot camp? Could we successfully pilot a new training approach that combines live and pre-recorded sessions? Could we manage this with our limited capacity?
The TL;DR is a resounding YES. The demand for the ReFrame Academy was evident. The 400 participants from 40 states and eight countries, including a participant joining from their phone in a car in Zimbabwe, brought insightful questions, innovative ideas, rich experiences, and experimental musings to Academy programming, infusing it with texture, energy, and innovation. Our commitment to amplifying marginalized voices and honoring ReFrame’s legacy of justice communications built by LGBTQIA+ and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) was reflected in those that signed up and attended with 58% of participants identified as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and 48% self-identified as LGBTQIA+.
"It was super helpful, one of the more well-done [trainings] I have attended this past year. The modules were really helpful, the time commitment was doable, and the trainers and facilitators were superb. The attachments and worksheets will help my comms team [plan] for the future." - Citlaly Mora from Just Futures Law , 2023 ReFrame Academy Alum
The profound sense of isolation stemming from the ongoing pandemic, coupled with the internal silos many communicators and organizers across issues operate within, struck a chord. The overwhelming gratitude expressed by seasoned and emerging organizers and communicators at being able to connect with like-minded, values-aligned individuals speaks volumes. It is clear that individuals across social movements and non-profits yearn for integrated and impactful communications and organizing strategies, recognizing that narrative work is fundamental to organizing and power-building.
"As a new hire at the org I work for, the power mapping tool was very helpful, as it helped me learn the 'lay of the land' in our work. I was able to identify 'major players' in the work and where they exist in the landscape…. One major takeaway was understanding the difference between a story and narrative, as well as the difference between a strategy and tactic, and why all the aforementioned are important." - Isiejah Allen from Freedom Network USA, 2023 ReFrame Academy Alum
The ReFrame Academy has been offered to social justice movements in various forms for the past five years, during which our world and movements have evolved, as has the conversation around narrative. While there are now numerous trainings on "narrative" and an increasing number of organizations dedicated to narrative work, the response to the Academy offerings confirmed that our unique approach continues to fill a significant gap, with a training team, narrative specialists and organizational expertise in not only narrative but campaigning and local, regional, national and international organizing. We are able to ground and connect conceptual frameworks with bread and butter skill building and organizing case studies.
Our exceptional network plays a vital role in our work, including anchoring our training containers like The Academy. The ReFrame narrative network is composed of thousands of communicators, organizers, digital experts, press specialists, direct action advocates, authors, documentarians, and artists. For the recent Academy, ten ReFrame alumni served as narrative specialists, offering personalized support to small groups of participants throughout the week. This relational, political, and practical guidance enabled participants to apply the tools, frameworks, and lessons learned in the workshops to their specific contexts. This dynamic aspect of the Academy mitigates common training pitfalls, where information is simply disseminated without providing opportunities for real-time exploration and application.
At ReFrame, we emphasize building narrative infrastructure as critical to building narrative power. We know we cannot build power alone as one entity, organization, campaign or institution. Narrative infrastructure includes the individuals, organization, networks and institutions making meaning at scale. We need to continue to grow our narrative infrastructure in order to build and wield narrative power. Spaces like the Academy allow us to introduce this framework and continue to expand and fortify our shared narrative infrastructure across geography, issue, method, and identity.
"The Academy was everything and more. This group and the people I've met this week were very informative, supportive, and incredible. At times, the information was heavy to manage, but there were moments I could pull away and connect with someone ... experiencing the same heartbreak, curiosity, or even [sharing] a space of laughter. This space supports understanding narrative power and how to redirect communication during any social climate issue."
- Monti Hall from Grassroots Leadership, 2023 ReFrame Academy Alum
While the format of the Academy has evolved, the core mission remains unchanged — equipping communicators and organizers with the skills, connections, and expertise to strengthen and establish narrative power.
