With offices in New York and London, Narativ transforms the way people communicate. Through our listening and storytelling method, we open dialogue, foster innovation, create buy-in and connect people.
We create strategies that focus on evolving cultures throughout the world by training people how to listen and tell personal stories and providing contexts where such stories can be shared with others. Working with groups and communities across the world, we thoroughly analyze each culture as a distinct entity in order to effect changes in behavior, attitudes and action.
We develop content and media, including online courses, that support our clients in creating messages that genuinely represent who they are and what they do for on-boarding, recruiting, employee engagement as well as branding and external messaging needs.
Narativ has worked with clients from more than sixty countries, in ten different languages. We have worked in the for-profit sector with companies such as Prudential, Twitter, CIGNA, and non-profit organizations and foundations such as Open Society Foundations, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and the International Transport Workers’ Federation. In London, we also offer workshops for individuals.
Podcasts may be the closest form to ancient storytelling that the modern world has produced. Recognizing their power and accessibility, beginning in 2016 Narativ now offers original podcast production for our clients. Through podcast technology, we scale internal training beyond in-person seminars to connect employees with leaders across an entire company, allowing them to listen to each other’s stories and develop a vital sense of connection, ownership, and shared vision.
The rich reserve of material unearthed through our Method makes for vibrant and compelling branded podcasts that build an emotional connection with your customers, available at any time on a multitude of devices. We partner with the expert podcast producers at The Listening Booth (Memory Motel, the Lonely Hour, What’s Happening Here?) to make professional podcasts that address either goal.
Contact us to find out how our new podcasting arm can serve your needs.
One of Narativ's basic principles is that each person has a multiplicity of stories. What follows are some of ours:
In 1983 I worked at my father’s pharmaceutical factory in the newly independent Zimbabwe. I was briefed to “address the conflict arising from white employees refusing to accept recently appointed black managers”. Using behavioral techniques of modeling and practicing new behaviors, I trained employees to listen and speak to one another.
In 1985 I was a psychology intern at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital in Cape Town. I held a brass key to the locked female psychotic ward. As I inserted it into the lock, a group of patients rushed towards me. I squeezed in. Daphne entered my windowless office. Her file was inches thick with notes and diagnoses. Paranoid Schizophrenic. Delusional etc.
“Tell me your story?” I said. She replied: “No one ever asked me that before …”
In 1994, during my Ph.D. in social work and anthropology I worked at an AIDS program in Brooklyn. There was a specimen box on the door that said, “Danger. Hazardous human waste material.”
My supervisor told me to help my patients come to terms with the fact that they were dying. “How do you feel? “ I asked Sharon. “What bullshit question is that? How would you feel in my shoes?”
I simply listened and observed: When patients died, their possessions were left in black garbage bags that no one claimed. I wanted them to be remembered. So I started a storytelling group.
I bring to Narativ everything I have learned as an industrial and clinical psychologist, social worker and ethnographer. I also draw from my experiences in the army, at the Oscars, as a university professor and with Two Men Talking, the stage performance of my own story.
Interview: Murray Nossel featured in Jonsar Studios' Conversation with Artists Series.
At medical school a dying patient says to me “enjoy life, it passes very quickly.” I listened to her.
A year later my doctor says, “You have two years to live.” I was 24 years old. I did not listen to him.
I am in a four-seater plane with a patient in labor, in a thunderstorm, flying over the frozen plains of Northern Canada.
I am on stage singing “No Business like Show Business” in the end of year production at the Drama Studio London.
I stand before my colleagues at the American Psychiatric Association to tell my story publicly for the first time. It’s 1994.
Murray Nossel and I sit in a hot tub under a Catalpa tree in Upstate New York. “Imagine a space in which we bring together all our experiences and stories. Wouldn’t that be a great space for people to come together to listen and tell stories to fully appreciate their lives? Let’s call it Narativ.”
“At the end of this 3-year program, you will all be international leaders in large corporations all over the world.”
After graduating from business school in 1999, I started my first job as a marketing manager with BNP PARIBAS’ Asset Management department in Hong Kong. I drank 5 cups of coffee everyday.
On the weekends, I made short films and became DJ Silent Jay, playing at a bar named “Antidote.” None of my colleagues knew. One day, after four years in banking, I opened my computer’s search engine and typed the words “film”, “business” and “New York”.
I walked into my boss’ office and said “I quit.” He sighed and asked; “What are you going to do if you’re not going to work in finance?”
