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Our approach to Narrative

Narrative is a concept that helps explain how the common sense understandings that people hold about the world and how it works are tied together and function – how they limit and channel beliefs and decisions – and how they might be changed.

A key way these understandings can be captured, analysed and ultimately replaced, is in a narrative form, thus we study, design and implement ‘Narratives’.

We believe Narratives are one key way that power is exercised and maintained, that possibilities are shut down or opened up, or of determining what is seen as valued, acceptable and relevant – or the opposite – within society. For this reason we believe Narrative work is crucial to any efforts to create a better future.

Our key principles guide what we work on, and how we do it.

Be ambitious and confront tensions

The most pressing challenges and injustices we face today – and in particular our continuing inability to tackle them substantially – are rooted in insufficient cultural models that limit our ability to understand and accept new ways of thinking. We aim to focus our work on these most entrenched and difficult issues, and recognise the need to face up to the tensions and dilemmas at their heart.

Show, don’t (just) tell

Advice and guidance is great – but we focus on how new, better Narratives can work in practice, on taking our analysis through creative execution to real world impact. This means going beyond toolkits and webinars – but also looking beyond the most obvious story-based formats of dramatic culture to how Narratives embed in wider behaviour, institutions and language.

Agnostic on theory & method

All theories are wrong, but some are useful. We bring to our work as wide a range of relevant theoretical perspectives as we can, from social representations to moral foundations, from pragmatics and linguistics, to semiotics and user experience design. We select the theoretical approach that can best help us tackle the challenge in hand – and the methodology to produce the results we need.

Push the boundaries

This work will be at its strongest with a heterogeneous set of perspectives and professional backgrounds involved. We aim in particular to tap expertise from the private sector, from across the social sciences, and visual and multimedia disciplines. In doing so, we aim to challenge and expand the definitions of what Narratives are, what they look, sound and feel like in practice.

Narrative as an invitation to create together

Effective new Narratives open up space, allowing more people to describe their realities, spreading power and and freedom to articulate new understandings, rather than imposing a single definition from above. Thus our approach is always about invitation, transparency and collaboration, and the Narratives we create polyvocal and generative.

Narratives are alive and incomplete

Culture never stops evolving, shifting and reacting, and thus the Narratives we create must be capable of the same characteristics, ready to adapt, iterate and update to ensure their influence. Key to this is a non-linear model of narrative development, a commitment to experimentation and openness, and combining opportunism with a long term view.

Our method

Listen & Understand

Analyse & assess the existing narrative, how and where it is embedded, its strengths & weaknesses, related values, and the gaps and opportunities it leaves.

Analyse & Create

Use this understanding, and a power analysis of who can be moved and their shared values and wider worldviews, to create the basis for a new narrative approach.

Test & Implement

Develop the strategy, partnerships and prototype materials to put the new narrative into practice, test its effectiveness, and update and improve it.