As we step into 2024, our mission remains clear: to equip the next generation of narrative power builders with the skills and connections needed, and to expand and activate our movement networks so that we can wield our power in the service of justice, liberation, and dignity for our communities. Want to stay connected to future ReFrame trainings and offerings? Be sure to sign up for updates here.
more blog posts from reframe
Vertigo Variations: ReFrame's 2024 Narrative Predictions
Vertigo Variations explores the intricate tapestry of the economy, the complexities of war, the dynamics of the upcoming elections, the evolving landscape of labor and work, the transformative influence of technology and AI, and the ever-shifting realms of pop culture and sports.
ReFrame Year In Review 2023
Here at ReFrame we take a small pause every quarter, check our compass, and adjust our heading to stay the course. At the end of the year, we take a longer pause to evaluate where we’ve been and set direction for the next year. Below is a summary of the activities and impacts of ReFrame’s work in 2023. Of course, we do not do this work alone, we are moving with others to build narrative power and bend the arc of justice towards justice and liberation.
Narrative Infrastructure: The Heartbeat of ReFrame's 2023 Academy
In a time of such incredible tumult and uncertainty, it is sometimes alluring to say ”if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” and we know as justice workers running campaigns, programs and projects of all types we need to not just make sure our work isn’t broken but ask ourselves what is actually needed in this time. What is actually being asked of us to meet this moment?
That’s A Wrap! Congratulations to the 2023 Narrative Power Now Cohort!
As we gear up for 2024, we must continue to invest in the infrastructure that makes it possible for our movements to build narrative power and make meaning at scale next year and beyond through programs like Narrative Power Now.
Register for the ReFrame Fall Academy 2023: Where Narrative Power Meets Opportunity!
Register for ReFrame's 2023 Fall Academy – two experiences, one powerful narrative change journey!
Down the Rabbit Hole: Demystifying QAnon Narratives and Networks
Introducing Down the Rabbit Hole: Demystifying QAnon Narratives and Networks
Stephanie Gasca Por Siempre: Stories of Love and Resilience
An Ode to a Real One: Stephanie Gasca - Rest in Power
Trans Athletes: A Narrative Analysis
This Trans Day of Visibility, we’re releasing new narrative research on transgender athletes as one layer in this complex narrative contest. Find out more about who is driving the conversation and how critical narratives about fairness and safety shape the landscape.
"We Did It!" Not a Solo Founder Story
A founding story grounded in movement values and a collective vision.
Cha-Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes... A Note from ReFrame's Outgoing ED
Co-founding Executive Director, Joseph Phelan, on why he is leaving ReFrame and what's next.
CATALYZING RIPPLES: REFRAME’S 2023 NARRATIVE PREDICTIONS!
Catalyzing Ripples lays out the narrative themes, evolving story trends and emerging opportunities and risks that can serve as a guide in the year ahead.
Breaking Q! From Disinfo Distraction to Narrative Strategy
An interview with Ivie Osaghae and Bia Jackson of #TeamReFrame as they are immersed in our QAnon narrative research and deprogramming work in collaboration with Women’s March. The team explores QAnon as a big tent conspiracy theory and introduces research around how people are drawn into conspiratorial practices like QAnon or Q adjacent networks.
Time for the All-Stars! Meet ReFrame's Senior Cohort
Since 2015 when we launched the ReFrame Mentorship, we have been investing in leaders and organizations to build a durable, long-term narrative power infrastructure that along with organizing, can bend the arc of history towards justice. In line with this vision, we saw an opening that led us to the Senior Narrative Power Cohort.
Skilling Up to Build Narrative Power: Reflections on Narrative Power 101
Over 800 hundred organizers, creatives, and strategists joined ReFrame for Narrative Power 101 (in real-time and asynchronously!), to skill up and build narrative power to win.
Answering the Call - NPS '22 Reflections
Opening statements from ReFrame Executive Director, Joseph Phelan, and ReFrame Deputy Director, Hermelinda Cortés, along with photos from the 2022 Narrative Power Summit.
