Storytelling for Advocacy

Seize the Narrative: Use the Power of Personal Stories to Support Campaign Objectives

We have a 25-year track record of successful partnerships with philanthropies, foundations, non-governmental and community organizations to identify impactful, on-the-ground stories for use in advocacy. Working with individuals and communities, we empower marginalized populations to create and own their stories—to seize their narrative. We work with stakeholders to connect these personal stories to policy goals. Relevant personal stories act as the kindling for social transformation.

What we do:

The effective deployment of personal storytelling in advocacy campaigns is a step-wise process. We work with program officers and their grantees to:
◦ articulate urgent outcomes at the heart of the campaign
◦ practice deep listening in order to identify audiences and representative storytellers
◦ excavate and craft personal experiences into stories according to our 7 step method
◦ train storytellers in the art of presentation

Our process

Discovery: Determine goals and outcomes, identify audiences, analyze current messaging, develop storytelling prompts, and decide final deliverables.

Design: Drawing from years of experience working in public health advocacy since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s-90s, and building on a decade of partnering with the Open Society Foundations’ public health programs, our training programs are designed to produce individual stories that empower participants to confidently express their advocacy messages. But they do more than that because the experience of listening and storytelling naturally brings participants together, uncovers untold stories and evolves campaign messaging itself.

We work to create an appropriate and ethically sound space that acknowledges every person’s voice and encourages people to speak for themselves rather than be spoken for by others. Many of our clients find growth and healing in the process we offer, as well as an actionable skill set that leads to the change they seek.


Training Programs: A series of tailored storytelling workshops for leadership, staff, collaborators, outreach teams, community members, or affected populations.

Presentation Training: Individual sessions with our expert trainers to further develop and hone storytelling presentation skills.

Train the Trainer: Let the few inspire the many through additional training and guidance that allows program participants to train other members of a community or affected population in storytelling, so that a critical mass of stories develops at the heart of a movement or campaign.

Reflection: A post-workshop survey process of creation and review to measure impact, and a final report to disseminate learnings and next steps.


Presentation-Ready Stories: A 4-minute personal story ready for a presentation that contains the details that matter, an emotional arc, and a powerful conclusion. Additionally, we offer consultation about the application of stories in various forms of media or other contexts, where stories may need to be shortened, or lengthened, depending on the goal.

Community Archive: A organized database of personal stories for use in research, training, advocacy, and media campaigns.

Synthesis and Strategy: An overview of our engagements with impact measures, opportunity areas and suggested strategies to further your storytelling practice

Some of Our Advocacy Partners

Unicef, Open Society Foundations, Measures for Justice, Human Rights Watch, Columbia University School of Narrative Medicine

Case Study: Combating HIV/AIDS stigma through Storytelling– Mombasa, Kenya, 2009

In 2009, Narativ partnered with the International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and combat HIV/AIDS stigma among truck drivers in Kenya.

The aim of the storytelling project was to create a program that would empower transport workers to unite as a group affected by HIV/AIDS by openly telling stories about HIV, whether or not they were infected. By speaking about HIV in a collective voice, transport workers could combat secrecy, stigma and discrimination in their workplaces and communities.

The program resulted in the first ever government-endorsed HIV support group for transport workers in Kenya, as well as all participants who were HIV+ to come out publicly about their HIV status and agree to raise awareness in their communities.

Personal storytelling is a powerful advocacy tool that builds solidarity and inspires collective action.

To lead is to listen

Akif Kariman discusses his use of listening and storytelling in consensus-building among the European Roma.
Length 6 minutes. Excerpted from Seizing the Roma Narrative webinar. Watch.

I will never forget how the whole group understood that I was in need and all agreed immediately to focus more on my presentation. We spend half of the day only for me, working with Murray, one to one, to find my voice/my story. I felt the whole group worked with me and for me. Ioan

Training Participant, Bucharest, Open Society Foundations Grantee

The day that Murray and the 5 Roma speakers presented was probably the best single day that we’ve put on since the conference began. Organizer

Power of Storytelling, Bucharest, 2018