Map of Communication Experts


This page is a placeholder for the communication experts here to comment on, tell me what you think should be here, both overall organization and your piece.

Democrats and allies are struggling to communicate, but not for lack of amazing communication teachers:

This page lists the teachers at the roots of our rapid-response materials.  We recommend you start by digging a little towards each of the roots, not just one. Politicians and campaigners might focus on the first two, language and values. Individuals might start by skimming these, but really dig into learning β€” and practicing β€” better personal communication techniques.

The communications techniques can be life-changing for individuals. If you learn to talk politics across the left-right divide, stuff like marriages is pretty easy. Go learn and practice!

The Map

We're grouping the broader approaches, and strongly encourage people to pick resources from different experts.

  1. Messaging: Linguistics, metaphor, framing
  2. Moral Foundations.
  3. Conversations: Fight, Flight, Fear, Hope, Community
  4. Practice: Conversations across the divide, now.
  5. Practice: Conversations amongst progressives, join us.

Root 1: Messaging: Linguistics, metaphor, framing

Metaphor and framing an issue are vital for progressive politicians. On many issues, most voters β€” especially swingable voters β€” can see things more than one way, reinforced over and over by how we frame it.

Start here: The Art of Messaging with Anat Shenker-Osorio -- In the Arena with Jonathan Stein (Shenker-Osorio's podcasts). Theme: people don't want your anger, they'll respond to a shared value β€” then a problem β€” then offer a solution.

Start here: The Connections Lab, with Antonia Scatton and George Greene has wonderfully clear and short introductions to creating frames. "Don't Take the Bait" describes the key things that almost all of us do wrong β€” and the mission of Scaling Progressive Communications is ultimately to provide materials that let you reply why staying on your frame.

Foundations: Many see George Lakoff as the founder of progressive messaging based on frames and linguistics; with Elisabeth Wehling they wrote The little blue book: The essential guide to thinking and talking Democratic."


β€” Cornell Belcher: Wait Times Significantly Longer for Black Voters. Watch progressives get tangled in conversations about voter ID: we need to pull back to our frame, here.
β€” Drew Westin: Time to reject the narrative that the β€œmainstream mediaβ€œ are left.

β€” Building Bridge's Say This, Not That is great worksheet if you are a political coalition builder aiming to determine a frame for a new issue in your community.

Root 2: Moral Foundations.

Why are we divided into left and right? How do moral foundations vary? Understanding moral foundations can help you convince people β€” but perhaps even more powerful, it can provide a structure for curiosity when you are angry about divisions; my favorite way to stay curious when I'm pissed at someone's politics but need to model curiosity if I hope to communicate.

Robb Willer: How to have better political conversations | TED Talk is a great short introduction to Moral Foundations Theory made famous in Jonathan Haidt's wonderful The Righteous Mind . 

... Framing vs Foundations

It gets a little sticky! Lakoff's framing suggestions lean towards seeing moderates as "bi-conceptual" and suggests pushing them to think using your concepts. Moral Foundations aims for almost the opposite goal, changing your message till you mesh with your audience's values. There are probably times for both approaches. If you want to get a deeper understanding by exploring the complexities, skim for the "weave ideas" sections in: Cognitive Politics: a Communications Workbook for Progressives, starting on p51.

Root 3: Conversations: Fight, Flight, Fear, Hope, Community

How do you turn arguments into conversations β€” especially when organizations with big budgets are trying to get us to argue? How do you model the behaviors you want? These are sometimes bigger questions than simply how to frame one issue: dig in, take webinars or trainings, and practice:

Let's Talk About It: the art of asking questions is a quick coaching introduction by David Campt, interviewed by David Ford. Campt also recommends Wading in to the woke Debate

SMART was a facebook learning community that now focuses on webinars. Show up! Small webinars are a great place to ask questions and skill up.

Follow Jennifer Mercieca on Twitter. Here she talks about how anti-democratic practices are normalized. Powerful Non-Defensive Communication has hosted community trainings at times.

Jonathan Stray and the Better Conflict Bulletin are a great news source on data and technology and how they drive or improve conflict.

You won’t learn these skills in twenty minutes. Listening is a practice. Even more, learning the skills that keep you listening and communicating amidst political shitstorms is a great skill to build: relationships conflicts might seem minor if you've built this practice.


4a: Practice across the divide, now.

These organizations host conversations between liberals and conservatives, now.

The Listen First Coalition lists a huge number of organizations. More Livingroom Conversations is a great example, getting people to meet in person. These organizations are wonderful if you want to build bridges with conservatives you already know: creating containers that might help a family conflict become a conversation. Learning skills that work miracles if your ultimate goal is to stop global warming or implement anti-racism. They are often short on actual conservative members to talk with β€” Scaling Progressive Communications assesses that that's a bit of fatal flaw we don't have answer for, and we're going to need to learn to communicate with social media tools that already exist. Also: Cognitive Politics is very interested in exploring ways to heal divides across the broad progressive side of the spectrum. "Vote Blue No Matter Who" seems a deeply counter-productive framing. Can we do better? Can we listen to each other and not lean on slogans? Contact us if you're interested in exploring conversations between more centrist and radical folks who need to stay in solidarity when they don't fully agree.

4b: Practice Conversations amongst progressives, with us

Scaling Communications for Progressives intends to build a bit of a membership that goes out and practices and tunes what the experts are suggesting. We're inclined to start "singing to the choir" and working on improving the health of our own movements. More to come...

Vote Blue No Matter Who

On election day, it's desperate that we put aside minor differences and vote together. A lot of idealists are pretty sick of the machine that tells us to just get in line and do what we're told: these are the people who need to be reached, and "vote Blue no matter who" is exactly what they are pissed about β€” some of the worst framing on one of the most important issues. If you want solidarity on election day, how do you show you've listened? How do you connect with people disinclined to "vote Blue"? If you are one of the people upset at the DNC and Democratic centrism, what is your ask [last step of Nonviolent Communications]?

Anger, Venting, Algorithms

We're focused on communications, but part of the problem with progressive communications is that much of it is venting. Social media in particular tends to do everything backwards: you dump your negative energy as you vent, wanting to be heard. A few dozen friends do the emotional labor of hearing your vent. But you don't actually feel heard; no one gives you a hug.