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Effective Advocacy Tactics: Storytelling

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“In order to bring about social change, people must come together to recognize shared challenges, figure out solutions to those challenges, identify allies and enemies, and build the relationships needed to apply pressure and win. All of that happens in no small part through stories.” ~ Paul VanDeCarr

Storytelling is powerful. For example, studies show that reading literary fiction can increase our empathy.

Stories can shift our opinions, our worldviews, and even our collective social norms.

Storytelling can be an effective advocacy tactic for your issue of concern.

Beautiful Trouble offers a useful overview of the power of storytelling.

Some of the benefits of storytelling as an advocacy tactic include:

  • Stories can tap into empathy better than can facts and statistics.
  • Stories can open listeners to new ideas and new ways of thinking.
  • Stories can be effective for explaining complex concepts and issues.
  • Stories can motivate positive action.
  • Stories can help people make new connections.
  • Stories can help people see themselves in the relevant situation.
  • Stories can help show commonalities and build relationships among people and animals.

General tips for storytelling include:

  • Organize your story around the three components of a story: plot, protagonist, and moral.
  • Use good storytelling techniques, such as a hook, a compelling storyline, and rich, visual, concrete language.
  • Include relevant framing in your story. 
  • Focus on key messages that further your goals and that are customized to your audience.
  • Be authentic, honest, and transparent.
  • Focus on positive change rather than on “gloom and doom.”
  • Include a specific call to action—something the audience can do to make a difference with your issue of concern.

The Center for Story-based Strategy offers a useful overview of using stories to achieve your social change goals, as well as several case studies of organizations using storytelling in their social change work.

And this literature review for Living Proof Stories looks at the importance of personal narrative storytelling.

Use this Story Canvas from Digital Storytellers to help you strategically create a compelling story for your issue of concern.




The Center for Story-based Strategy
Living Proof Advocacy
Why Stories Matter” by Marshall Gantz

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