On Canvassing and Contact Theory

May 20, 2015: Late last year, we were excited to see a published study that claimed to use contact theory to increase support for marriage equality through door to door canvassing. Unfortunately, today we were disappointed to learn that the data from that study were falsified (with the irregularities documented here). We do not know if a study conducted by the same team using a similar methodology regarding abortion also used fake data, and will update this page as we hear more.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the potential and pitfalls of contact theory.  We want to emphasize that the problem with this study is false data, not contact theory itself. In fact, over 80 years of evidence and 515 studies have found that contact does in fact reduce prejudicial attitudes. Our preliminary research using contact theory suggests that it’s a promising strategy for transforming abortion attitudes. At Sea Change, we believe that contact is one of many strategies that organizations and advocates can use to shift stigmatizing attitudes and create lasting culture change.

To talk to a Sea Change staff member about contact theory, please email our Managing Director Steph Herold.

Join Our Advisory Board!


We’re looking for a diverse group of thoughtful, visionary, and passionate leaders to shape our organization over the next few years. If you live in the Bay Area and want to helps us make shift happen, please consider applying for Sea Change’s Advisory Board. Check out the Advisory Board Application and apply by May 30, 2015.

At right: our original Advisory Board at our inaugural board meeting in January 2014.

Statement: In Solidarity with #BaltimoreUprising

April 30, 2015

As we watch the news coming from Baltimore, we at the Sea Change Program are anguished by the death of Freddie Gray, and deeply disappointed by the media’s portrayal of the ensuing community response. The true story here is one of righteous anger at a broken and racist system. That was not the story told on the news. As they have in the wake of police brutality in the past, the media ignored peaceful protesters, neglected the story of systemic injustice, and sensationalized the rare acts of civilian violence. What is to be mourned is a death; what we are shown is property damage.

We are an organization focused on shifting stigma, and are deeply concerned about how media representation affects biases, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. By misrepresenting the unrest in Baltimore, the media is perpetuating the scapegoating, marginalization, and surveillance of urban Black communities.

Like stigma, violence and racism are made manifest in all levels of life, from interpersonal encounters to institutions and policies to media narratives — a reality which the media and our national conversation ignore at our peril. To understand any event in a vacuum is futile; it is the path to blaming victims for their own suffering and to letting a victimizing system continue unchallenged. We hope for better than this.

We hope that in the coming weeks, the voices of young people and of communities of color are heard. We hope that media attention will facilitate mutual understanding and civic engagement. We hope that Baltimoreans specifically, and Americans generally, can begin to rely on each other to address racism, poverty, inadequate access to health care and education, and lack of safety. We hope to see shift happen.

Video: What is abortion stigma? Who does it impact?

2014 Year in Review

2014 Year One Infographic final - largeIn January, we celebrated the Sea Change Program’s first birthday! It’s been an incredible, transformative year for us. We put together an infographic to share some of our milestones with you.

As we reflect on our accomplishments over the last year, we want to extend a heartfelt thank you to you, our supporters, for your collaboration, encouragement, donations, pep talks, inspiration, stories, and cheerleading. We couldn’t do this work without you!

Saying Abortion Aloud: Research and Recommendations for Public Abortion Storytellers and Organizations

Storytellers and Organizations

Storytelling has a long history of being an effective strategy for change. We know it can transform hearts and minds, and shed light on how policy and culture impacts our personal experiences. Yet stigma and shame often prevent people from sharing their stories publicly.

What should storytellers think about before deciding to share their abortion stories publicly? What can organizations do to help people who want to share their abortion stories cope with stigma? 

We surveyed 39 public abortion storytellers and conducted 13 in-depth interviews to ask them these questions and more. You can read the results in our executive summary and two reports:

Read more about our results here.


Stop, Drop, and Listen 1 Abortion Stigma 101

Sea Change in the News

We’re frequently quoted experts on everything from abortion stigma research, how abortion manifests in media and policy, and innovative ways to create culture change on abortion. Interested in interviewing us? Email Managing Director Steph Herold.




Original Articles:

We’ve also been mentioned in the Washington PostThe Paris Review, Flavorwire, and the Call Your Girlfriend podcast.

Special Journal Issue Highlights New Research on Abortion Stigma

Abortion stigma is under-researched and few conceptual and methodological tools exist to measure its effects. In an effort to broaden the discussion around abortion stigma and spark further research and critical thinking, Women and Health has published a special issue on abortion stigma compiling articles examining the topic. The special issue was conceptualized and co-edited by Kate Cockrill, Executive Director of the Sea Change program, Leila Hessini and Kristen Shellenberg from Ipas, and Katrina Kimport, Assistant Professor at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco.

“This is a huge step in putting stigma in the center of the frame as opposed to identifying stigma only as a barrier to getting an abortion. We’re taking a closer look at what stigma is, what the consequences of stigma are, and what we can do about it,” says Kate Cockrill.

All articles in the special issue on abortion stigma are open access until March 2015.

Full press release here.

Sea Change in Action: Our Newsletter

In mid-July 2014, we sent out our first newsletter! Read the whole thing here or the highlights below.

Our First Staff Retreat

Six people. Two days. One house. That’s a recipe for fun! In early July, we brought all our staff get together in Oakland for some learning and stigma busting. While our roots are spread in different soils around the world, the one thing we all had in common was experiencing stigma and our desire to changeculture. We spent our time brainstorming ideas for projects, sharing skills, and dreaming up where we want Sea Change to be in coming years. For us, the power of culture change and story sharing starts at home.

From Reading Women’s Lives to the Untold Stories Project

This year, we’re re-launching our Reading Women’s Lives project by publishing our own book of stories, to be published this fall, to spark open and curious conversations about reproduction. As we put out a call for essays, we realized that we needed a name that reflected the diversity of stories we received. Thus the Untold Stories Project was born, a name that is inclusive of the gender diversity we see in our everyday lives.

The Untold Stories Project is about creating spaces for genuine connection in a world that is deeply disconnected, especially around taboo issues like reproduction. Changing the culture of disconnection is about changing where shifts happen, and there’s no better place to start than in your living room. Click here for information on how you and your organization can be involved in the Untold Stories Project.


Culture Change Cheat Sheet: Spring 2014

Culture Change Geeks

We’re culture change geeks!

Here at Sea Change, we consider ourselves culture change geeks. We are obsessed with learning about strategies that social justice movements use to create measurable shifts in how people think, act, and behave. We’re always on the lookout for research, programs, and media coverage that challenge and inspire us to think about culture change in new ways.

Culture change is a lofty goal, but we’re seeing it around us all the time. Our quarterly Culture Change Cheat Sheet highlights innovations that we believe are creating dynamic culture change and reducing stigma.  We hope you’ll share these articles with your colleagues and inspire them to keep making shift happen.

Inspring Programs and Campaigns

How do we help people feel support and connection instead of shame and isolation? These campaigns are finding creative ways to address stigmatizing issues and prioritizing the people who are most impacted by those issues.

Image via Strong Families

Image via Strong Families

Research: Theory and Practice

Research provides critical guidance in designing successful programs. The papers below are recently published theoretical frameworks related to stigma and stigma reduction to inspire your next culture change campaign.

Media: Cosmopolitan Takes on Abortion

How often do you see a happy couple talking about how their abortion strengthened their relationship? Cosmopolitan featured this incredible story in their magazine earlier this year, and they’ve continued to craft a new way to talk about abortion in mainstream media by spotlighting nuanced personal experiences.