A photo showing a compass shrouded in a purplish abstract design.

Navigating 2022: Ideas, reports, and resources for narrative changemakers

If you’re navigating narrative change you know that everything is, well <waves hands>, messy in the world. Every day is noisy and chaotic. It can be tough to judge what’s working and what’s not, whose voice is trustworthy and whose isn’t reputable. People may retreat towards the familiarity and security of dominant, if oppressive, narratives. We go to the known, even if we know it’s not right.

Brett Davidson wrote about the human tendency to justify existing systems, even broken ones, and offered some solutions for narrative changemakers. It’s a helpful piece because retreat in the face of chaos and broken systems is an untenable situation for those leading in times of change.

And this year’s change is tough. In early January, This is Signals, a project of ReFrame, foreshadowed emerging narratives with their Through the Looking Glass: 2022 Narrative Predictions. Here, data analysis powers a valuable discussion of trends, issues, concepts, and values shaping the 2022 narrative landscape. Months later, it remains worth reading and using to understand the who/what of narrative work this year.

Poverty and wealth are two sides of many stories that weave through our narratives. A team from the Center for Public Interest Communications, Radical Communicators Network and Milli just launched BROKE, a report, website and narrative changing experience that examines our poverty and wealth narratives in detail. BROKE is a great example of narrative research and displays fabulous online storytelling.

Another of our favorite narrative explainers of the year (so far) is How Cops Get Off from The Advancement Project. It’s a three-part series that shows how narratives of policing – from the Big Screen to local news – perpetuate a system in which police are rarely held accountable.

We also want to quickly cover a wide range of resources and reports from around the narrative change community this year. Have you spotted other reports and resources? Send us an email and we’ll add them to the list.

We love the Butterfly Lab Narrative Design Toolkit from RaceForward. You’ll find worksheets that help identify goals and audiences as well as step-by-step narrative project guidance.

Transforming Narrative Waters is a thorough look at what’s happening (and needed) to grow narrative change work in the UK. Good reflections on (and insights for) narrative work in the US and elsewhere. [Ruth Taylor for The National Lottery Community Fund]

Common Destination shows us how to reframe the aviation industry and its impact on people/planet. Journey to 5 new plane  narratives here. [Stay Grounded Network]

Communicating Systems Change shares five of the best resources for landscape mapping, measuring narrative change, storytelling for systems change and more. [Sam Rye]

The Good Energy Playbook is full of examples, guides and other resources for screenwriters, communicators and advocates doing climate storytelling.

Narrative, Power and Polarisation: The Role of Influential Actors. Influencer strategies for peace-centered narrative change campaigns. [Institute for Integrated Transitions]

Spotlighting Domestic Workers Representation in Film & TV. Baseline analysis of how domestic workers are portrayed in screenplays.  [National Domestic Workers Alliance and USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center]

‘Immigration Will Destroy Us’ and Other Talking Points. Research into the impact, tactics, and reach of anti-immigration narratives on YouTube. [Define American]

This Beautiful Moment. Five strategic investments to make in narrative and culture work. [Erin Potts, Dom Lowell and Liz Manne]

The Role of Narrative in Managing Conflict and Supporting Peace [Institute for Integrated Transitions]

Our Relationship to The Future: Narratives, Imagination Skills and Futures Literacy is a concise curation of futures resources for narrative strategy. [Horizons Project]

We’ll conclude with our friend Trevor Smith’s ideas about the narrative power needed for reparations:

Our demand must be clear, specific, and detailed – and will require changing the deeply entrenched narratives that are core to the American story. Given this, there are three key questions that we should be asking ourselves:

  • What are the current narratives that we need to disrupt to make reparations possible?
  • What are the new narratives that we need to seed to make reparations possible?
  • How do we build power behind these new narratives?

Big ideas in your inbox.