If you hopped on to a virtual meeting room with ReFrame and members of We Make the Future’s State Narrative Cohort on a Tuesday afternoon this month, you would have noticed that the life-giving energy of the room could be palpably felt even from the computer screen. It wasn’t just the active chat thread with photos of an orange kitten that followed one of them home from a drag show but also the critical sharing of resources and contacts to support each other’s work to build narrative power across states. You could feel it in the rich discussions about how they could map the relationship between governing power and the power to make meaning in their communities. You would have observed it in their growing confidence in defining what narrative power is and why it’s important to win changes for their communities and the respect they have for each other as strategists, organizers, and leaders working to usher in a better world. In a world where many are exhausted and drained by Zoom, this is no small feat.
This aliveness and sense of connection amongst the cohort online didn’t happen out of happenstance. It was cultivated out of a commitment to invest in narrative infrastructure including fortifying the leaders with the skills, the strategic acumen, and the relationships they need so our movements build narrative power to win..
ReFrame and We Make the Future are collaborating to support a group of sixteen leaders in a state-based narrative cohort through a project called Narrative Power Now. This cohort is made of leaders hailing from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Philadelphia, Texas, and Wisconsin who are working to build power and make narrative change around the country. The organizations they work with are advancing reproductive justice in Florida, flanking the organizing work in the wake of the train crash that spilled dangerous chemicals earlier this year in Ohio, building Black political power in Michigan - and so much more.
“I feel more prepared to advocate for strategies that build narrative power. I feel like I have a new lens to analyze the work through. I hope I can be a part of leveling the playing field in Florida, help the movement be more proactive and really lead with and bring people in with our values.” - Narrative Power Now participant
Narrative Power Now is a cohort-based program designed in two parts. Participants completed the Global Messaging Programme (GMP), which is being followed by ReFrame’s extended Academy program focusing on narrative strategy, power, and action. The cohort will graduate from this program in October 2023. The ReFrame extended Academy builds on lessons learned in the GMP and supports sharpening narrative and strategic communications skills through additional training, development, and practice. Narrative Power Now participants are growing their skills in identifying narratives and stories being spread in their landscape to assess risks and opportunities in their work.
After meeting for a few months virtually for the Global Messaging Programme, the Narrative Power Now cohort gathered in Chicago for a four-day ReFrame Academy to kick off the second phase of the program. The cohort brought the space to life through sharing their stories, thoughts, and work with each other; contributing to an altar and filling it up with names and objects honoring the lineages we come from; engaging in mock interviews and filling up many flipchart papers with post-its, leaving with more connections and understandings about the work than they entered the week with. One participant reflected that often in communications spaces like this, it felt rare and powerful for people of color to make up the majority of the room. Another participant reflected on how some of the training content and the approach to narrative power building was familiar leadership of a colleague who is an alumna of the ReFrame Mentorship. These reflections are important indicators to the long work of investing in leaders across movements for racial, gender, economic, and climate justice and across individual cohorts as critical elements to building narrative infrastructure. The ripple effects of programming and collaborations like Narrative Power Now remind us why we don’t do training for training’s sake. We invest in people for the purpose of building - and winning - narrative power. To break through the isolation so that even in our toughest moments, we can lean on each other and the infrastructure we are creating, and do our best to win justice, healing, and liberation for all people and the Earth.
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