Storytelling and advocacy leadership

Seizing the Narrative of the European Roma: How to utilize storytelling in advocacy leadership


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In a continuation of topics raised in his November webinar with Brett Davidson of Open Society Foundations, Murray Nossel, Ph.D., Director of Narativ, talked with Dr. Akif Kariman, a Roma leader who has played a critical role in raising the voice of the Roma in Europe since 2012.

Beginning at the Salzburg Institute in 2014, Murray and Akif have worked closely together to apply storytelling in the Roma in Health Care Initiative funded by Open Society Foundations. Having worked primarily in his native Macedonia, Akif has now taken a leadership role in unifying the Roma population across Europe. He will rely on listening and storytelling as a central communication modality in his effort to effect change.

On the webinar, they discussed Akif’s introduction to storytelling practice, his use of stories to define his leadership, and how he plans to steer a movement by excavating and presenting the challenges and needs of his constituency through storytelling.
With examples from Akif’s own fieldwork, they will look at how leaders use storytelling to:

  • Identify the obstacles that make it harder to listen
  • Find unifying themes for those you are trying to reach
  • Explore how listening is critical to the whole enterprise
  • Excavate, craft and present a transformative “vision” through a story

akif kariman M.D.Akif Kariman, MD.
Akif Kariman recently graduated from the Faculty of Medicine University in Skopje. He is the first President of the Roma community empowerment and organizing association, “Roma’s Voice”, after direct democratic elections in late 2013, where more than 600 community members in six towns used their right to vote in elections organized by the then informally-named, Roma Election Commission.

He is known as the “rebel” and has organized many protests in defense of the integrity and rights of Roma in Macedonia. He was also a public speaker on many occasions organized by other organizations and foundations. After he was recruited in the “Roma’s Voice” movement in 2012, he discovered the power of stories in building a movement and defining leadership. He was part of many workshops and conferences related to leadership, storytelling and advocacy, both as participant and trainer. His mission is to encourage and enable the Roma community through coaching, training, and strategizing on grassroots and broader political levels.

murray nossel phdMurray Nossel, Ph.D.
Murray Nossel developed a listening and storytelling method at the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, and the stories it produced formed the basis of a campaign that halted defunding of research, saving countless lives. Since then Muray has applied his methodology in advocacy work across Europe, Africa, and the United States. In particular, his work with Open Society Foundations and the Roma Initiative in Healthcare demonstrates the transformation possible with long-term practice and implementation of stories and storytelling principles in advocacy campaigns.

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