Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Public Narrative

Recently, I attended a training given by folks from the Harvard's Kennedy School of Government on powerful storytelling technique called "Public Narrative."

A giant in the world of community organizing, Professor Marshall Ganz is the architect of Public Narrative, the key to the success of the Obama's grassroots organizing.

In a nutshell, public narrative is a simple - and powerful - way to move an audience to action using storytelling.

The following is from Professor Ganz's Public Narrative Syllabus:

The questions of what I am called to do, what my community is called to do, and what we are called to do now are at least as old as Moses’ conversation with God at the Burning Bush: Why me? asks Moses, when he is called to free his people. And, who – or what - is calling me? And, why these people? Why here, now, in this place? The intent of this course is to offer students an opportunity to prepare to lead by asking themselves these questions at a time in their lives when it really matters.

Public narrative is the art of translating values into action. It is a discursive process through which individuals, communities, and nations construct their identity, make choices, and inspire action. Because it engages both “head” and “heart”, narrative can instruct and inspire - teaching us not only how we should act, but moving us to act. Leaders use public narrative to
interpret themselves to others, engage others in a sense of shared community, and inspire others to act on challenges that community must face. It is learning to tell a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.

I was deeply moved by the training and by the stories it inspired from the participants.

From the Green Room Room:

Each time you tell a story, begin with your own. This is the story of Self.
Next, connect your story to the audience - the Story of Us.
Last, give your audience a mission. End with the Story of Now.


Anonymous said...

Interesting!! Are you saying that public narrative is the key to Obama's whole campaign? What do you do if you don't have a compelling personal story like he does that taps naturally into your message?

Sarah Gershman said...

Few of us have a story like Obama's. From what I understand, public narrative was a major component of the canvassing efforts. Each canvasser was asked to tell the voters something personal about he/she got involved.

Everyone has a story. I've found in my work that people don't realize they have a story until they are asked to tell it.