There is an initiative currently underway you may or may not have heard about called The Narrative Project.
It’s essentially a communications strategy, organised and funded by the Gates Foundation, and designed to get non-profit organisations from across the Global North – from the big NGOs like Save the Children and Oxfam to the UN Foundation to pure campaigning groups like the Global Poverty Project – to focus on foreign aid (ODA) as the principal solution to global poverty and inequality. And it’s using – or, more accurately, claiming to use – frame analysis to guide it.
There is a far better, truer, more powerful alternative. One that isn’t paternalistic and old fashioned, and doesn’t deny the structural causes of inequality and poverty.
But look at the evidence and judge for yourself.
1. This is The Narrative Project. The central idea is to rally lots of big organisations across Europe, the US and Australia behind the idea that poverty and inequality can be fixed with a little more charity and aid (ODA), and that’s all anyone should talk about.
2. This letter has been sent to the CEO and relevant Directors of all the participating agencies. It spells out why The Narrative Project is so misguided and dangerous. It lays out how The Narrative Project is based on inauthentic “science”; why its surface-level aid and charity messages not only bound to fail but are so counter-productive to global development; and what the alternative looks like.
3. And here’s an authentic frame analysis of the 2014 Gates Foundation Annual Letter. As context to help assess the above, here is a linguistic analysis of the 2014 Gates Annual letter. The consistency of frames found here and in The Narrative Project are . . . well, judge for yourself.
If you think something is going wrong here, we suggest you talk to your colleagues about it, and maybe start to ask questions of the people driving this strategy.
See if you’re convinced by their answers.