Is Narrative Strategy a Communications StrategyThe short answer is yes... if we understand that everything we do is a form of communications. This essay explores the importance of integrating narrative strategy into campaign and organizational strategies to realize the full power that narratives can have in shaping our work and moving our agendas.
A Narrative of Rural Abundance: A Case Study of Land Stewardship Project’s Narrative StrategyThe Land Stewardship Project (LSP) has been working to change the public conversation for three and a half decades. In 2015, LSP began working with GPP on a lengthy process to develop and implement an integrated narrative strategy that reconnects leaders and members with the implicit values and principles that inspire the organization and its constituency. This case study shares the story behind LSP’s narrative strategy: how it informs their communications and organizing, and what it has meant for both their internal cohesion and overall effectiveness. Using a grounding narrative, LSP works across political fault-lines, expanding the space and scope of what is politically possible.
At the Intersection of Power and Hope: Narrative Change In MinnesotaGPP Senior Strategist Dave Mann shares his reflections about the ways in which narrative strategies have grown/evolved in Minnesota over the past 16 years and the impact they are having on organizations internally and on their effectiveness. Additionally, Dave shares insights on the role of narrative strategy in shaping the broader work of Our Minnesota Future. Dave concludes with reflections on the challenges groups have faced and what is needed to make this work more effective moving forward in Minnesota but also for other organizations and alignment groups interested in undertaking this work.
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Public Narratives to Advance Health EquityThis link from the Minnesota Department of Health provides examples of the power of public narrative to advance collective action that creates the conditions for healthy communities. GPP's senior strategist, Dave Mann, worked closely with the Healthy Minnesota Partnership on developing and advancing a public narrative as part of an overall strategy to promote health equity.
Power of Community—Organizing for the schools St. Paul children deserveWritten by Eric S. Fought for the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers local 28 (SPFT) and GPP, this report tells the story of SPFT's transformation from a business union to a social movement leader. This transformation has involved a process of shifting the union's internal culture, building lasting partnerships with parents and community leaders, shifting the conversation about teachers and public education, through ongoing work on narrative, and winning a landmark contract that emphasizes education quality and equity.Eric S. Fought, 2014
Theories of Power for OrganizersThis is one of our classic essays on how organizers can use the 3 faces of power to build and act from a long-term strategy. It offers the theory behind our tools for developing social movement infrastructure (second face) and struggling on the terrain of ideas and meaning-making (third face).
Power and Social Change: OverviewWe've used this essay over the years in our consultations with organizing groups and networks. They have used it to guide them in shifting more resources into building the 2nd face of power (infrastructure) and using the 3rd face of power (Ideas, worldview, narrative).
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This interview with Bob Master, longtime Labor leader and founding member of the Working Families Party, uses labor history to make the case for the role of organized labor in articulating and expressing the broad needs of the working class. This requires building the muscle to take on the battle of ideas, and understanding that labor's role goes beyond negotiating contracts.
In his review of two new books, Thomas Meaney explores the relationship between white supremacist movements at home and anti-communist misadventures abroad: how each appealed to racialized nationalist identities. "For more than a century, anti-communism was a reliable binding agent on the American right" -- which successfully paired the demand for an absolute right to free movement of capital with racial and ethnic criteria for the exclusion of people.
Check out our new writings on crafting and moving powerful public narratives and integrating them into organizing and communications. These include a case study from the Land Stewardship Project as well as reflections on the work in Minnesota.
In antebellum America, abolitionists were imprisoned for assisting enslaved persons who tried to escape their bondage (runaways). Today, people who assist refugees are being prosecuted, sometimes for an act as simple as leaving water in the desert. Some historical analogies can mislead, but author Manisha Sinha makes a compelling case for this analogy. These lessons from history shine light on our current humanitarian crisis.
In this engaging essay about Jackson, MS's Mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba and the challenges that his administration faces as it tries to change governance in a time of austerity, Makani Themba reminds us "anywhere that black people are working to govern together and navigate their differences for a better life for all has radical potential."
