As the field of Narrative Change continues to grow and take shape, so does our ability to talk about our work. This glossary contains some key terms as we understand them at present.

Terms & Definitions


A narrative consists of a collection or body of stories which together convey a common worldview or meaning -- an interpretation of the world and how it works. Narratives both emerge from a set of stories and provide templates for specific stories. They are powerful, socially constructed mental models that shape our perception and understanding of reality and thus guide individuals’ decision-making and behavior. Cultural narratives are intimately tied up with questions of power - they help justify existing power relationships, while obscuring the ways in which power operates.


Stories consist of characters, joined in some common problem in a temporal trajectory (plot) leading towards resolution within a particular setting or context. A story is discrete and contained; it has a beginning, middle and end. Stories recount a particular series of events that occur in a particular place and time.

Narrative Change

Narrative Change rests on the premise that reality is socially constructed through narrative, and that in order to bring about change in the world we need to pay attention to the ways in which this takes place. Narrative change involves changing which narratives are dominant in culture and discourse, in order to shift how people understand society and their role in it. This can involve a change in the set of narratives in wide circulation, and/or a change in the relative prevalence of different narratives.

Impact Storytelling1

Impact Storytelling is the intentional, strategic use of storytelling at large scale, aimed at bringing about social change.

Culture Change/Culture Strategy2

Culture Change is the use of stories and other immersive narrative experiences over a long period of time, to create deep shifts in how people think, feel, and behave in the world. Culture strategy centers artists, storytellers, media makers and cultural influencers as agents of social change.

Cultural Mindsets3

Cultural mindsets are shared patterns in thinking, which we use to make sense of a wide range of experiences in different parts of our lives.

Narrative Change vs Strategic Communication

All narrative change work is strategic, and all of it involves communication of some form or other. However, narrative change and strategic communications are not synonymous. The connection/distinction between narrative change and strategic communications is perhaps best thought of as a Venn diagram. There are areas where the two concepts overlap, and areas where each is distinct from the other. Most strategic communications is not focused on narrative change at all, but operates within the existing dominant narrative context. Some strategic communication is also narrative change work. Finally, there is a large area of narrative change work that is distinct from strategic communication. It is very long term work that seeks to fundamentally alter the deep social and cultural narratives of a particular society. This type of narrative change work is diffuse and messages are often implicit rather than explicit, operating through the allusive power of complex rather than simplistic stories.

Narrative Power4

The ability to tell stories that shift the mental models and cultural mindsets that define our cultural norms.

Narrative Infrastructure4

The network of relationships and organizational systems needed to create dominant narratives and build narrative power.


Sustained groupings that develop a frame or narrative based on shared values, that maintain a link with a real and broad base in the community, and that build for a long-term transformation in power.