// What We Do
Supporting the narrative change field
Narrative Initiative supports an emerging field of narrative change practitioners, researchers and trainers. In 2019, we are exploring key openings where narrative can align movements, commissioning landscape assessments and research, and organizing strategy labs and global convenings to drive deeper collaboration. Every program and investment is designed to have long-lasting impact.
How we do our work:
Build network infrastructure
We make connections between people and organizations working across narrative change disciplines. This network, spanning issues and geographies, provides infrastructure for an emerging field and creates space for collaboration.
Improve narrative change practice
We amplify useful tools and methodologies from the narrative change field, making promising interventions visible to a larger group of practitioners and building skills across disciplines.
Catalyze alignment in the field
We organize strategy labs, conduct landscape assessments, and explore opportunities for greater alignment among organizations, sectors and movements in order to advance deep narrative shifts.
Our Current Projects
Meeting the Populist Moment
Populism invokes a sense of we, the people versus the elites—and sometimes also an "other." Globally, populist narratives define not just who the “people” are, but also who benefits and who loses in society. Organizations and practitioners worldwide embracing an inclusive populism are meeting this moment to define a more expansive “we,” rebuild democracy, and address inequality.
Narrative Initiative is convening researchers and practitioners to explore the potential for collaborative strategies. We are facilitating learning to inform movements and ultimately make justice and equity common sense.
Narrative Strategy for the Next Economy
The contours of the next economy remain contested, even as consensus grows that the current economic system—neoliberalism—is untenable in the face of rising inequality, the climate crisis, and other factors. Compelling frameworks have emerged in recent years to reorganize and reimagine the economy, but questions remain about which narratives can support the emergence of a more just and equitable economy.
Narrative Initiative has commissioned research to assess the landscape and identify narrative strategy interventions through interviews with leading scholars, policy advocates, and civil society leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as a literature review. The research findings will also foster dialogue between academics, policy advocates, movement builders, and communications experts in order to explore possible pathways for collaboration and next steps for Narrative Initiative.
Understanding Narrative Research Methodologies
Research is a required tool for effective narrative change. Nevertheless, it can be challenging for frontline practitioners to know which research methods will best help them meet their goals, needs—and their budgets.
The narrative change field is informed by an array of multidisciplinary approaches that have been honed over decades to craft narratives, test messages, landscape the narrative environment, and measure narrative change efforts.
To make managing narrative change strategy easier and more effective, Narrative Initiative, in conversation with narrative change practitioners, is exploring how different research practices inform narrative strategies. We’ll also identify opportunities for greater collaboration and transparency among research institutions in the field.
Assessing Technology's Role in Narrative
The proliferation of technology to monitor, understand and intervene in public conversation has great potential to accelerate narrative change efforts. But the landscape is vast and specialized, and there is little transparency between the technology and narrative change fields. Organizations and practitioners are using new tools but rarely have the capacity to share access, invest in further development, and identify new opportunities.
Narrative Initiative, in partnership with Civic Hall, is convening funders, practitioners, and technology companies to advance collaboration and new interventions. We seek to understand not only what the appetite is for new technology solutions, but also whether collaborations between technology developers and narrative change practitioners can increase the capacity of the field.
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Our Past Projects
Atlantic Fellows Support
The Atlantic Philanthropies supports social change leaders through seven Atlantic Fellows Programs located around the globe. These programs focus on equity, using lenses like health and race to explore the root causes of problems while co-creating solutions. The fellows themselves come from diverse professional backgrounds including public policy, law, culture, academia, and medicine. In its first two years, Narrative Initiative partnered with the Atlantic Fellows Programs to provide narrative strategy trainings and coaching to fellows. We developed an introductory training curriculum to increase literacy of narrative as a multi-disciplinary strategy for social change and provide ways for fellows to integrate it into their day-to-day work.
Catalyzing Narrative Change in States
In early 2017, Narrative Initiative identified a critical need and number of promising efforts to deploy narrative strategies in the face of authoritarian populism across the country. Narrative Initiative identified states as an important context for testing narrative strategies that could bridge short-term interventions with long-term goals, and began work in Minnesota in late 2017.
Narrative Initiative provided trainings and workshops that increased the capacity of key organizations working in coalition to deploy narrative change strategies in their respective communities. We also supported the creation of a "narrative nervous system," a set of channels for practitioners to share, align, and coordinate action. Our work with organizations in Minnesota enabled and empowered both individual organizations and the coalition as a whole to experiment with and adopt narrative change practices more regularly, "positioned Minnesota for a wave of policy advocacy" as one practitioner put it, and reinforced the idea that narrative change is a long-term power-building strategy.
The latest // Blog
Cayden Mak of 18 Million Rising talks with us about visual narrative and how tech and platforms shape how audiences interact and use narrative.