Why are narratives important?

World around us consists of stories and narratives. A story is one single tale with a beginning and an end with an underlying moral. A narrative is a collection of these stories. It can influence the way people generally think of a certain topic, organisation or a person. As civic activists, our job is to shift the social narrative around waste. That may mean anything from littering behaviour to designing national circular economy strategies. In order for a narrative to change, we use stories as tools – we write social media posts, blogs and articles, publish researches and launch campaigns

The better we understand the narrative frame we operate in, the more successful we are in achieving our goal. You may wish to grow your audience or influence your target groups to take certain action. Sometimes your role is only educative – the need arises from lack of knowledge in the society. But more often than not viciously spreading false information is shaping behaviours and attitudes.
The good news – by using positive narrative change approach, we can address the false information. Regardless if it spreads unintentionally or by means of deliberate propaganda. It is all too human of us to want to immediately react to any false statements or negative news. By doing so, we risk enforcing the negative. At the end of the day this pushes the unwanted message to a popular position (see the Overton window graph). And this is not a place you want to help the opposing messages to be.
What is the alternative?
You may find inspiration from this material about Hope Based Communications. Our training programs too address the element of communications as a tool for behavioural change. Every community leader needs to use communication as a tool to put in place circular solutions. Our trainers are professionals who can analyse messages that provide hope and urge to action through positivity. Since this might be more beneficial in the long run as they are more likely to sustain the beneficial behaviour. Clever change agents know when to use shocking and controversial messaging. Geniuses know the depth of positive narratives. 


– Kadi Kenk
This blog is inspired by participating in the training ‘Positive Narrative’ carried out by Kadi Viik. The training is sponsored by TechSoup and CEPA as a part of a project to raise civil society organisations’ capacity in the CEE region to combat negative and false narratives spreading in the society.

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