Publication / Inclusive Narratives

Narrative, Power and Polarisation: The Role of Influential Actors

In societies marked by deep social divisions, powerful individuals and organisations play a key role in building up narratives which promote either peaceful engagement or polarisation that can lead to violence. This paper discusses the wide range of actors who have the power to shape narratives at the national level, elaborating them to advance their goals. It proposes practical strategies on how diverse stakeholders – civil society, policy makers and donors, among others – can work with, as well as around, these influential actors to ensure that the narrative landscape advances peace instead of deepening conflict and polarisation.

Based on consultations with the IFIT brain trusts in Libya, Colombia and Zimbabwe, IFIT’s Inclusive Narratives Practice Group and other leading experts in narrative and politics, the paper challenges the view that imposing a new unifying narrative is an effective way to counter polarisation, instead advocating for work that illuminates narrative biases, changes narratives from within and amplifies smaller stories to encourage social engagement at scale.

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