When it comes to communications, few things have the ability to inspire and shape our understanding of the world quite like storytelling. Stories have been an important part of human history, serving as vessels for culture, knowledge, and wisdom across generations. From ancient myths and fables to the modern novels and films that line our bookshelves and cinema screens, storytelling has long held the power to engage, inform, and drive action.

Among the many ways that storytelling impacts our lives, one of its most potent capabilities is its ability to fuel racial justice and social change. Throughout history, stories have served as powerful tools for highlighting social inequities, exposing systemic injustices, and amplifying voices shut out of the mainstream. From the narratives of civil rights activists in the 60s to the stories of racial justice uprisings of 2020, storytelling plays a pivotal role in igniting empathy, fostering understanding, and mobilizing people to strive for a more equitable and inclusive world.

The human brain is wired for stories. Stories convey ideas, concepts, and moral lessons; they impart wisdom and provoke thought. The right story has the power to challenge deeply ingrained biases, dismantle stereotypes, and inspire collective action, serving as catalysts for dialogue, empathy, and ultimately, transformative change. Stories make our message memorable and our cause compelling, and can move people from a place of fear to a place of hope. For example, in his book Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. Stories help entice our target audiences to join our efforts. Without stories, people are less likely to pay attention, and therefore less likely to believe in the ideas we are selling. That’s why we must weave storytelling into our communications as early and often as possible.

What is it about stories that make them such potent conduits of meaning? How does storytelling connect to the messages we convey, the frames we construct, the narratives we weave, and ultimately, the values and worldview we want to shape?

In this five-part blog series on storytelling for racial justice, we will explore different aspects of storytelling as a tool for change, and show how our movements are a mosaic of stories. We will share how storytelling acts as a catalyst, shaping our perception of reality, and influencing our beliefs, attitudes, and actions. In future blog posts, here is what we will explore:

Part 1: Why stories matter, including the brain science associated with stories. Here, we will talk about the fascinating brain science behind storytelling, understanding why stories matter and how they shape our emotions. We will touch on cognitive processes and neurological mechanisms that make stories impactful, exploring their influence on our memory, and decision-making.

Part 2: How stories shape values/worldview and reinforce or dismantle narratives. In this piece, we will talk about the connection between storytelling, framing, narrative, and the formation of our beliefs, attitudes, and cultural perspectives. We will talk about the relationship between storytelling and values/worldview, mapping how stories can mirror, challenge, and shape our deeply held beliefs, shedding light on our collective and individual values while offering glimpses into diverse perspectives and cultural landscapes.

Part 3: Storytelling structure. In part 3, we will uncover how stories unfold through plot structures, character arcs, and thematic threads. We will also go beyond a Western viewpoint on storytelling to identify storytelling traditions from diverse cultural perspectives, recognizing the variety of narrative approaches across different parts of the world.

Part 4: Types of stories organizations can tell. In this piece, we will talk about the strategic use of storytelling in organizational contexts, examining the different types of stories that organizations, leaders and movements can tell about their work and impact.

Part 5: How organizations can build a storytelling culture, and gather and disseminate stories. In this final piece, we will offer practical insights and strategies for organizations to embrace storytelling as a core part of their identity and operations, fostering a culture that values and nurtures storytelling, and establishing mechanisms to collect and curate stories. We will also talk about methods and channels for sharing and disseminating stories to amplify their impact and reach, and how to use an ethical storytelling approach in our storytelling.

As we share more in this blog post series, we invite you to contact us with your questions and insights on storytelling for racial justice. Email us at Hello@change-llc.com. Let’s unlock the importance of storytelling and its transformative potential together.