by Neil Crowther
“All most people want is somewhere to live, somewhere to work, someone to love and something to hope for” Norman Kirk
Within minutes of the inclusive performance group MiXiT starting their specially- written musical play for #socialcarefuture they launched into the song “What about us?” by Pink. I will confess this was a song that had largely passed me by until that moment. It’s now a song that will never leave me.
“We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us down the river too far
What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?”
Pink – ‘What about us?’
I don’t know about everyone else (well apart from Martin Routledge cos I saw him crumbling), but tears were rolling down my face. But MiXiT’s genius was to quickly switch from despair to hope, via a deeply human story of people striving to achieve those most basic of things – security and belonging, purpose and the chance to pursue their dreams.
Setting forth their clear vision of an inclusive future, MiXiT concluded the performance with the defiant, rousing song ‘This is me’ from ‘The Greatest Showman’:
“and I know that I deserve your love
(Oh-oh-oh-oh) ’cause there’s nothing I’m not worthy of
(Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh)
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is proof
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me”
“This is me” – The Greatest Showman cast
Last week I watched the Greatest Showman with my 4 year-old daughter. When the cast got to ‘This is me’ it was MiXiT’s performance, the story they had told and the vision they inspired that was in my head. This is the essence of successful framing: communication that embeds feeling and a relatable human story into the way we communicate the social change we seek and which through doing so shapes how people think and feel about our issue – the default settings in our mind.
Moreover, consciously generating the right feelings helps to guide our audience away from unproductive thinking that can undermine our cause. MiXiT’s performance generated empathy, not sympathy. It instilled a sense of injustice, not pity. It made us care about people being supported to live a life worth living, not being cared for. It was fundamentally about people’s right to be in the world. It embodied – I expect – the values guiding most of the people in attendance, while making sense of the sometimes obscure-sounding ideas we were promoting.
Achieving this needn’t involve an hour long musical. Big stories can be told in a few words: the Leave campaign’s ‘taking back control’ and Obama’s ‘yes we can’ helped mobilise millions of minds to support sometimes radical, rupturing, change.
We now have some evidence about how the public thinks and the media talks about social care and a huge gap exists between that narrative and the vision we wish to inspire people with. So we need next to come together to write our own story of change and then, through audience research, work out how we can tell it in way that mobilises hearts and minds towards supporting and investing in our vision and the solutions we advocate to realise it.
We hope to start doing so next year. Doing so offers a way to consolidate the movement we have built to date and then to take our ideas from the margins to the mainstream by building a bigger, broader movement for change. In the words of another song from ‘The Greatest Showman’:
“They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say we’ve lost our minds
I don’t care, I don’t care if they call us crazy
Runaway to a world that we design
Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make”
“A million dreams” from The Greatest Showman