In response to a December 2 op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Hanukkah represents the triumph of religious fundamentalism over cosmopolitanism, Rabbi Michael Lerner offers a broader context of the story that reveals its liberatory roots. This exchange feels compelling at this historical moment: with the rise of white Christian nationalism that is openly anti-semitic alongside right-leaning Jews who want to censor all criticism of Israel and expressions of solidarity with Palestinians. These forces have become strange political bedfellows in their defense of Israel's settlements and the abandonment of peace-seeking.
This interview with Pankaj Mishra puts the illiberalism of the moment into perspective, using the longer view of Western empire-building to call into question European and American commitments to liberal democracy, and reminding us that 'white supremacy' twinned with rapaciously unchecked capitalism, has always been the enemy of real democracy.
Globally, a kind of authoritarian populism is on the rise. Their leaders use populist rhetoric, against ‘cosmopolitan elites,’ and against globalization, and for a nationalist fantasy of a mythical past when their ‘people’ (or tribe) were ‘great.’ As this article observes, the leaders of these new movements are an elite contesting established elites. They are now a presence in almost every established western democracy, and their recent successes include the election of Trump, the Brexit vote in the UK and the formation of a government in Italy between the Five Star Movement and the League. This article examines recent arguments about who or what is responsible for the global rise of this new hard-right insurgency and how the Left can address the anti-globalization backlash (under neoliberalism) with a global vision that speaks to the nationalists’ base.
As communities of color gain greater power (and numbers), and as women and LGBT communities demand respect and representation, the reactionary backlash reveals a white preference for authoritarianism over inclusive democracy. This article confirms our fears about the racism and resentment at the heart of this backlash.
While this title is a bit overblown (as clickbait), the argument is sound and sobering. A handful of neo-nazis holding a rally in Lafayette Park (as they did this weekend) may seem risible, but the greater threat to our democracy lies in the infiltration of white nationalist ideas into all areas of the Federal government under the Trump Administration.
This in-depth article on the take-over of ICE by radical nationalists is eye-opening. Their goals go beyond criminalizing the undocumented (all 11 million of them) to terrorizing all non-European immigrants, including those who came here, and remain here 'legally.' This is journalism at its best: getting to the root of the problem with ICE today; it is being deployed in service of white nationalism.
This is a review of a new book about capitalism and ecology. It focuses on how to reorder our relationship to nature, so that we recapture 'the sweetness of life.' Here's an example: “La dolce vita or douceur de vivre—the sweetness of living, the good life, or the sweet life" is an attitude describes a wholly different relationship to the future, a recovery of time, a resistance to capitalism, and the preservation of a significant way of living: the capacity to define life as something outside of work
After 9/11, Islam seemed to reprise its role as the traditional Other on the borders of a Western, Christian civilization. President George W. Bush’s War on Terror sought to identify “radical Islam” as the common enemy of a willing coalition. But terrorism turned out to be too diffuse and far-flung, an enemy without headquarters, difficult to discern or defeat. A never-ending peripheral engagement unconnected to any conceivable large-scale threat proved unconvincing as grounds for increased Western solidarity. Instead, Islam became an internal challenge, raising questions about immigration and assimilation, identity and culture, borders and security.
In his new book, Ta-Nehisi Coates centers White Supremacy as the defining feature of the U.S. polity—its essential nature. According to this reviewer, it is a fatalistic view. But black activists have always believed in the possibility of change.
We are reading Nancy Mclean's new book on the intellectual roots of today's conservative politics, with its mix of cultural conservatism and libertarian economics. This review provides a good analysis and overview of the book and its importance for this political moment.
This is a welcome overview of the vital role of feminist movements in knitting together and leading a United Front. We offer it to generate a healthy debate, at a time when it feels that people are 'drawing lines in the sand,' and insisting on 'purity.'
