In order to convene people to discuss an issue, someone must “name” it. The meeting or discussion must be about something that can be named in its title or in the subject line of an invitation.
Naming an issue can be controversial. For instance, will a neighborhood discussion be about “development” and “growth” or about “gentrification”? Different people may be motivated to attend–and attendees may come with different levels of openness–depending on the name.
Also, to structure a useful conversation, it is helpful to “frame” it by suggesting several plausible views of the issue that are worth exploring. Participants should be able to see their own ideas reflected in the list of perspectives. Each perspective should be presented in a reasonably friendly way so that it can be seriously considered. Like naming, framing can be controversial, because people may disagree about which perspectives are worthy of discussion.
Issue guides from the National Issues Forums Institute provide examples of naming and framing. These guides are meant as resources for public conversations. Each guide has a title (its name), and it presents three perspectives on the issue that have been carefully framed. In a Forum, participants think about each framed perspective and then decide what they would do–which may be something new.
You can learn how to name and frame your own issue by following the steps outlined on this webpage. The page is maintained by the North American Association for Environmental Education, but the methods derive from the National Issues Forums.
Lesson 10 of Longo 2023, entitled “Naming, Framing, and Asking Strategic Questions,” is another valuable free guide.