International Communications Retreat

A three day skillshare bringing together some of the best social change communicators from around the world.

*Applications are now closed*

When and where?

Location: Woodland Grange, Leamington Spa, UK (30 minutes from Birmingham airport, or 2 hours from London airports)

Date 16.00 Thursday 15 November – 17.00 Sunday 18 November 2018

How much is attendance? Do you have bursaries?  

We’ve got a limited budget for the programme. Each place on the retreat costs us £450 so wherever possible we ask participants to cover their own place at the retreat and travel.

For people who cannot afford the participation fee and/or travel we are offering a limited number of free places and travel bursaries. Please indicate your requirements on the application form and we’ll do the best with the limited funds available.


A three day skillshare for people communicating for social change. We’ll bring together participants from around the world to work on three key tracks:

  1. Content: What do we want to communicate? How can our social movements better align with one another and have more collective impact?
  2. Narrative development: How do we take an agreed message and turn it into practical narrative and messaging content?
  3. Comms Infrastructure: What are the practical tools, practices and programmes we need to communicate these narratives effectively to the mainstream?

Over the three days we will:

  • Share skills, best practice and analysis on narrative, storytelling and communication techniques  – e.g. sharing insights from NEON’s Spokesperson Network which has trained and booked 900 TV/Radio interviews
  • Share the latest polling, narrative and messaging advice on leading issues from the climate crisis to the rise of far-right populism
  • Develop strategies for international collaboration and mobilisation plans for trigger events, such as extreme weather or financial crises.
  • Build the in person relationships that can become an online community, after the skillshare, where we can continue to share best practice, analyse trends and  respond jointly to breaking news

This will be a gathering of peers learning from one another. When you apply for a place on the programme we invite you to pitch a workshop, skillshare or case study. Example sessions already confirmed include:

  • Anat Shenker Osorio (Founder of ASO Communications): Sharing the results of her race and class polling programme, as well as a strategy session on resisting the rise of right internationally
  • Jonathan Smucker (Author of ‘Hegemony How To’ and director of Beyond the Choir ): Presenting on political narrative and how grassroots groups and social movements can effectively ‘tell stories’ that mobilize people, give coherence to their campaigns, pressure the powerful, and help make structural change possible.
  • Maurice BP-Weeks (Action Center on Race and the Economy) Narrative to Action: turning narrative work into hard hitting campaign work
  • Christine Cordero (Executive Director of the Centre for Story-Based Strategy): Skills-based session on the Centre’s tools on narrative strategy.
  • Hoda Baraka ( How to communicate and win on climate change
  • Bec Sanderson (PIRC) – How do we frame our way out of this mess? PIRC will present the learnings from several years work on the big framing challenges and opportunities that European campaigners face.
  • Christian Hunt (Founder of Carbon Brief and climate comms consultant): Collaborative climate comms for narrative change. Lessons learned building international communications work designed to change narratives around climate change.
  • On Road Media: Influencing cultural content. Experience On Road’s “interaction” process, the method they use to move media professionals on an emotional level so that they’re motivated to collaborate with community leaders on news, soap storylines and documentary.
  • Kevin Smith and Rosie Baines (NEON): An introduction to NEON’s Spokesperson Network and lessons from 900 TV/Radio bookings on NEON’s spokesperson Network
  • Christine Berry (NEON): What’s our common agenda? Strategy session on building alignment in our movements based on a shared analysis

Who is this for?

People who already work or organise in narrative and communications on the key issues of our time: from climate crisis to racism, inequality and the battle for a new economy:

  • Communicators who manage press or media
  • Activists who tell stories through their actions and work
  • Geeks who run numbers on public opinion
  • Strategists on what we should be communicating  

What to expect?

  • To meet a bunch of seriously interesting peers to share practical skills and collaborate
  • Time for reflection and connection: a lot of the most interesting conversations take place in unstructured social time and there will be lots of this! And a garden!
  • To run a session or skillshare!
  • To come away with specific, practical ideas for improving your work
  • To become part of an ongoing network of collaborators

Who is putting this on?

NEON! We’re a UK based group who runs training, networking and strategising for progressives. We’re interested in big, systemic campaigns like stopping fracking, resisting far-right politics or defending publicly owned healthcare.

Communications are a big part of what we do. We run a Spokesperson Network which trains and books people in the media across a range of issues – to date hitting over 900 TV/Radio bookings in the UK. We’ve also recently completed our own 18 month narrative programmed called Framing the Economy which is helping to tell a new story about the economy in the UK. This autumn we’re launching a Communications Hub which will provide messaging and rapid response support to our 1,600 UK members in the UK, with a focus on the environment and economy.

As part of a grant from the KR Foundation – which helps underpin this work in NEON – we’ve made a commitment to building an international community around narrative change – supporting one another to improve our collective work.

How do I attend?

Complete this short application form. We’re interested in balancing participants across skills, issues and backgrounds to get a diverse group who can learn from one another’s experiences. The retreat itself will be quite small, with a maximum of 30-40 people.

Once on site, all food and accommodation will be provided. We are also offering a small number of travel and attendance scholarships but expect most organisations to pay their travel to the venue.

Application Deadline: 11:59pm UK time Wednesday 12 September

Confirmation of place: Monday 17 September

We strongly recommend applying before the deadline.  Apply here

Got further questions?

Great! Email NEON’s Team and Events Coordinator, Fikir Assefa –

Know somebody else who should be there?

Great! Please email this page to them or let know how we can get in touch!