Rebuilding Support for Democracy

The United States’ incremental but unmistakable path toward progress is at a crossroads. The 2016 election signaled a historic shift away from social justice and equal opportunity and unveiled deep divides in American social, cultural, and economic values. These splits, driven by partisan identity on the right, and divisions and disenfranchisement on the left, fundamentally threaten our democracy.

Echo chambers, partisan media, viral deception, and political polarization have rendered traditional efforts to turn the tide largely ineffective.

Partisan divides threaten progressive change

Of the roughly 250 million adults over the age of 18, 50% identify as right of center, or completely unengaged. Only 16% of Americans consider themselves “solid liberals.” In the 2016 elections, 57% of white millennials voted for Donald Trump or a 3rd party candidate. Fifty percent of Americans see members of the opposing political party as a “threat.” These numbers highlight the social and political barriers to progressive change.

Young people do not trust democracy

By 2020, millennials and post-millennials will include 100 million voting age adults. But they are less likely to participate in national politics and less likely to recognize the importance of liberal democracy as capable of delivering economic and social justice. In 2016, only 49% of millennials cast ballots.

Americans are trapped in echo chambers

Between the algorithmically-created echo chambers of social media and the increasing propensity for Americans to seek out narratives that reinforce existing beliefs, fact-based arguments are unlikely to change people's minds. Even if they were swayed by the evidence, the arbiters of those facts, traditionally the news media, have experience a massive decline in public confidence.  Nearly 70 percent of Americans reported declining trust in the news over the last decade.


Applying the Science of Behavior to the Art of Storytelling

How do we talk to people who don’t want to listen? How do we convince people to consider alternative viewpoints when media itself is polarized? How do we reach people who are deeply embedded within their own information echo chambers?

The answer lies in the application of behavioral science and the emotive power of popular entertainment. Commercially-produced, scripted content, designed to achieve a social mission, breaks down echo chambers and influences civic beliefs, norms, and behaviors that have been shown to engender a more progressive political culture.

Based on this strategy, content goes beyond awareness raising or “tackling tough issues,” which is predominantly how entertainment is used for social change. In this case, we provide concrete actions and attitudes that our audiences can engage in to strengthen democracy, combat misinformation, and engender positive social change. We then portray the social consequences of adhering (or failing to adhere) to these behaviors and attitudes.

Partnership & Mission

Red Hook Media Lab, advocacy organizations, and creative professionals collaborate to define mission and audience for each project.

Design Research

Formative field research uncovers audience’s beliefs, behaviors, and social norms and identifies solutions for increasing civic participation. While in the field, changemakers and storytellers prototype ideas with the audiences they are designing for.

Creative Production

The creative team develops characters and stories that subtly model the civic messages. Core content (i.e. tv show, podcast) and complementary content (i.e. social media video) are developed concurrently

Distribution & Marketing

Based on audience consumption preferences, content is delivered via television, digital streaming, or podcast with appropriate digital marketing

Evaluation & Learning

Reach, audience response, and social impact are evaluated in realtime to ensure learning informs content production and distribution iteratively

Please reach out to learn more about how about how we can use behavioral science, design thinking, and social impact entertainment to change the world and restore America on its path to positive, forward-thinking change.

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