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Changing hearts and minds: social science insights for communicators


5 March 2020

As charity professionals, changing hearts and minds is a central part of what we do. From encouraging people to think differently about causes to inspiring them to take better care of each other and their environments.

This conference explored how charities can leverage insights from the social sciences to improve lives and help solve some of society’s greatest challenges.

From behavioural economics and psychology to digital anthropology and evolutionary biology – our speakers came from a range of sectors and shared the latest thinking, theories and tools to improve charity campaigns, marketing and communications.

This year’s conference hosted longer, more practical masterclasses, and covered topics including:

  • The science behind fake news and misinformation: lessons for effective charity communications
  • How framing is changing the rules of charity comms
  • The political, social, technological and charity trends that will influence how your supporters, funders and service users behave and engage
  • What are narratives? Why do they matter?
  • How can we change them?
  • How to identify or develop a values framework and apply it to your audiences
  • The science of creating lasting change 
  • How to find the heart of your story and truly connect with your audience
  • Putting the ‘strategic’ in ‘strategic communications’ – what science tells us about the power of comms
  • Changing the stories that shape us: influencing popular culture
  • Polarisation and what it means for communicators


Why it’s so hard to change minds – Alexandra Chesterfield, behavioural scientist at the Depolarization Project and Laura Osborne, associate at the Depolarization Project and campaigns director at London First

  • You can see notes from Alexandra’s and Laura’s presentation here

Golden rules for changing hearts and minds in divided times – Nicky Hawkins, director of impact, Frameworks Institute

  • You can see notes from Nicky’s presentation here

How to identify or develop a values framework and apply it to your audiences – Cian Murphy, research director, nfpSynergy

How to find the heart of your story and truly connect with your audience – Stephen Follows, creative director, Catsnake

Applying behavioural insights to comms – Clare Delargy, senior advisor, The Behavioural Insights Team

  • You can see notes from Clare’s presentation here

What has our brand got to do with our gossip culture? – Kelly Smith, partner, NEO and Karin Tenelius, founder, Tuff Leadership Training

Plenary: Creating a new ‘sea story’ to shift public debate – Rosie Chambers, coordinator, Marine CoLABoration

  • You can see notes from Rosie’s presentation here

Plenary: Trends in a turbulent world – Michele Madden, managing director, nfpSynergy

How framing is changing the rules of charity comms – Luke Henrion, strategic communications manager and Paul Brook, chief copywriter, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

  • You can see notes from Luke’s and Paul’s presentation here

Embedding social research insights into your communications and culture – Kate Nightingale, head of marketing and communications and Francesca Albanese, head of research and evaluation, Crisis

  • You can see notes from Kate’s and Francesca’s presentation here

Testing stories in the real world: a case study breakdown with Unicef and Catsnake – Madhu Parthasarathi, digital campaigns manager, Unicef UK and Stephen Follows, creative director, Catsnake

  • You can see notes from Madhu’s and Stephen’s presentation here

Shifting public perceptions of childhood obesity as part of a long-term approach to improve health – Rosa Vaquero, head of communications and Rachel Pidgeon, communications manager, Guys and St. Thomas’ Charity

  • You can see notes from Rosa’s and Rachel’s presentation here

The science behind fake news and misinformation: lessons for effective charity communications – Dr Andreas Kappes, lecturer, City, University of London

  • You can see notes from Andreas’ presentation here


Article: How to use social science insights to change hearts and minds: key takeaways – Dee Russell, content lead, Parkinson’s UK

Article: Data and analytics: they’re not just buzzwords – Stacey Kelly-Maher, digital projects officer, CharityComms

Article: Prompting Behaviour Change: learning from insights – Lauren Gasser, social marketing manager, Time to Change 

Article: Prompting Behaviour Change: Making sure to evaluate – Katherine Crawshaw, head of marketing, Time to Change

Thank you to our sponsors:


Catsnake | The Story Agency


At Catsnake, we focus on the Third Sector helping our charity clients to use storytelling to change hearts and minds. Our work is both external facing (such as major public advocacy campaigns, television commercials and viral videos) and internal facing (such as staff training, building strategy and causing shifts in internal culture).  We’ve told stories for global charities, national institutions and local heroes.


Neo takes care of the brands that are taking care of the world. It’s your stories that count. Your ambition. Your impact. Our work is about helping you to find what matters – and make it matter more. 

We define identities that serve not only the cause, but also people and their sense of purpose. We see identity as a powerful binding force for change. And by exploring identity alongside strategy and working culture, we can help you to truly connect the story you live and the story you tell.



The FrameWorks Institute is a not-for-profit communications research organisation. We investigate how to change hearts and minds to shape a better future. Our UK team specialises in bringing these insights to life. We work in partnership with a range of organisations to develop powerful communications that shift public thinking on issues like poverty, health and climate change. 



StrawberrySocial is an agency of experienced online specialists. The onus is on protecting organisations and brands online, plus keeping users safe. The team provides a variety of services, including consultancy, moderation, training, crisis and online support. It’s work with charity organisations involves looking after forums, closed groups and social channels – monitoring for potential PR issues as well as prioritising user safeguarding and escalation. 

Have a question about the content? Please get in touch with Emma. Have a question about the event in general? Please email