What We Do
Our vision is a world that works for all. To achieve that, we in the United States must regain control of our democracy and create a new national consensus about how our country behaves at home and abroad. These are big goals, and achieving them will depend on effective communication, along with other important organizing tactics. To be widely accessible, progressive messages must be framed in a way that can reach a majority of Americans.
Our particular mission is helping progressive activists learn how to frame their messages to better reach the mainstream American public and their political representatives. We do this by teaching people how to “speak American.” That means we show people how to use the colorful metaphors, images, catch phrases, and memes that are an ongoing part of our national political dialogue. Adapting phrases like “play by the rules,” or other “American” frames for use in our own messages is a natural way to evoke the best values we all share. American phrases like these tell a familiar story about our ideal identity as Americans, one that everyone understands. Because we only use them to evoke our own ideals, progressives can “speak American” with complete integrity. (For more information about these points, see What is Speaking American? and Why Speak American?)
The Metaphor Project's approach is interdisciplinary. It rests on theoretical insights and documented research from a wide range of disciplines: American studies, American political communication, framing and cognitive science, studies of metaphor in culture and social change, and a number of other subject areas such as political science, sociology, American history, psychology, cultural anthropology, ecological economics, evolutionary biology, and peace studies. See Selected Sources and Links for suggested reading.
1. Providing Reminders of Ideal American Values, Themes, and Evocative Language
Since the beginning of speech, we humans have been spontaneously creating new language. Our collective cultural stories tend to last much longer. A great deal of hard evidence exists that most Americans hold a common set of core ideal American values and American cultural ideas. They recognize them by the everyday language that evokes them in political communication.
Progressive activists also recall these core values and cultural stories if reminded of such key phrases as 'can do' or 'new' or 'the future.' For this reason, the Metaphor Project has assembled sample lists of the language of American cultural stories and common metaphor categories. Some American Story Elements that Evoke Core Values and Some American Metaphor Categories help progressive activists remember this very familiar language and set of themes as they work. For more information about our sources for these and other Metaphor Project tools, see Selected Sources and Links. For more information about this part of our method, see Other FAQ.
2. Teaching Ways to Express Progressive Messages by 'Speaking American':
The MP's American Framing Steps provide a proven step-by-step guide to framing our messages as part of the best American story, using methods that match the latest research in cognitive science. The MP's Criteria for Successful Mainstream Framing help people quickly check the effectiveness of the new frames they create this way. See Resources for more information.