Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

October 2010Vol. 11, No. 8Effective Storytelling Solutions to Mobilize the Public

Research shows that stories focused on problems, such as child maltreatment, can often backfire by increasing cynicism about the government and citizens' ability to solve problems, rather than driving a community to action. The Child Advocacy 360 Foundation developed a Communications Catalyst Initiative based on the belief that stories about effective programs for children, or "solutions stories," are an overlooked tool that can educate and mobilize citizens. A new report, Solutions Storytelling: Messaging to Mobilize Support for Children's Issues, describes research based on this initiative.

Researchers used focus groups, testing, and surveys to investigate the impact of different kinds of messages about children and ways to help children. The research was based on three central components of the initiative:

  • Change the emphasis of the message from problem to solution.
  • Make the role of community visible.
  • Inspire action on behalf of children not one's own, particularly at-risk children.

Using a variety of sample messages, researchers found that solution stories that had a positive impact on participants' views about citizen advocacy and action were those that incorporated five core components:

  • Connection to community (reminding audiences that the entire community benefits from children who are healthy and safe)
  • Big picture thinking (highlighting several very different programs and their solutions)
  • Necessary, not just nice (presenting programs as vital to the community)
  • Inspiring action (incorporating examples of model behavior)
  • "Proving" effectiveness (not necessarily having statistical evidence of success)

The report was produced by the Topos Partnership and can be downloaded: (880 KB)

Related Item

Suggested Strategies and Messages from this report can be found in a separate document: (80 KB)