A year later, in New York, I answered an ad to be the intern of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Murray Nossel. He gave me a shoebox full of papers and said, “This is Narativ, it’s a company, but I am not sure if it is a business. What do you think?”
In 2007, we excavated and developed the personal stories of 60 internal auditors at the Time Warner Center. At the end of the day, one person came up to me and said: “I’ve never felt so engaged by what I do in my 30-year career.” I smiled and said, “I know exactly what you mean”.
Today, I am CEO of Narativ and one of its lead trainers, developing listening and storytelling training programs for organizations worldwide.
“Everyone has a story, and everyone can learn how to tell their story.”
Jasvinder drops me off at the entrance to an alleyway in Munirka. I walk past piles of dung fires into a 12x12 foot concrete room where 20 women sit with pieces of worn down chalk, their eyes lined with thick kajal. I am here to teach basic newborn care, but the women tell me stories: “I don’t trust the hospital”, “My husband, he beats me”, “Why should I have a child if I cannot educate her?”
After leaving my home in India, I travelled to New York and completed my Masters in Social Work and International Relations from Columbia University. My first client was an Albanian woman with a beauty mark on her cheek. Her husband had a gun under the bed. I listened to her. I listened to a teenager in the Bronx who found out she was pregnant and left home, I listened to a sex worker tell her story of feeding her child, a truck driver in Kenya who walked into a clinic and got tested for HIV.
And then, I told my own story. I sat in a circle of 20 strangers, my heart beat out of my chest and my eyes never left the ground. When I finished my story, I looked up, and everyone was there, looking at me, smiling.
Today, I am a lead trainer at Narativ and perform my own stories in Two Women Talking. I teach people how to listen without judgement and use the power of their voice to tell their story.
June 1995: The Post ran a cover headlined, “Whatta Mess,” with a small parade of handcuffed Mafioso indicted on charges of controlling New York City’s garbage industry.
For the private sanitation business my family had owned in Manhattan since 1885, my uncle recognized an opportunity. “The garbage stops monopolized by the mafia for years,” he said, “could now be ours.” But my grandfather swatted away the headline shoved in his face by my uncle.
Riding in the garbage truck, my uncle said to me, “The old man will never change. I have to take the business from him. Are you with me?” I left to pursue writing: an MFA from University of California, Irvine; speech writing for the UN; teaching fiction at Johns Hopkins; a writing residency at Vermont Studio Center.
The city eventually shut down my grandfather’s business, after my uncle had already left.
After hearing the story of my family’s business on the Moth’s Main Stage, the Moth’s executive director asked if I would teach businesses the art of storytelling.
For the Moth Corporate program, I developed and led trainings for designers at Google, marketers at Proctor and Gamble, sales teams at Mass Mutual, executive leaders at Vanguard, among other Fortune 500 employees.
After years of teaching narrative to businesses, I listened to Murray explain the co-creation process of Two Men Talking. Then I said to him: “My uncle and grandfather could not co-create the future story of our family business because they could not listen to one another.”
I joined Narativ as a Lead Trainer and Program Developer, to help organizations leverage the art of storytelling and listening.
I am 16 years old and my Dad is driving me home in London. ‘You want to be an actor’, he says, ‘but you need a back-up plan’.
I study English at Cambridge University and then train at the Drama Studio, London. It is 1986 and one of my fellow acting students is a young South African doctor named Paul Browde.
By 1999 I am combining theatre projects with working in business as a communications trainer. I coach top executives in financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, law and professional services firms.
That year I am performing a play on Broadway and Paul Browde comes to see it. ‘You are doing storytelling theatre… I’d like to talk to you about a project I am working on’. I meet Murray and Paul and as they tell me about an idea called Two Men Talking I say ‘I want to direct this!’
On a trip to South Africa with Two Men Talking in 2004 I sit with 6 women and hear them tell their stories of being HIV+. ‘This work means something’, I say to Murray. ‘That’s why we are starting Narativ’, he replies.
In 2009 Jane and I become the Directors of Narativ in London.
It is 2014 and we finish leading a Narativ workshop with a large global Union in London. A woman comes up to us and says ‘I always take one or two things away from a workshop. Thank you - today I am going to take away everything!’
My school report read, 'Loves acting and writing stories'. I was 7 years old at a primary school in South London.
When I was 21, I was offered a contract by the Belgrade Theatre In Education Team in Coventry and got my Equity card. One day, after a performance of my play 'Lives Worth Living', we had a discussion with the audience in which they shared their stories. Later a woman came up to me and said, ‘that’s my son over there, Joe - the one with Downs Syndrome who spoke up. I want to thank you for your play. I’ve never heard him talk about his life like that before.’
