Contact & Storytelling: Untold Stories

Culture change requires shifting the way we talk about sexuality, reproduction and race. Yet, how do we inspire people to have these conversations? And how can we ensure that they are open-hearted, curious and shift negative beliefs, attitudes and behavior?

In 2013, Sea Change founder Kate Cockrill designed an innovative study to explore whether reading and storysharing in book clubs can reduce stigma and increase disclosure of stigmatizing reproductive experiences we often keep hidden.  She also studied whether exposure to real stories of reproductive experiences reduced judgment. It did! Based on the positive findings from this experimental research, Sea Change launched the Untold Stories Project.

In Untold Stories, project participants read our book, Untold Stories: Life, Love, and Reproduction and then held a conversation in their living room with people of their choice. Throughout our campaign (2014-2016) we conducted interviews with book group hosts and gathered pre/post surveys to assess change in participants. In our evaluation, “More connected to each other: Results and Insights from Launching the Untold Stories Project,” we found that many participants shared their own stories about sex and reproduction, often for the first time. We also found that people’s attitudes toward the most stigmatized experiences, like abortion, were more supportive and less judgmental after Untold Stories participation. Evaluating the project also led to new insights that shaped adaptations of the project, including a play, college curricula, and the development of Untold Stories: The Game.

Over the course of the project, we worked with 11 professors to bring the book to their university courses, partnered with over 30 organizations to bring the book to their staff or programming, and recruited 159 individuals to host 83 discussion groups for over 700 total participants across the United States.

Related tools and sections:

  1. Planning Tools
  2. Strategies
  3. Project Design
  4. Evaluation
Imagine the future

Imagine the future you’re working towards: What would newspaper headlines in 20 years look like once you achieve your goal. How would a headline describe your success?

Brainstorm

Brainstorm: Individually or as part of a group, brainstorm responses to prompts like: “I won’t be satisfied until…”; “We’ll have won when…”; “The world I believe in will…”. Review and synthesize these statements to develop your vision statement.

In 1963

In 1963, American sociologist Erving Goffman described stigma as a mark or “attribute that is deeply discrediting” and that “reduces an individual from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Since Goffman’s groundbreaking book on stigma, researchers and practitioners have applied his concepts to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, the mentally ill, people living with HIV and AIDS, sex workers, and other marginalized groups.

Read Article
In 2001

In 2001, Link and Phelan expanded our understanding of stigma by conceptualizing stigma as a social process in which individuals are (1) labeled as different, (2) stereotyped or associated with negative attributes, (3) conceived of as an “other,” and then (4) subjected to status loss and discrimination.

Read Article
In 2009

In 2009,  Kumar, Hessini and Mitchell expanded on these models of stigma by applying them to the specific case of abortion.

Read Article

Stigma Advocacy: “Siri, Where can I find an abortion?”

What happens when a person asks Siri on Apple iPhone to direct them to an abortion provider? When researchers at UCSF realized that Siri directed those questions about abortion to adoptions agencies or crisis pregnancy centers, Sea Change stepped in to design a step-by-step strategy and tactics to address the problem.

First, we used our personal contacts and social media to invite people across the country sent us screenshots of their search results to help us capture the scope of the problem. We found the problem was occurring in multiple states and cities. We also learned that the problem affected Apple Maps. Next, we approached Apple to fix their mapping and information to ensure women using smartphones receive quality information about abortion. Our approaches included a letter to Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) and their PR team to demand that Apple fix the issue as well communications with programmers within Apple. After a week, we knew through our programmer contacts that Apple was aware of the issue, however there was not a clear directive to fix the issue.  To apply additional pressure, we worked with TechCrunch and other publications to raise public awareness about the issue.

Following the news articles, we heard from our programmer contacts inside that Apple was taking action internally. We worked privately with the programmers to improve the accuracy of abortion information through Apple’s various search features. Also, based on the advice from programmers, we were able to inform abortion providers on how to improve search optimization for their services in Apple Maps.

Imagine the future

Imagine the future you’re working towards: What would newspaper headlines in 20 years look like once you achieve your goal. How would a headline describe your success?

Brainstorm

Brainstorm: Individually or as part of a group, brainstorm responses to prompts like: “I won’t be satisfied until…”; “We’ll have won when…”; “The world I believe in will…”. Review and synthesize these statements to develop your vision statement.

In 1963

In 1963, American sociologist Erving Goffman described stigma as a mark or “attribute that is deeply discrediting” and that “reduces an individual from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Since Goffman’s groundbreaking book on stigma, researchers and practitioners have applied his concepts to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, the mentally ill, people living with HIV and AIDS, sex workers, and other marginalized groups.

