Narrative as a Tool - Neighborhood Partnerships

Using Narrative to Build Public Will
Oregon Advocates College IV - January 7, 2014
Patrick Bresette - [email protected]
Narratives that resonate
can connect and persuade
“Narrative allows us to communicate the
emotional content of our values. Narrative
is not talking “about” values; rather
narrative embodies and communicates
those values. And it is through the shared
experience of our values that we can
engage with others, motivate one another
to act, and find the courage to take risks,
explore possibility and face the challenges
we must face.”
- Marshall Ganz, Kennedy School, 2007
Narrative-Building and Social
Framing – as a tool in social movements
– refers to “the conscious, strategic
efforts by groups of people to fashion
shared understandings of the world and
of themselves that legitimate and
motivate collective action.”
- McAdam, McCarthy and Zald 1996
Using unique
narratives of
Experimenting with State
Researching state mottos, songs, and
other shared “narratives.”
• Understanding stories grounded in
“place” and experiences over time.
• Identifying both unique cultural
narratives and shared stories.
• Using all these elements to make
sense of current realities and articulate
a way forward.
New Mexico – Land of Enchantment
The wild lands of New Mexico have been the source of
our spirit and culture for a thousand years. We have a
legacy of living with the land, not just on it. A new
century poses new challenges – balancing growth and
prosperity with the open space that is our heritage. The
Wilderness Alliance is working to keep this balance and
ensure that New Mexico remains enchanting for future
generations . . .
Developing and Using State
(Ohio, Michigan, New York, Missouri, Minnesota & Oregon)
• Using shared state narratives as a way to
articulate a common message about how to
work together to create a state where everyone
can thrive.
• A message platform on which discussions of
particular programs, policies & budget
challenges can be framed in ways that
reinforce a core story.
• Reclaiming a story about public systems and
structures and the role of government.
a narrative about
strong communities .
Our Story About Ohio
We can create an Ohio that is stronger than
ever, where all people and communities can
thrive. Our past investments in public structures,
industries and innovation built America and a
state where opportunity was available to
everyone. We have the tools to solve today’s
challenges and build a bright future for our state.
It is time for all Ohioans to work together to
protect the public systems that underpin our
economy. Making the right choices now will
create good jobs and strong communities and
the kind of quality of life we want to hand down
to future generations.
a narrative about
effort . . .
Michigan Narrative
From the Motor City to the UP, we in Michigan value hard work,
respect and community. Our hands have built things that
changed the world, reached out to our neighbors in need and
formed an iron fist to fight for what was right--even when it was
not easy. Michigan built the American middle class where people
earned enough to buy what we made.
Today, some say we can no longer afford to support strong
public structures like quality schools, good roads, and safe
neighborhoods, but we, Michiganders, know that our fate is
linked. We must embrace the values of our past in order to build
our future. We must invest in our people, our places and our
public systems to make our state strong and our families secure.
Strong schools, good paying jobs and a healthy environment are
the foundation on which to create opportunities, build a strong
middle-class, drive innovation and secure a better Michigan for
generations to come.
Michigan’s 2012 Jobs Plan (AFL-CIO)
From the Motor City to the Upper Peninsula, Michigan hands
have made the things that have moved people and moved the
world. Michigan built the American middle class by paying
workers enough to buy the things we make. Michigan
succeeded because we chose to think big.
Now is not the time to stop investing in our future. We must
support the infrastructure, public services, people and places
that made it possible for us to be great and grow a vibrant
middle class. Our schools, roads, and clean water systems are
the foundation on which to create opportunities, drive
innovation and make Michigan great again.
Message for Mayoral Forum
Flint, Michigan - October 24, 2011
Over the generations, the people of Flint have come together to
build a prosperous community around the ideals of practical and
common sense values, healthy and sustaining neighborhoods,
hard work, and the belief in supporting one another. We are proud
of this legacy. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents
invested in strong public and private structures designed to keep
our community safe, offer the opportunity for a quality education
and well-paying jobs, provide for fair and open elections, and
ensure the same opportunities for the next generation. We have
the same responsibility to our children of today as well as to all
who come after us. To the extent that we maintain this duty, we
become the keepers of a trust, a covenant, bequeathed to all
succeeding generations.
The California Dream
“California is at a crossroads, and voters must help
us decide the path we will take . . .
“What's on the line is our vision for California. Over
the past 50 years . . . Californians worked together to
build a state with great schools, parks and roads and
a thriving economy.
Our investments paid off in a high quality of life for us
all. But that quality of life has been under enormous
pressure in recent years. The choice we face today
is whether to keep building or to stand by as our
infrastructure erodes, our economy stagnates, and
the California dream slips away.
- Sen. Loni Hancock, Contra Costa Times, 03/11/2011
Oregon Narrative
Oregon has a history of ingenuity, innovation and independence. Our
state’s natural beauty, open spaces, and resources – from the rugged
coastline to the Steens Mountains, from lush farmland to high desert,
from the mighty Columbia to the wild Rogue -- have nurtured and inspired
us for generations.
We have worked hard to come together, and to build communities and
the public systems – roads, schools, cities and towns -- that sustain us.
Today, we face a defining moment. We have new challenges and
opportunities ahead of us. Our systems need an upgrade, and we see
that our past choices have opened the door to opportunity for some but
not for all.
We have the tools to create a better future, and to open doors for all
Oregonians. We can harness our innovative spirit, our talent, and our
energy. We can invest in people and create a better future for the next
generation. We can ensure that every person, every family, every
community in Oregon can prosper.
Incorporating the Oregon Narrative
Into Legislative Testimony:
“ . . . in Oregon, we’ve worked together to build
communities that sustain us. This means supporting our
history of ingenuity, innovation and independence. This
independence is felt in local decision-making and local
solutions that tackle statewide issues and goals. House Bill
2890 helps ensure our communities continue to thrive and
open doors for all Oregonians with that independent spirit
that is uniquely Oregon. Thank you very much for the
opportunity to provide testimony in support of this
important bill.”
- Jesse Beason, Executive Director, Proud
Questions to ask when developing
place-based narratives:
• Does it tell a story about the place (both as it has been but also as it
could be and should be) that taps into shared values, cultural stories,
shared experiences, mythology, history, sense of self, etc.?
• Is it aspirational and future focused? (not just another crisis story about
what is terrible or has been lost)
• Does it identify problems and challenges in ways that people can see
what is at stake for all those who live in the community?
• Does it include solutions? (not just a laundry list of problems)
• Does it engage people to be part of the solutions? (not just as passive
observers or victims of the status quo)
• Does it make our strengths larger than the problems we face?
• Does it articulate a central and positive role for government?

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