Framing: a clear, compelling and credible issue that resonates with many people

In this section, you will learn about framing or positioning a shared concern or a strongly desired change in ways that are meaningful, persuasive and compelling. Framing is an essential skill for change agents as it can create and promote an understanding of the shared concern by others, fuel an urgent need for a response and foster the motivation and energy for individual and collective action.     

What is the key characteristic "Framing"?

Framing is one of the 10 key characteristics of a social movement. It is closely linked to the other characteristics, including shared concern and collective identity

Framing is about positioning or describing an issue in a way that makes people care about it, and motivates them to join the social movement and take action. Over time, a frame may lose meaning or not be as impactful as a social movement evolves. In these cases, reframing or repositioning an issue may be needed to maintain the level of engagement of change agents (Bibby et al., 2009, Grinspun et al., 2018).

When engaging in framing, you need to decide which issues and goals to focus on and how to communicate them to other people (del Castillo et al., 2016; Grinspun et al., 2018).

You can use several strategies to frame an issue. Some examples: stories; words; slogans; pictures; humour; irony; and performance.

SOURCES: Dementia Action Alliance, 2018; Serna Restrepo et al., 2018.

Why is this key characteristic important?

Framing is compelling, persuasive and dynamic. It is used to gain support, draw people to the cause and mobilize them to act (Alliance, 2009).

Framing, when supported by evidence, positions the shared concern or strongly desired change as credible, with an urgent need for change and action (Bibby et al., 2009).


Framing emphasizes a compelling need for change. Framing:

  • matters.  The issue is important.
  • is credible. The frame is backed by facts and/or supported by influential people.
  • makes sense. It makes sense to people because it aligns with their beliefs and experience.
  • connects with hearts and minds. In addition to being credible to engage minds, it evokes emotion to connect with hearts.
  • counters the opposition. Frames anticipate and address opposing points of view.


Framing expresses a persuasive narrative. Framing:

  •  is clear. The issues, key ideas, and the vision for change are expressed in meaningful ways.
  • has broad goals. The goals of the social movement are broad enough to attract diverse groups.
  • is positive. The vision for change and what can be achieved is positive and optimistic.
  • matches values. Language used to describe the goals and vision align with people’s values, interests and aspirations.
  • includes a clear action. People know what action to take and why it is necessary; they believe that they can do something about it. 

Framing is dynamic. Framing is: 

  • shaped in collaboration with others. Change agents, change teams and other people develop the frames together through brainstorming, discussion or other methods. 
  • reshaped. Messages are reshaped over time as the social movement evolves and priorities shift.
  • kept fresh and relevant. Reshaping ensures that messaging continues to resonate and is relevant and refreshed.

SOURCES: Alliance, 2018; Bate et al., 2004a; Bevan et al., 2011; Bibby et al., 2009; del Castillo et al., 2016; Herechuk et al., 2010; Tremblay et al., 2018.