Register Now for Narrative Power 101 Training
Join ReFrame on October 25th for Narrative Power 101! This free virtual training reviews the fundamentals of narrative and disinformation while offering new approaches and practical steps for your everyday work.
Introducing the Narrative Power Summit!
This October 6-8, ReFrame and RadComms are bringing narrative power builders together for a hybrid summit in Long Beach, CA!
What is Safety Really? Organizing for a New Way
Jenny Lee and Damon Motz-Storey were in a six-month fellowship run by ReFrame in partnership with the Northwest Health Foundation. We took a few minutes to check-in on how they are doing.
Ukraine, Democracy and the Far Right
The TL;DR - How the meme of a Ukrainian granny with a gun hides a far right secret OR the fog of war is murky, beware of the far right OR, the fight for multi-racial democracy at home and abroad.
Collective Bargaining for Stronger Communities
As we grow the narrative power ecosystem we need to win we are taking moments to highlight the awesome strategists we get to work with. Luo was a participant in the ReFrame Summer Academy and we took a few minutes to check-in on how she is doing.
What the South Taught Me About Predicting Narratives
The God's honest work and lineage of organizing in the South taught me that understanding not just the political terrain but the narrative landscape is essential to building power. Our movements can contend for power at the level of ideas, beliefs, and values and set the narrative arena in which we organize.
The Promise of ReFrame
ReFrame’s Executive Director, Joseph Phelan, recounts his time as a communicator and organizer at Miami Workers Center as part of the inspiration for the vision and promise of ReFrame to build narrative power at scale. “I could see a future where we were touching these contacts with targeted messages and stories that overtime lead to a shift in worldview.”
Through The Looking Glass: 2022 Narrative Predictions
SAVE THE DATE: Through The Looking Glass - 2022 Narrative Predictions
Shifting the Culture of Crime and Punishment
As we grow the narrative power ecosystem we need to win we are taking moments to highlight the awesome strategists we get to work with. Talia Gad is a participant in the Northwest Health Foundation Fellowship and we took a few minutes to check-in on how she is doing.
ReFrame x NWHF Narrative Fellowship
ReFrame and Northwest Health teamed up to train leaders in community organizations in the Pacific Northwest to engage in narrative work to win.
THE RONA REPORT: THE ECONOMY, WORKERS & UNEMPLOYMENT
Exploring the narrative weather of Covid-19. The Rona Report is a project of ReFrame and Solea Signals. COVID time is confusing. It can feel like light speed and sloth slow all at once.
GOTV: Tools for Fighting Disinformation NOW & Beyond
Many who believe in justice are fighting hard for victories at the ballot box. However, our opponents are spreading disinformation that threaten the just future we are all working towards.
Threat Modeling & Swot Planning
At ReFrame, drawing from our experiences inside of other crisis moments, two of the tools we’ve been using to coordinate our team in the time of COVID-19 is individual and organizational threat modeling & SWOT planning.
A Movement Moment: Narrative in the Time of Corona
We are here with you. Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone who is struggling right now.
Creating an Ecosystem for Narrative Power
The political landscape is shifting by the week. What we need to stay above the current is what will allow us to build narrative power for the long-haul.
A Spectacular Start to the 2019 Reframe Program
The fifth class of the ReFrame Mentorship kicked off in May with a spectacular Opening Convening in Denver and Breckenridge, Colo.
5 Minutes With Power California’s Jung Hee Choi
Jung Hee Choi is a Senior Advisor and mentor for ReFrame and the Associate Director for Communications and Policy Strategies for Power California.
Introducing the 2019 Reframe Mentorship Cohort
At ReFrame, we envision national and international movements buoyed by hundreds of thousands of strategists who are collaborating to develop and advance deep narratives that bend the long arc of history toward justice.
