About the radical communicators network
What began as a call to action the week after people in the United States elected Donald Trump has become one of the most dynamic and innovative communities of practice for social-change communicators. The Radical Communicators Network (RadComms), sparked by the ingenuity of communications strategist Shanelle Matthews, is the go-to hub for cutting-edge skill-building, values-aligned political education, and cross-movement collaboration for social-change communicators.
In November of 2016, Matthews wrote on Facebook: “We've never been here before, and while words won't save us, they're a catalyst for galvanizing power. So, can we do that?” Today, RadComms comprises nearly 1,000 members in the social-change communications ecosystem—directors, consultants, academics, pollsters, digital strategists, cultural workers, media makers, and social scientists—whose work is transforming our futures globally. Members come from a variety of movements, including those focused on gun violence, sexual violence and harassment, criminal-justice reform, reproductive justice, gender justice, income inequality, climate change, and immigrant rights. And the network’s breadth continues to expand internationally.
The Power of Social-Change Communicators
Around the world, right-wing and conservative groups have gained significant political and social influence, often driven by ideologies of hate and exclusion. In the United States, in particular, the far right uses strategic communications to proliferate white supremacy and intolerance. Their rise, bolstered by propaganda, corporate interests, undemocratic access to information and technology, and fake news, has deepened global narratives of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny—ones with real and long-term material consequences for those already marginalized by our society.
Stories and storytelling are the backbone of an inclusive society; how they are told defines whose lives are valued and whose are not. That is why throughout history, the critical efforts of communicators whose work is rooted in a grassroots framework have changed hearts and minds, set political agendas, and transformed culture to create a more equitable society where more people live with dignity. Social-change communicators who are deeply embedded in community-based struggles have used the power of culture work, digital organizing, journalism, and storytelling to combat the ascent of the far right—from women-driven pro-choice campaigns in Argentina and Poland to #MeToo and the Movement for Black Lives in the United States.
What sets grassroots communicators apart is that we don’t sacrifice principles or ethics for strategy. We believe the most important role strategic communications plays in social movements is to build narrative power, which, according to Rashad Robinson, changes “the norms and rules our society lives by.” We do this by assessing the conditions responsible for the problems we are working to solve and by not shying away from directly addressing uncomfortable truths. A grassroots strategic-communications framework not only deconstructs harmful narratives, but also propagates liberatory ones while contending for power and democratizing representation of people and stories in the media.
Collaboration, Critical Inquiry, and Service: The RadComms Approach
RadComms is creating the infrastructure and community of practice we need by facilitating collaboration between and across movements, sharing and incubating diverse strategies, creating in-person and virtual spaces for building trust and community, and leveraging resources like communications-specific trainings and press relationships.
Critical inquiry is in our DNA: By asking hard questions, and debating theories and ideas, RadComms is able to translate communications from academic, nonprofit, and political jargon to meaningful messaging campaigns for everyday people. In particular, RadComms infuses everyone’s work with perspective and depth that come from community-based struggles, while supporting communicators in these struggles with the latest research and tools.
“This group has rapidly become a source of critical inquiry and analysis of the practice of progressive communications and—most impressively—mutual aid.”
—Holly Minch, SPIN Academy and Lightbox Collaborative
By cross-pollinating conversations across a variety of movements, backgrounds, levels of experience, geographies, and political associations, RadComms is growing and strengthening the ecosystem of social-change communications in three key ways:
By building a grassroots communications network that’s focused on narrative power-building and in service to social movements;
By serving as a conduit for grassroots communicators to disseminate a radical framework for strategic communications into more mainstream and academic and communications spaces, democratizing our field and putting people closest to the oppression at the center of our efforts;
By providing training, professional development, and networking.
2017 RadComms Unconvening
In 2017, RadComms had its first official gathering in San Diego. One hundred of our members came together to connect, learn from one another, and vision about the future of RadComms and public interest communications broadly. This report details what we did together. Read it here.
#RadComms17 | San Diego, CA | Nov 29- Dec 3, 2017 Kona Kai resort
Radical communicators network fiscal sponsponsorship
RadComms is fiscally sponsored by ReFrame Mentorship. ReFrame is building the next generation of strategic communicators in social justice. The annual intensive six-month leadership and skills development program supports economic, racial, and climate justice organizations and campaigns to integrate communications as a core strategy for social change.