How to talk about economics: a guide for changing the story

23 Apr 2018

This economic narrative guide is a project of Australian Progress, a national organisation dedicated to building the advocacy capacity of civil society. It follows earlier narrative projects on climate change and people seeking asylum.

It is based on the insight, collaboration and investment of a diversity of organisations: including the Uniting Church in Australia (Synod of Victoria and Tasmania), Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, GetUp, Community and Public Sector Union, National Union of Workers (Victoria), Australian Council of Social Services, United Voice and NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association.

We all need more persuasive ways of talking about the issues we care about, write about and champion: from reliable jobs to a strong social safety net, affordable housing, quality healthcare and a thriving natural world.

Starting this project, we sought a new story to overthrow the unfettered free-market, trickle down narrative that has dominated our political and economic discourse for decades. We wanted to move past advocacy which merely prevented the worst from happening, to a transformational story that can change what’s possible in our politics.

We knew that many of these debates were happening in our opponents’ frame. But we’d been swimming in their pool so long that we lacked a language, a proper foundation, to tell our own story.

We realised we didn’t know enough about how Australians currently conceptualise ‘the economy’, the way things are working now, or how they could be better. And we needed to do more than take their temperature: we needed a story that moved them, and the language to tell it.

We did know that what was challenging to achieve alone, was possible through coming together – to learn, reinforce and back each other in, with a common story told from a chorus of perspectives.

So after a period of studying, sharing and comparing notes, we embarked on this new research. We conducted rigorous focus groups, and dial-tested new messages.

This guide brings together the best of this journey so far: winning messages and insights from our research, foundational guidelines you can apply to any issue, and specific tips for talking about tax and budgets, welfare, aid, insecure work and more. It is not the final word on any of these topics of course, but a summary of the best of what we’ve learned so far. We hope it will be of use to the vast range of campaigners, experts and communications professionals working to create a world that values what money can’t buy. And we’re confident it serves as an invaluable resource for future research to carry our story forward.

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