Changing Systems Takes Effective Persuasion: Communicating for Impact

These days, many people are interested in finding ways to build bridges across difference, find common ground, and work together to advance changes that benefit the public good. That’s why the Minnesota Food Charter is so powerful. A shared roadmap developed by thousands of Minnesotans, the Food Charter is composed of 99 proven policy and systems changes designed to increase reliable access to healthy, safe, and affordable safe food for all the state’s residents.

Finding and Communicating Common Ground

How did we find common ground across thousands of Minnesotans? Especially when we have so many different ways of thinking and talking about issues of food, health, and agriculture. As it turns out, finding a way to effectively talk about food systems issues in ways that draw connections and commonalities among diverse stakeholders—across sectors, geographies, ages, cultural backgrounds, and more—is something that thoughtful people have spent time researching and writing about.

Frameworks Institute—a nonprofit communications and messaging organization–conducted numerous studies on how to talk about food systems across a diverse, complex general public; how to increase support by and engagement of rural populations in policy issues that address their self-interest; and how to generate backing of many people for policies that seek to level the playing field for those who don’t share the same access to opportunity.

Frameworks’ research shows the following:

People will support the kinds of policy, systems, and environmental changes included in the Minnesota Food Charter, if they:

  • Understand what a food system is
  • Grasp that these types of changes are most effective at improving this system
  • Comprehend that the overall aim of these kinds of changes is to improve the health of all
  • Know these changes will level the playing field for many groups who don’t have the same access because of where they live or who they are
  • See that their own self-interest–and that of their family and community–are reflected in the proposed strategies

The Minnesota Food Charter uses the above findings in all of its documents and communications, such as this electronic newsletter, social media, and other outlets.

Using Frames that Persuade People and Move Them to Action

Frameworks Institute also found that framing issues in certain ways also help elicit support from a wide array of people. That’s why the Minnesota Food Charter uses framing and messaging to solicit and galvanize this support, including these frames:

Legacy – People care about leaving a legacy of good health for future generations, regardless of who they are

Health – People understand that good health is tied to a nutritious diet, and that food needs to be reliably accessible and affordable in order to ensure widespread well-being

Security – People know all members of our community and society need to depend upon a safe, secure food supply.

Prosperity – Reliable access to safe, affordable, healthy food reduces healthcare costs and improves local and regional economies. Keeping our state healthy will generate a great return on investment.

Fairness – Making sure that everyone has a level playing field when it comes to accessing safe, affordable, healthy food, regardless of where they live or who they are, reflects Minnesota’s fundamental commitment to fairness.

What It All Means

It takes a lot of different people, agendas, and organizations to advance policy, systems, and environmental changes designed to increase reliable access to safe, affordable, healthy food for all Minnesotans.

How you message and frame issues is critical to obtaining this widespread support. People need to understand the issue, connect it to their value system, and feel motivated to act. Research on messaging and framing can help guide shared decision-making on how to communicate persuasively about the kinds of changes that thousands of Minnesotans asked for, when they designed the Minnesota Food Charter.

If you’re interested in or are working on advocating for Food Charter strategies—in your own organization or in local or state government, understanding why getting framing and messaging right is critical to your success.

Want some pro tips? Check out these resources:

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