Presentation / Inclusive Narratives

Narrative Elaboration: Tools for Change

This PDF of the presentation in Narrative Elaboration: Tools for Change (part 2) serves as a quick reference guide and a training tool for actors working for peace. In the presentation, narrative theory expert and Inclusive Narratives Practice Group member Sara Cobb focuses on practice, sharing a set of narrative tools and how to use them to transform polarising narratives as part of peacebuilding efforts. 

Cobb describes a narrative as a tree. The trunk is the visible narrative, which hardens and forms from shared roots and justifies people’s ideas and actions. The roots are facts, events, parables and stories about the collective past, which anchor people’s worldviews. And the branches are actions, policies and other outcomes of the narrative trunk. It is the branches and roots that are most amenable to change, as the trunk tends to be most rigid.

A range of proven narrative tools are then presented. These can be employed in meetings, workshops, public debates and similar spaces for peacebuilding. The first is positive connotation, through which participants describe the opposing side in terms of a positive trait or intention in order to enable humanisation and mutual legitimacy. The second is circular questioning, through which participants make comparisons between their own and others’ stories and thereby introduce new elements that transform their narrative. The third is scaffolding, which helps participants identify exceptions to events in their stories to again introduce new elements and change their narrative. And the fourth is narrative inoculation, where participants identify obstacles to narrative transformation ahead of time so they can strategically address them. 

Watch the accompanying video:

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