After I had my children I stayed closer to home, acted more in television and began making my own work from my own experiences. With my husband, Dan Milne, I created a piece of personal storytelling theatre, 'Small Space', about our lives together. We performed it in domestic kitchens at Festivals around the world.
Alongside this, I put on business clothes and went into tall, glass buildings in Canary Wharf, Frankfurt or Dubai role-playing as CEOs and difficult clients; and coaching in Leadership and communication skills.
Sometimes I was talking, but mainly I did a lot of listening. Many times people said, ‘I’ve never told anyone that before’.
In Spring 2014 I was running a Narativ workshop with Dan in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. I said to the Gallery Mediators studying the artworks, 'When you are ready, tell the story suggested to you by the piece of art.' We moved around the space hearing story after story. Later one of the mediators told me ‘I will remember this for the rest of my life.’
I am Director of Narativ in London and a Lead Trainer, innovating ways of using storytelling in different spheres.
I'm sitting at the back of the amphitheatre at the University of Sheffield Psychology department. I'm scribbling the words being spoken by the Professor. The module is Learning, Memory and Attention. I file the pages, graduate with a BA Hons Psychology and leave the words in the dark.
A year later I'm standing in Cortonwood miners' welfare club with my fellow actors. I have co-founded Metro theatre company. It's the end of the play 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. The audience of striking miners and their families are on their feet clapping and cheering, many with tears rolling down their faces. After the show people are patting us on the back, shaking our hands. The miners' wives feed us hot pie, peas and gravy. Our director Stephen Daldry says "We are experiencing the privilege that comes with telling peoples' stories back to them."
I go on to work in theatre all over the UK, and for BBC radio and television including a spell in the UK soap Coronation Street. Alongside performing, I qualify in massage and therapeutic healing at Morley College London and then train with psychotherapist Delcia McNeil.
I begin working in organisations, using forum theatre and roleplay to help people unpick difficulties in their interactions in the workplace. Along the way I work towards a qualification in Integral Coaching.
Then 25 years after university, I'm sitting in a circle at a Narativ workshop in London. I listen as each person learns to speak their own story from memory. In one of the breaks I say to a workshop leader - "Oh. You know what? Learning, memory and attention. It's all about story, isn't it?"
"I'll be like him" I said to my brother after my father had died. “I’ll be a soldier too”. I was 11 but when I was 17 an interview board asked me if I still wanted to join the army and I said no. I became a lawyer in England and my mother said “Your Father would have been so very proud. That's really what he'd wanted to do". "I know" I replied.
I put on a gown and a wig and defended people in courtrooms. At other times I would go to a building where the walls were cracked and rehearsed plays. I climbed up on a stage and played Biff Loman in 'Death of a Salesman'. I spoke the line: “Why am I trying to become something I don't wanna become when all I want is out there waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am?”
That was in 1990. I went from being an actor to using those skills in communications training in business. It is 2014 and a young black man approaches me after a story session and says “I wanna tell my story ”. His story is about hope on the streets of Jamaica and London. “Sure” I said, “let’s meet. I work with Narativ - we train people to tell their stories...."
Our favourite spot is sitting on the windowsill, toes touching, my best friend and I.
“I want to tell stories like yours” I say.
“Well you can't, cos they're mine”, she laughs.
Echoes down the corridor, voices, footsteps, doors clank shut, keys in many locks. HMPrison Bullingdon, Oxford. I'm in my final year of a Psychology & Anthropology degree, sitting in a bare, whitewashed room. The prison officer turns to me “This is our theatre”. The experience shapes my research on the benefits of drama in the prevention of recidivism.
I train in Eastern physical theatre. My acting career begins - from wrestling with Gladiators to West End period drama with director Stephen Daldry. One day I audition for a big TV producer. Sitting in the bare studio he observes me. “So what's your story?” I stare back. Silence.
In tandem with the acting work I start to develop a focus towards business coaching using many of the techniques acquired from acting. Having designed and delivered on over 500 sessions from public speaking to leadership skills I find myself working with Dan Milne.
When I stepped in to Narativ something fell in to place. Through listening to the lives of others I began to understand my own moments of meaning, the poignant and the prosaic. My stories are the essence of me, my inner voice and a key to my relationship with the world. As an Associate with Narativ in London I deliver workshops and have a particular interest in using story with young people.