Can ‘taking matters into your own hands’ ever be more than vigilantism? Is it called for in the face of white supremacists, whose views are anathema and should have no legitimate place in our public discourse? Is it a necessary part of resistance? These questions have been thrust upon us by recent events. Jedediah Purdy, a thoughtful analyst of our nation’s jurisprudence and its tangled roots, suggests there are no straightforward answers. His essay is worth reading; it is not offered here as an endorsement of violent resistance.
Congress used to have more power and influence than the President. The Senate, especially, set the domestic and foreign policy agendas. Not that these were the 'good ole days;' after all segregationists and Dixiecrats had outsized power in both Houses throughout the 20th Century. Still, if we want to understand John McCain's call for the Senate to "return to regular order," and current nostalgia for the Senate's golden age, this article helps us get a sense of how the combination of rules changes and the sharp right turn of the Republican Party have combined to create the current dysfunction.
“In the context of rethinking representation (and the role of representatives and those being represented), we maintain that it is possible to expand the deliberative community and to redefine not only who can decide on public issues, but how decisions are made.”
Local Councils have long been the place where citizens interact with public services, having some measure of democratic control over decisions affecting their lives. Successful councils, like the Greater London Council of the late 1970s and early 1980s, were laboratories for direct democracy, with diverse groups of people coming together to address local needs. Thatcherism sought to weaken, and in some cases, destroy, these laboratories, as part of the neoliberal attack on all things 'public.' In doing so, the role of the state has been relegated to policing, and state functions reside more with national entities. Today, the rich pay less in taxes for local services while the poor and working classes pay more for less adequate, and less responsive, services.
In his final book (written in his 90s) this great historian of the 19th and 20th centuries reflects on the anti-democratic tendencies of left-leaning ruling elites. He asked: “How can we expect to transform human life, to create a socialist society (as distinct from a socially owned and managed economy), when the mass of the people are excluded from the political process, and may even be allowed to drift into depoliticization and apathy about public matters?”
Our friend Jonathan Smucker has written an important and fascinating book about hegemony, Gramsci, and organizing. This review in the New Republic will give you a sense of the book, and also of the distance the New Republic has traveled in the past few years - a positive review of a book about hegemony!
In this overview of recent books on the climate crisis and the economy, Kunkel notes that, to claim a future where ‘humanity and nature’ coexist and thrive, we must address capitalism’s tendency to commodify land, labor and the natural world in ways that devalue all three.
Johanna Rupprecht, who grew up on a family farm in Winona County, Minnesota, tells the story of a strategic campaign of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), led by the members of LSP’s Winona County Organizing Committee and Johanna as organizer. One result of their organizing — a county-wide ban of mining and processing for frac sand (sand that is used extensively in fracking operations) – is reason enough for celebration. The growth in LSP’s base at every level – new supporters, new activists, new members, new leaders – is another important achievement. And the shifting of worldview and narrative, to lift up what the people actually value and what people believe can and should be – this, if we can continue it, may be the biggest victory of all.
This article is a precise explanation and defense of a left, anti-racist populism. The mainstream press often claims that populism is a threat to democracy. But as the author notes, "The basic meaning of democracy—the rule of the people, or popular sovereignty—is nowhere to be found. Instead, democracy appears to refer to a series of institutions and norms," institutions that have little to do with the people. She reminds us of "the Madison of The Federalist Papers who denounced any politics that gave vent to 'a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project'—the Madison who demanded a 'total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity.'”
Chantal Mouffe and her (late) partner Ernesto Laclau have been major theorists about democracy, neoliberalism, and populism. They helped shaped the thinking of many of the leaders of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. This article explains the background of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left populist stance in the French elections.
America has a monopoly problem and neither party is addressing it. To more credibly speak to the concerns of workers, small business owners and consumers, the Democrats must become the Anti-Monopoly Party.
"Wainwright challenges the Left to get serious about participatory democracy. Creating and sustaining participatory and democratic action will require a transformation of government’s relation to society in general and economics in particular. The mentality of government that we see today has been shaped by neo-liberalism. It distorts the way government relates to both civil society and markets."