Topos has as its mission to explore and ultimately change the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out.
When traditional tools aren’t enough
The Topos approach is designed to go beyond conventional research and strategy — which has often led advocates to a “plateau” of support that they can’t seem to get beyond — by taking into account the cognitive and cultural foundations of a public interest issue. Our unique and innovative approach to developing framing strategies synthesizes new methods adapted from the cognitive and social sciences with the more familiar methods and perspectives of public opinion research and communications practice, in a single process that leads to new insights, uncovers hidden directions, and provides advocates with new options for success.
The Topos Partnership has as its mission to explore and ultimately change the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out. Founded by Axel Aubrun and Joe Grady of Cultural Logic and Meg Bostrom of Public Knowledge, Topos was created to bring together the range of expertise needed to understand existing issue dynamics, explore possibilities for creating new issue understanding, develop a proven course of action, and arm advocates with new communications tools to win support.
For more resources outlining the Topos approach go to Library.
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Axel Aubrun, Ph.D., is a psychological anthropologist who focuses on long-term culture change. He has authored articles in publications ranging from the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute to Non-Profit Quarterly. Aubrun is a graduate of Amherst College, Oxford University, and the University of California, San Diego, where he spent a year lecturing in cultural anthropology before co-founding Topos.
Meg Bostrom is a veteran communications strategist with a unique perspective resulting from her rich and varied experiences as communicator, public opinion analyst, advertising agency executive, and political consultant. As co-founder of the Topos Partnership, she has researched public opinion and analyzed communications strategies on a wide range of social issues.
Joseph Grady, Ph.D. is a cognitive linguist whose academic research and publications have focused on the ways in which understanding and communication are shaped by universal metaphorical patterns. Before founding Topos, Grady taught linguistics at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland, and also spent a number of years as a consultant helping to analyze and develop brand names. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
Margy Waller is a veteran policy advocate and communicator whose past work has included serving as Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Senior Advisor on domestic policy in the Clinton-Gore White House, Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and Director of Public Policy at United Way of America. She joins Topos as a Senior Fellow and will use her expertise to help expand the reach and impact of our work.
Andrew Brown, Ph.D. is a cultural anthropologist whose research has looked at the interaction between culture, rhetoric and public discourse. His work has included cross-cultural research in the US, Ireland and the former Soviet Union. He has taught at Colby College and the University College Cork and serves as Research Director.
Collaborating with the Topos team is an inspiration and a pleasure. Their creativity, versatility, and integrity would be assets to any communications or public engagement project. They consistently produce research findings that are both profoundly illuminating and genuinely useful. In fact, Meg, Joe, and Axel are among a small handful of innovators whose work is transforming the way progressive advocates approach messaging and movement-building challenges. They are also exceptionally generous, supportive colleagues – a joy to work with.
Director, the U.S. in the World project of Dēmos