Insights for Narrative Practice

Amid democratic backsliding, rising authoritarianism, and the securitization of our civic spaces, the collective civic power needed to realize democratic change is being hampered by movement fragmentation and deep societal divisions.

The ways that social movements incorporate diversity and create space for reflection together – including our narrative practices – are therefore more important than ever, so that we model the democratic values we are advocating for and can find common cause with potential allies who may have different approaches or priorities.

The funders behind Civic Futures came together with the Horizons Project and a team of researchers in 2021 to take a deep dive into narrative practices that support collaboration across difference. This report includes the key findings of a multi-disciplinary review of literature of 14 disciplines – from brain and behavioral sciences, futures thinking, depolarization scholarship and social norms – on how we can better understand and deploy narrative practices that will help unlock more effective collective action within diverse, broad-based movements.

Each of the findings are broken down into three domains of narrative practice:

  1. Legitimacy—how narratives regulate and determine the nature of interactions between people (i.e., how we position ourselves and others as legitimate, worthy, good, or bad);
  2. Power—the dynamics of relations and decision-making in the narrative landscape (i.e., how and where control is exerted or privilege experienced to deem what is acceptable, normal, or transgressive); and
  3. Complexity—the capacity of any narrative to evolve and change (i.e., when and how the elaboration of nuanced, multifaceted descriptions of people, events, and values produce multiple, complex, and evolving stories and meaning-making).

To download the full report click here.

To read a short introduction article to this report click here.