By Doug Hattaway

“Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it.” — Bill Bradley

This quote by author, US Senator, and NBA player Bill Bradley isn’t about social science, but it reflects insights from research that point the way to bridging divisions in society. Bradley describes the shortest path to reducing the social distance between different groups of people: Connection, Conversation, and Collaboration.

Social distance is a term from sociology that refers to differences between individuals and groups in society that can create a sense of distance or separateness, such as race, religion, and economic class. As we all know, these and other differences can lead to misunderstanding, stereotypes, and prejudice.

Of course, bridging divides begins with opening people’s eyes to the things that unite us. That starts with smart messaging to frame the issue and stories that bring it to life. This was central to the success of the U.S. marriage equality campaign in achieving durable attitude change

Millions of people changed their minds on that issue, in part because organizations like Freedom to Marry framed the cause around a widely shared aspiration for marriage—love and commitment—and shared stories of same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships.

That approach helped to unleash a grassroots movement, by inspiring same-sex couples to tell their stories. They connected with friends, family, and elected officials who were voting on the issue. They had conversations that were sometimes uncomfortable. They asked others to collaborate with them to spread the word.

Studies of strategies to reduce prejudice show that interpersonal contact is key. People need to get together, talk together, and work together. At Hattaway, we’re drawing on insights like these to inspire the design and execution of narrative change campaigns. In a nutshell, our framework looks like this:

We’re applying this framework to narrative change campaigns around Congress, rural communities, Latinos in the U.S., and other issues. We’ll share learning from those in future posts.

Interested in exploring narrative change campaigns? Reach out to us at

Sound Familiar?

Don’t confuse social distance with social distancing, a term from the field of public health made famous by the Covid pandemic. It refers to keeping physical distance between yourself and another person.

Content like this advertisement telling the story of a same-sex couple led to connections, conversations, and collaboration among family, friends, allies, and elected officials.