This is part of a series of conversations with member organisations of the Connection Coalition.
Talking Taboos is a small charity, run by Kat (Katherine Jennings) and Flo (Florence Nolan). They use behavioural science and design research to understand taboos and apply their insight to bring challenging, overlooked social issues to public attention. Here, Flo talks about the work of the charity…
Talking Taboos began as part of a corporate responsibility programme before our director, Kat, transformed it into an independent charity in its own right in 2017.
Because we’re such a small team, working in partnership is vital. Talking Taboos owns Common Collective, a social enterprise collective of talented freelancers working on social impact projects. Common Collective works with local authorities, charities, government bodies, universities and the private sector to address complex social questions, which are often taboos. So we have access to these incredible researchers, designers, programmers, psychologists, analysts and communications experts. We also collaborate with other charities, for example, we explored society’s perceptions of young people who self-harm with Young Minds.
We’re helped by profits from Common Collective being donated to Talking Taboos. This is so helpful, but it’s finite and so we are always looking at partnerships and other ways to boost our capabilites. Applying for funding is difficult because we’re such a small team – it’s very time consuming when we could be directly delivering our charitable objectives, and ultimately those who are suffering from taboos. A not uncommon feeling which is, no doubt, shared with other members of the Connection Coalition. It’s also hard because a lot of funding is understandably for well rooted community work or for specific subject charities – and we’re neither, although our recent projects on loneliness won National Lottery funds to run research living labs that took the form of a series of free cooking classes in Brighton. We’re always looking for other ways to sustain our work, such as event sponsorship or new partnerships.
Taboos within taboos
We’re focussed on understanding the context of the taboos, the ‘taboos within taboos’. For example, we’ve found that within the huge social issue that is loneliness, a particular taboo surrounds being perceived as lonely, so we never use this word in our communications to participants, opting for the more positive ‘connect’. It’s an interesting challenge uncovering these issues because, by definition, taboos aren’t talked about.
Social listening research
We’re about to launch a social listening project with Discover AI and our brilliant trustee Hannah Marcus, through which we will draw out the most current taboo topics from social media research. We’ll plan a range of events that respond to the insights from this research, so stay tuned for that. We’re also planning an annual survey (which we’ll be asking for Connection Coalition help with), to help us track and measure taboos over time and understand what subjects are being spoken about more, and what is becoming even more taboo.
Our extensive work on mental health and loneliness included some consultancy work with the Jo Cox Foundation on the Unlocking Connection project last year. We used our event organisers toolkit in this work (you can find the Beta version here, but a new version is in the pipeline!), which came out of the Connect Through: Cooking project. We would love members of the Connection Coalition to use it and let us know any additions or thoughts on how it works for them!
We’d love to hear from other Connection Coalition members – whether you’d like to chat about our work, have suggestions or ideas for collaboration, or just want to reach out and connect. You can reach us through Flo’s email or Kat’s email.