Transition at Narrative Initiative
A Letter from the Narrative Initiative Advisory Board
We hope this note finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. As we all try and make sense of what is happening in the world today, it is indisputable that narratives matter. The stories we tell ourselves now – and enact through our response and recovery efforts – will shape our future. At this moment, we understand how dependent we are on each other, how invaluable often unseen workers are, and how important facts and truth are to keep us safe. Narrative Initiative was built for times like this and we are ready to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to ensure that just and inclusive narratives take hold post-pandemic to build the world we want to live in.
In the midst of this, we have important news to share. After over three years of building and guiding Narrative Initiative’s work and strategy, our leader and founding executive director, Jee Kim, has decided he is ready for his next adventure.
We are indebted to Jee. He was one of the visionaries behind the idea of Narrative Initiative and instrumental in bringing it to life. Under his leadership, the organization has worked to catalyze durable narrative change in order to make equity and social justice common sense – and a common cause.
We are very proud of what Jee and his team have accomplished in the past three years, and for the generosity, innovation, and insight they have brought to this work. From groundbreaking publications like Toward New Gravity to Beyond Neoliberalism: A Narrative Approach, Narrative Initiative shares state-of-the art thinking to power up movement partners. It has also advanced a collaborative and field-driven approach, deepening the skills and capacity of our social change ecosystem to take on some of the most pressing issues of our era. The organization has done this by convening civil society leaders, cultural workers, and funders to explore narrative approaches to populism, as well as gathering activists, communicators, and technologists to expand the skills and capacities for deploying narrative technology.
As we embark upon this next phase in Narrative Initiative’s existence, we have engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help us conduct a search for our next executive director. Koya is an executive search firm with a long-standing presence in the progressive social justice field, and has recently conducted searches for organizations that include Community Change Action, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Funders Committee for Civic Participation, MoveOn, Demos, ACLU, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, among others. Koya’s founding partner, Molly Brennan, will lead our search.
We are also excited that Jee is announcing he will join the Roosevelt Institute as a fellow, delving into the questions generated from his innovative work and many thought-provoking conversations over the last three years. We will continue to benefit from Jee’s brilliance and insights and have the honor of his continued leadership in the narrative change field. Lili Velez, Narrative Initiative’s wonderful operations and finance director, will step up to serve in Jee’s role after his departure in August until the new executive director is in place. Alvin Starks, director of the Equality Fund at Open Society Foundations, has been elected as chair of the Narrative Initiative advisory board, succeeding Alfred Ironside who will remain on the board.
Jee has helped build an organization that has never been more important. Indeed, as we look forward to this next phase of the organization’s work, the Narrative Initiative board remains deeply committed to ensuring that the narratives that emerge from today’s very challenging moment help shape a future that embraces justice and equity. Thank you Jee, for your impressive work, deep commitment, and invaluable leadership.
Narrative Initiative Advisory Board
Eric Brown, Jeff Chang, Kristen Grimm, Alfred Ironside, Alexis McGill Johnson, Liz Manne, Ai-jen Poo, Sabeel Rahman, Alvin Starks
Colleagues and Friends,
What a time. The beginning of this year, when I made this decision, feels like an eternity ago. I hope you and your families are safe and healthy in this strange new world.
Narrative Initiative was launched with an initial incubation period to test ideas, explore opportunities, and discover fellow travelers in the emerging field of narrative change. After three plus years on this journey, I have decided to transition from the organization. It’s the right time for the organization, and for me.
I will miss leading Narrative Initiative, as I am confident it will keep making remarkable contributions. The organization will continue its mission to connect this boisterous narrative change network through convenings, spotlighting tools and trends, and facilitating alignment to effect deep narrative shifts. It will expand its efforts to build a community of narrative strategists to confront authoritarian populism in the U.S., Europe, and beyond, made more urgent in a time of pandemic. And I am thrilled to share that Narrative Initiative has partnered with the Green New Deal Network, a powerful coalition of progressive organizations who aspire not only to transformative policy change, but a shift in some of most entrenched narratives driving inequality and the climate crisis.
On a personal level, I will miss engaging all of you from this perch. But I won’t be leaving until August, and I plan to stay connected to this work in new and different ways. I also want to make sure to take a pause and do some of the reflection and writing that’s called to me nearly every step of the way in the course of founding this organization. As a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, I’ll be delving into the questions generated from every intriguing, curiosity-piquing, and unfinished conversation I’ve had with many of you over the years. Expect a tap on your shoulder in the coming months.