Our opportunity to build durable power through IRA implementation
Carina Barnett-Loro, Climate Advocacy Lab
" "
The Art Circle: Denise Bright Dove Ashton-Dunkley, Eurhi Jones, Gamar Markarian, and Dolores Stanford, from the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program Climate Initiative. Now accepting applicants for Strength Through Solidarity, an art & environmental justice co-learning initiative!

A synthesis of IRA-related polling and message-testing research reveals a few key points:

  • Overall, public awareness and understanding of the IRA remains low.
  • Support for the IRA appears to increase after people learn more details about the policy
  • However, people are not entirely “convinced” that the IRA will deliver on its promises – either reducing inflation, saving people money, or combatting climate change
  • Understanding concrete, local impacts of the IRA and highlighting actual progress towards goals helps increase support
  • Local, every day (non-political) messengers are the most effective

So what are the implications of those insights for our IRA-focused organizing work? Political science research suggests that successful social change efforts move people along a “spectrum of support” – minimizing and/or neutralizing the oppositionexpanding the movement (by transforming passive supporters into active allies), and building durable grassroots power. In order to fully realize the potential of the IRA (and specifically, the potential for transformational, equitable implementation) we will have to employ strategies and tactics that achieve all three.

" "

The "Spectrum of Support" is a tool used by many movement groups to track power-building efforts, including Momentum. 

Minimize and/or Neutralize the Opposition

The climate movement has been fighting rampant mis and disinformation for years. The passage of the IRA – coupled with an ever-fracturing media ecosystem and AI advancements – has only underscored the urgency of combatting mis/disinformation, as efforts to block the siting of wind, solar, and transmission infrastructure threaten the IRA’s potential.
Questions on our mind:

  • How do we most effectively track the spread of mis- and dis-information about the IRA in key areas and among key constituencies?
  • Does emphasizing local, real outcomes and benefits from the IRA help “inoculate” against mis and disinformation about clean energy projects?
  • Can evidence-based persuasion tactics (like deep canvassing) be an effective way to build public support for and combat disinformation, especially in rural communities?

What’s working?

" "
Video testimonials from local community members, voicing support for solar in Kansas were instrumental in demonstrating public support and securing a county zoning victory.

Expand the movement

Even though general IRA awareness/understanding remains low, most people support the IRA, once they read a description of the policy. This is particularly true for Black Americans, people who earn less than $50,000 a year, women, and younger Americans. So the good news it millions of people are already primed to join the climate movement if we are able to authentically connect and create meaningful opportunities to take action.
Questions on our mind

  • What messenger/message/mode of contact combinations generate the most action-taking to: continue to defend the IRA in Congress? Push city/state leaders to apply for IRA funding? Ensure the Administration keeps its Justice 40 promises?
  • Does emphasizing the justice-focused policies of the IRA increase engagement or action-taking around the IRA in frontline communities?
  • What messenger/message/mode of contact combinations are most effective in generating IRA-related behavior changes (e.g. can community canvasses increase the number of individuals/households who take advantage of IRA tax credits)?
  • Can obtaining individual consumer benefits from IRA programs become a springboard to ongoing political action-taking?

What’s working?

  • Calling it… really anything but the IRA!: Most people have no idea what “IRA” or “Inflation Reduction Act” means and remain skeptical that the policy will do anything to reduce prices. Our friends at Potential Energy recommend rebranding away from inflation and toward pollution reduction (cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner communities).
  • Connecting to culture: Climate Nexus, Resource Media, and the Water Hub recruited social media influencers from across “EcoTok” as well as from new potential audiences like parenting and finance to help build excitement for the real benefits of the IRA. They found messages focused on how the IRA benefits water, renewable energy, food/farming, and green space generated the most conversions (petition signatures.)
  • Local (non-political) messengers talking about local benefits: Climate Power has been testing TV ads that highlight new jobs being created in specific states (like GA and AZ) since the IRA passed.
  • Emphasizing social norms: We know “social norms” and “social pressure” are powerful motivators of attitude and action – increasing someone’s likelihood of supporting a climate policy, taking a political action (like voting) or making an individual lifestyle change (like switching to solar.)
" "
A recent IRA-focused ad from Climate Power features Fox New coverage of a solar panel company’s expansion in Georgia.

Build durable grassroots power

The IRA presents both a generational opportunity to transform the energy landscape and strengthen the climate movement – but it’s going to take a lot of strategic organizing!

Questions on our mind

  • How do we ensure the IRA helps shift the larger narrative landscape around climate and energy?
  • How do we leverage IRA outreach in the context of larger community organizing efforts – including GOTV, as we look forward to the 2024 elections?
  • How can our IRA-related organizing efforts help to: overcome and break down systemic barriers to participation? Ensure benefits flow to BIPOC and working-class communities?
  • How do we ensure the IRA creates new opportunities to experiment with co-governance and deeper partnerships with local leaders?
  • What scenarios and contingencies (that could either bolster or derail our movement work) should we be preparing/planning for?

What’s working?

  • Narrative work to “win the win” and build collective efficacy: While it’s important to acknowledge (and keep fighting!) the harmful policies included in the IRA, being able to highlight and celebrate progress is important to bolster people’s sense of efficacy – that we can make progress when we take powerful action together, even when the odds seem stacked.
  • Well-resourced, place-based organizing: The Hive Fund is supporting more than 20 organizations in Northeast Houston with multi-year grants to address community priorities (such as home weatherization and energy efficiency, affordable and resilient clean energy access, and equitable and clean mobility) and connect this local work with statewide civic engagement and communications efforts.
  • Running year-round Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) programs: We know from decades of research the most effective voter turnout efforts start early and focus on identifying what issues matter most in communities. IVE presents the opportunity to layer political education, leadership development, mutual aid, and voter education work into a holistic organizing strategy that not only increases turnout in election years but builds durable power. The opportunity through the IRA is to layer community outreach (e.g. door-to-door canvass to help neighbors identify tax incentives; a town hall conversation on how your city can benefit from the IRA; etc.) to enable both IRA implementation and a longer-term grassroots power-building strategy.

We know the IRA implementation will be a massive, “all hands on deck” campaign for the climate movement – and we can’t wait to hear more about what your organization is doing to ensure the work builds durable power.

Please send us a message if you have questions, additional reflections, or  IRA-related resources to share!