Why Narrative

Complex Problems, Entrenched Conversations

For reasons both systemic and structural, California’s housing policies seem intractably stuck, while the crisis around us grows ever more urgent. California won’t be able to fix this dynamic overnight — new momentum demands not only actionable solutions, but also the public will and political leadership to enact them. To build that public will, we need to unseat the assumptions that are keeping us stuck and shift toward new possibilities for progress. Ultimately, we seek to grow a California majority in support of housing reform.

By identifying a broad, unifying narrative and set of corresponding messages that shift public attitudes and values in support of housing reform, housing advocates will have a greater opportunity to build the critical mass of public support necessary to advance a wide range of meaningful housing policies across the state 

Meeting and Moving People Via Their Values 

The California Dream narrative can support housing advocates to engage the audiences they are actively reaching and pursuing now, while also offering an effective tool to engage and persuade an even wider audience over the long haul. 

That’s because the California Dream narrative is rooted in an approach wherein advocates are equipped to more effectively meet people where they are, then — over time — shift their values and attitudes to be more supportive of pro-housing policies and practices, using the most persuasive narrative strategy. Part of this approach means not writing off any large group of voters as unreachable, and instead focusing on making inroads with all groups over time. 

The broad and unifying approach offered here is not intended as a substitute for, but rather as complement to, the strategies that housing advocates are already pursuing. In the short term and for specific electoral and legislative efforts, the California Dream narrative can be deployed in support of the wide range of policies and practices that advocates are advancing to improve housing access and affordability across the state. As this new narrative begins to take hold — and become further refined and sharpened over time by advocates in our narrative ecosystem — the housing field will be better equipped to more effectively engage a broader and bigger group of Californians in future efforts toward housing reform. 

Broad Audiences, Varying Views 

To achieve strategic, high-impact housing wins across California over the long term, advocates must define for audiences across the state what housing reform and housing affordability mean — and values-driven narratives can help. 

Research shows that California voters hold conflicting beliefs about housing reform and housing affordability, and that these beliefs don’t necessarily map onto traditional political nor demographic identities. This presents a unique opportunity — before housing affordability in California becomes even more polarized — to advance  a broad, unifying narrative of housing affordability that a majority of California voters will find accessible, compelling, and actionable. This can help make policy solutions possible in the near term, while simultaneously working to shift broad public perception over the long term. 

A Modular, Flexible Narrative Tool

The flexibility of the California Dream narrative frame is one of its chief advantages: 

  • It’s compelling to voters at a high level and is effective for a range of persuasion and messaging contexts. 
  • This may be helpful for housing advocates working to advance a wide range of issues, approaches, engagement, and action amongst diverse audiences throughout California to do so in a way that builds a consistent statewide narrative. 
  • Advocates across the housing field can deploy the California Dream narrative frame in a variety of ways that are valuable to their efforts, paired with messages to move the outcomes most important to them. 
  • This flexible narrative tool can be adapted by various organizations and campaigns for use with different target audiences and regions. 
Seated man in front of lush green foliage