Read Article
In 2001

In 2001, Link and Phelan expanded our understanding of stigma by conceptualizing stigma as a social process in which individuals are (1) labeled as different, (2) stereotyped or associated with negative attributes, (3) conceived of as an “other,” and then (4) subjected to status loss and discrimination.

Read Article
In 2009

In 2009,  Kumar, Hessini and Mitchell expanded on these models of stigma by applying them to the specific case of abortion.

Read Article

Virtual Reality Storytelling: Across the Line

Virtual Reality (VR) has been shown to influence everything from how much you save for retirement to how much you donate to charity to how likely you are to help someone if they drop something. Knowing that VR can have such real world impact, Planned Parenthood was curious about how virtual reality could be used to increase support for abortion access. They developed a 7-minute virtual reality film, Across the Line, documenting what it’s like to access abortion care in America. Planned Parenthood was curious about what Across the Line’s impact could be, and reached out to Sea Change to find out.

Sea Change designed a mixed methods evaluation to assess:

  • Who is the audience for Across the Line?
  • What they think and feel about the film?
  • What is the film’s impact? How does Across the Line affect:
  • Attitudes towards people who have abortions
  • Attitudes towards clinic harassment
  • Willingness to take action to support abortion access

To figure out the answers to these questions, Sea Change attended the very first public showings of Across the Line, which were at three film festivals in early 2016. At the film festivals, we did 27 brief on-site interviews with people who had just seen Across the Line, and we also collected 284 surveys asking people about their attitudes towards clinic harassment and abortion. When we did our surveys at film festivals, we split up our respondents so that half of them took the survey right before they saw Across the Line and half of them took the survey right after they saw it, so we could compare people right before and right after seeing the film. Comparing the two groups, we found that the group that had just seen Across the Line disapproved of several types of clinic harassment more than the group that hadn’t yet seen it. Both groups on average thought that clinic harassment was sort of wrong, but the group that had just watched Across the Line thought that some types of clinic harassment were more wrong. They disapproved more strongly of photographing people entering clinics, protesting in front of clinics, and sharing information about abortion alternatives with people going into clinics. Sea Change also created and validated the first ever validated scale measuring attitudes towards clinic harassment, the Disapproval of Anti-Abortion Tactics (DAT) scale. Based on results from the evaluation, Planned Parenthood has shown the film to communities across the world.

Lessons learned: : We selected film festivals as a first venue for evaluation because it was our earliest opportunity to evaluate Across the Line’s impact on the public. However, the film festival sample was more liberal, educated, and male than the general population, limiting our ability to apply the results to the audiences Planned Parenthood most wanted to focus on. We later advised on a second qualitative evaluation of the impact of the film amongst moderate and conservative audiences to address this gap.

Interested in creating your own evaluation? Learn how in our evaluation section.

Imagine the future

Imagine the future you’re working towards: What would newspaper headlines in 20 years look like once you achieve your goal. How would a headline describe your success?

Brainstorm

Brainstorm: Individually or as part of a group, brainstorm responses to prompts like: “I won’t be satisfied until…”; “We’ll have won when…”; “The world I believe in will…”. Review and synthesize these statements to develop your vision statement.

In 1963

In 1963, American sociologist Erving Goffman described stigma as a mark or “attribute that is deeply discrediting” and that “reduces an individual from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Since Goffman’s groundbreaking book on stigma, researchers and practitioners have applied his concepts to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, the mentally ill, people living with HIV and AIDS, sex workers, and other marginalized groups.

Read Article
In 2001

In 2001, Link and Phelan expanded our understanding of stigma by conceptualizing stigma as a social process in which individuals are (1) labeled as different, (2) stereotyped or associated with negative attributes, (3) conceived of as an “other,” and then (4) subjected to status loss and discrimination.

Read Article
In 2009

In 2009,  Kumar, Hessini and Mitchell expanded on these models of stigma by applying them to the specific case of abortion.

Read Article

Culture Change Strategy Group

What can we create together that we could not alone? In the fall of 2016, this driving question led Sea Change to convene the first meeting of the Culture Change Strategy Group, a collaboration of top thinkers, artists, researchers and advocates in the reproductive health space.

With a strong commitment to shared leadership, this strategic collaboration drew on the wisdom and expertise of reproductive justice leaders including SisterSong, Advocates for Youth, CoreAlign and Thrive Training and Consulting. Learning from the successes of similar groups in the policy and healthcare worlds, the Culture Change Strategy Group sought to create meaningful and effective change through smart strategy. From developing plans to increase diverse and complex abortion stories in the media, to strategizing how to effectively address poor experiences of abortion care, the Culture Change Strategy Group worked together to identify issues and develop innovative strategies for change.

