Strategic Messaging & Narrative Change


The California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) leads groundbreaking research at the intersection of organizing and communications to facilitate transformative public opinion change. Its current work draws on a long history of conducting, contributing to, and using innovative, values-based public opinion and messaging research to shape media narratives and win statewide policy campaigns. 

Over the past decade, the team has led and supported opinion research relating to the involvement of local law enforcement in deportations, access to health care for immigrants who are undocumented, and exploring new avenues to challenge the criminalization of people who are immigrants. More recently, it has broadened its impact to include narrative capacity-strengthening and power-building among immigrant rights advocates across California and nationwide.

To learn more about how your organization can engage with our evidence-based tools, resources, and workshop offerings, contact us at

Immigration Strategic Messaging Project

Between 2017 and 2021, CIPC incubated one of the most expansive immigration messaging research projects in the country. The Immigration Strategic Messaging Project (ISMP) was a collaborative, multi-state research effort to broaden and deepen understanding of American attitudes toward immigrants, and develop evidence-based messaging strategies that change the conversation. With strategic direction from an Executive Committee of national, statewide, and local movement leaders, the team pioneered proven strategies to break through polarization on perennial narrative challenges. 

Collectively, the groups involved with the ISMP engaged over 50,000 people across 11 states, led the first deep canvass on immigration issues, conducted extensive testing of video and TV ads, and experimented with novel research and organizing tools such as addressable TV and two-way text messaging. For more on the team’s groundbreaking deep canvass efforts and the development of this organizing method, check out “How to Talk Someone Out of Bigotry” on

The Ultimate Messaging Guide to Winning the Immigration Narrative

In 2021, the ISMP evolved to include an ambitious new scope: making meaning of evidence-based messaging research from across a range of immigration issues. With a Working Group of communications leaders, an expansive advisory group, and a talented team of researchers and visual communicators, the ISMP team at CIPC began developing a range of messaging and communications resources for advocates, organizers, and communicators working to transform immigration narratives. 

At the center of this undertaking was an unprecedented effort to identify actionable, evidence-based messaging recommendations from 100+ public opinion studies contributed by 62 organizations since 2016, and listening sessions with 51 advocates nationwide. A compendium of that research was released in February 2022 as The Ultimate Messaging Guide to Winning the Immigration Narrative. Replete with the most current audience mindset findings, a media content analysis, general recommendations, issue-specific guidance (i.e., on asylum, border and immigration enforcement issues, driver’s licenses, citizenship, healthcare, and sanctuary, to name a few), and examples and case studies of tested language, the Guide represents a critical contribution to the immigrant rights movement’s ability to communicate and build beyond the base. 

To request access to the Guide and associated materials, please email us at 


Since mid-2022, CIPC’s strategic messaging portfolio has been housed under a new, fiscally sponsored entity dubbed the CoLAB – where community, collaboration, and co-creation meet in service of generating true, sustainable narrative change on immigration. 

As a natural offshoot of the ISMP, the CoLAB has focused substantial energy in narrative capacity-strengthening and power-building since its inception in 2022, with promising early results. The CoLAB’s core change strategies include: 

  • Training and developing capacity, including via the provision of technical assistance and co-learning opportunities to develop narrative and messaging skills (e.g., trainings, workshops). 
  • Convening and network-weaving, to advance shared thinking, promote best practices and collective wisdom, and create community.
  • Research, evaluation, and learning, to understand key audiences intimately and measure the impact of different messages and narrative interventions. 

Between 2022 and early 2023, and across a variety of different venues and workshop / training offerings, the CoLAB provided 24 trainings hours to the immigrant rights movement, with more than 350 immigrant rights communicators and advocates trained.

To learn more about the CoLAB, request technical assistance with evidence-based messaging recommendations, request access to associated resources and materials, and / or learn more about and sign up for future workshop offerings, please contact us at