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Constructing Gravity: Frameworks and tools for narrative change

The Constructing Gravity series will share skills, strategies and frameworks to guide narrative change work. These articles present Narrative Initiative’s present understanding of narrative projects. It is an approach that has evolved as we’ve learned, listened and practiced narrative change.

It is the nature of stories, narratives and values to shift over time. Narratives are shaped (and reshaped) by layers of history, media sources, algorithms, educational curriculum, script writing sessions, legislative debates and other forces. Some narratives are fleeting. Others endure, becoming common sense and changing culture, politics and society.

Since publishing Toward New Gravity three years ago, the Narrative Initiative team has collaborated, convened, listened and tested to better understand the shape of current narratives and opportunities for transformation.

We have seen how the power of – and oftentimes a challenge to – narrative change projects may be their diversity of practices. Narrative projects include campaigning, communications, data, futures, journalism, policy making, pop culture and the breadth of performing, visual and written arts.

Constructing Gravity shares what we’ve learned, analyzes what’s working, and offers resources, tools and opportunities for reflecting on how to create, deploy, measure and improve narrative change projects. Here’s a look at the articles to come:

Waves. Narratives exist in relation to a broader set of values, worldview, stories and messages. Waves illuminates these interlocking relationships, and why we choose narratives as a locus of intervention. We also use Waves to reflect the scale of our ambition for change and the breadth of work with which narrative change projects can and should operate.

Four Baskets. Narrative change is a practice. Four Baskets is our version of a how-to that applies narrative change work in many different contexts. We use Four Baskets to hold the capacities and processes needed to create, translate, deploy, and observe narrative change projects.

Futures. Creating narrative requires us to discern the future we seek. Here we’re sharing a “what, why and how” of futures work. This includes speculative futures, Afro Futurism and other practices to craft stories a world 20, 50 or more years in the future. A clear vision of the future is the fuel of effective narrative change.

Polyvocal. Narrative currents drive a constant churn of stories and messages. Their ability to materialize in different shapes and forms determine their influence. New narratives must be iterative and polyvocal if they are to take hold and saturate. Polyvocal emphasizes how narratives can be interpreted and articulated in the register and reality of many different communities, cultures, and geographies.

Big Listening. Narratives take on a life of their own once developed and deployed. Especially on social media. Big listening is the work of observing and making sense of this process. It leverages technology to discover and aggregate conversations and other data points. Big Listening also describes the iterative processes of analyzing, learning and testing to inform and guide narrative change projects.


The approaches, frameworks and principles of the Constructing Gravity series describe what we’ve learned. This is where we’ve landed now. Each narrative project follows a unique, often shifting route. Think of these articles not as a roadmap but as tools to help orient you towards narrative change. These are guideposts, better boots, and needed sustenance for your journey.

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