In the UK today official figures show that 13 million people live in poverty half of whom live in a working family. Yet the notion of poverty is contested by the public, including those living on low incomes, the media and politicians.
We also know that campaigners do not understand poverty in the same way as the public, who question whether the concept of poverty is appropriate or valid in the UK context. And the government has brought forward legislation to change the official definition of poverty.
Those campaigning and working to tackle poverty are finding it increasingly difficult to win support for their reform agendas and are struggling to engage the public, media and politicians.
Given this state of affairs there is an urgent need for a new and more effective story to change how the public understands poverty and gain the support and action needed for social and political change.
The Talking About Poverty project will use a robust evidence based approach to develop more effective ways of communicating about poverty. It will be informed by, and based on, evidence of what works to shift public discussion, channel public thinking and create support for policies to address poverty in the UK.
The project differs from existing public opinion research by focusing on understanding how members of the public think about poverty, not just what they say. Drawing on theory and methods from the social and cognitive sciences, the project will carry out research to enable a wide range of individuals and organisations to see what they are up against and develop strategies capable of shifting public thinking about poverty in deep and lasting ways.
Ultimately the Talking about poverty project will develop a new story with the proven ability to change understanding at a wide enough level, in deep enough ways and with enough flexibility to be used by the myriad voices messaging on tackling poverty in the UK. The new story of poverty that results from the project will give the anti-poverty sector a powerful set of shared communications tools and a platform that can be used to help change how people think, to increase support for needed reforms, and, ultimately, to produce positive social and political change.
The research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will be carried out by the Frameworks Institute www.frameworksinstitute.org which has developed the Strategic Frame Analysis™ methodology. The project will be project managed by the London based National Children’s Bureau www.ncb.org.uk on behalf of JRF.