Black Panther: The Movie About Blackness That Reflected Back Gold
First things first, if you have NOT yet seen Black Panther, stop reading right now and go watch it. Yes, RIGHT NOW. Then come back later and read this.
ReFrame Gives Me Hope (Video)
Some of the ReFrame mentors reflect on their mentees and the hope they have for the future.
It’s Humanizing (Video)
Shanelle Matthews, ReFrame mentor and Communications Director at Black Lives Matter Global Network, reflects on why learning and collaborative spaces like ReFrame are humanizing and powerful for oppressed communities.
Build The Story (Video)
Brandon Hill, who works with Cook Inlet Keeper, talks about why he applied for and participated in ReFrame.
We Have a Responsibility to Our Ancestors (Video)
Fresco Steez, who works with BYP100, talks about the importance of story and the responsibility of building power towards action to end oppression for all people.
Hope & Liberation (Video)
JaNaé Bates, who works with ISAIAH, talks about shifting narratives away from fear and towards hope and liberation.
ReFrame For Our Future (Video)
The ReFrame Mentorship is a six-month program that builds the next generation of strategic communicators in social justice, and supports organization to integrate communications as a core strategy.
Lessons From the Field: Fighting Trump’s Deportation Machine
Immigrant rights organizations like Juntos, a Latinx grassroots group in Philadelphia, have been mobilizing powerfully in the months since Donald Trump took office. For Miguel Andrade, the communications manager at Juntos and a 2017 ReFrame mentee, strategic communications has played a critical role in their organizing work.
Lessons From the Field: Climate Change Organizing in the Trump Era
For 27 years, Cook Inletkeeper has worked to protect Alaska’s waterways and the life and people that they sustain. According to Brandon Hill, the organization’s Communications Director and a 2017 ReFrame mentee, that work is always an uphill battle.
Lessons From the Field: Winning the Fight to Save the Internet
Fake news, corporate control of the internet, digital surveillance, law enforcement agencies using big data to target communities of color — all of these issues have taken on increasing importance in recent years. The Center for Media Justice (CMJ), founded in 2008, is at the forefront in ensuring that communities of color are at the center of the debate and policy solutions to these critical problems.
Lessons From The Field Strategic Communications For Statewide Organizations
For statewide organizations that work on a variety of issues, it can often be difficult for their communications staff to manage and plan strategies to effectively get the word out about all of their organization’s work.
Lessons For The Movement
When we launched ReFrame in 2015, we had one mission in mind: to develop the next generation of strategic communicators — leaders rooted in grassroots movements who understand how to shape and control the narrative and stories about the issues they work on and, equally importantly, have the strategic thinking and skills to do so.
Dream of Where to Go
Reflection and evaluation allows us to understand if we are on the path to realizing our dreams. Heading into our third year of building the next generation of social justice communicators, we took time to reflect on what we have done so far.
Why Add Communications to Organizing Strategy? (Video)
Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Pilipino Workers Center
Fighting Disinformation, Building Narrative Power
We are organizing and telling stories on an uneven playing field, where the underlying narratives have long been shaped by highly conservative forces. This is the playing field on which mis-and-disinformation is spreading. So how do we combat it?
Announcing the new Disinfo Defense Toolkit!
Curated by ReFrame and PEN America for the Disinfo Defense League. Powerful tools to push back while continuing to advance our work for justice
We Came To Win: Reflections on Narrative Power in the 2020 Election
How key strategists built narrative power in 2020 during a global pandemic, the rise of the largest demonstrations for racial justice in US history, the highest rate of voter turnout and a significant defeat of Trumpism at the polls.
Defanging Disinformation: 6 Action Steps Nonprofits Can Take
Disinformation has become more effective at generating chaos and seeding doubt in reality. As part of our work with the Disinformation Defense League, ReFrame and This is Signals have committed to sharing lessons learned with the field and action steps on how to slow the spread of disinformation.