Members of the Culture Change Strategy Group (CCSG) recognized a need to collaborate, but also recognized there are barriers to collaboration, including:

  • Scarcity of funding for culture change work.
  • An unequal distribution of power, privilege, and resources within our movement.
  • A lack of understanding and alignment across various approaches to culture change.
  • Reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates are losing cultural ground and feeling burnt out.

Yet culture change is more critical than ever. We know we have the power and opportunity to unite and shape what our culture will look like 10, 20, 30 years from now – but only if we think and strategize together. To address these barriers, the Culture Change Strategy Group was intentionally designed to draw from and challenge a range of participants from across the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements. Participants from around the country gathered together for a first in-person meeting where they identified collaboration values (link to collaboration section on site) and brainstormed more than 150 problem statements--issues that the movement needs to address to create culture change around abortion. The group prioritized these statements and narrowed to five main issue areas, each addressing a different area of culture:

  • How can we address the anti-choice appropriation of Black liberation language and strategies?
  • How can we get more diverse, complex abortion stories into the media?
  • How can we effectively address poor experiences of abortion care without added stigma or shame?
  • How can we clearly articulate the moral and religious case for abortion access?
  • How can we bring supportive but disengaged men into greater solidarity with reproductive health, rights, and justice?

Participants formed small groups to address these issue areas, spending two months collaborating remotely doing research and developing conceptual models of their problems, then two months developing strategies to address those problems. You can view the results of this collaboration at the CCSG website. In addition to the strategies, the CCSG created a shared definition of culture change, values for collaboration as a movement, and vision for culture change that has since been adopted by more than 160 organizations worldwide.

Imagine the future

Imagine the future you’re working towards: What would newspaper headlines in 20 years look like once you achieve your goal. How would a headline describe your success?

Brainstorm

Brainstorm: Individually or as part of a group, brainstorm responses to prompts like: “I won’t be satisfied until…”; “We’ll have won when…”; “The world I believe in will…”. Review and synthesize these statements to develop your vision statement.

In 1963

In 1963, American sociologist Erving Goffman described stigma as a mark or “attribute that is deeply discrediting” and that “reduces an individual from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Since Goffman’s groundbreaking book on stigma, researchers and practitioners have applied his concepts to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, the mentally ill, people living with HIV and AIDS, sex workers, and other marginalized groups.

Read Article
In 2001

In 2001, Link and Phelan expanded our understanding of stigma by conceptualizing stigma as a social process in which individuals are (1) labeled as different, (2) stereotyped or associated with negative attributes, (3) conceived of as an “other,” and then (4) subjected to status loss and discrimination.

Read Article
In 2009

In 2009,  Kumar, Hessini and Mitchell expanded on these models of stigma by applying them to the specific case of abortion.

Read Article

Examples of vision statements for shifting culture around abortion

Culture change requires shifting the way we talk about sexuality, reproduction and race. Yet, how do we inspire people to have these conversations? And how can we ensure that they are open-hearted, curious and shift negative beliefs, attitudes and behavior?

In 2013, Sea Change founder Kate Cockrill designed an innovative study to explore whether reading and storysharing in book clubs can reduce stigma and increase disclosure of stigmatizing reproductive experiences we often keep hidden.  She also studied whether exposure to real stories of reproductive experiences reduced judgment. It did! Based on the positive findings from this experimental research, Sea Change launched the Untold Stories Project.

In Untold Stories, project participants read our book, Untold Stories: Life, Love, and Reproduction and then held a conversation in their living room with people of their choice. Throughout our campaign (2014-2016) we conducted interviews with book group hosts and gathered pre/post surveys to assess change in participants. In our evaluation, “More connected to each other: Results and Insights from Launching the Untold Stories Project,” we found that many participants shared their own stories about sex and reproduction, often for the first time. We also found that people’s attitudes toward the most stigmatized experiences, like abortion, were more supportive and less judgmental after Untold Stories participation. Evaluating the project also led to new insights that shaped adaptations of the project, including a play, college curricula, and the development of Untold Stories: The Game.

Over the course of the project, we worked with 11 professors to bring the book to their university courses, partnered with over 30 organizations to bring the book to their staff or programming, and recruited 159 individuals to host 83 discussion groups for over 700 total participants across the United States.

Related tools and sections:

Planning ToolsStrategiesProject DesignEvaluation

Sea Change also developed a vision that we used to develop our program goals and measure progress that is encompassed in the word VOICE: Visibility, Openness, Integration, Connection, Empowerment.  Kate Cockrill initially introduced the vision principals in an article in Women and Health in 2014.  Steph Herold also shared this vision in an article in Rewire in 2015.

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