Q.west for good: Change leadership stories with Denise Withers

Rinku Sen: Practical ways to create narrative change

January 31, 2022 Denise Withers Episode 41
Q.west for good: Change leadership stories with Denise Withers
Rinku Sen: Practical ways to create narrative change
Show Notes

Rinku Sen is an expert on shifting narratives. In her role as the Executive Director of the Narrative Initiative, she leads a team that works across timelines, cultures, sectors and the country to make equity and social justice common sense. As an author, former ED of Race Forward and Co-President of the Women's March, Rinku brings deep experience in racial justice, feminist and labor movements to her change work.

In this episode, Rinku demystifies the work of narrative change, helping us understand what's required, what can stand in our way and what we need to stay committed in the long term.

“It's just about putting in the time and the creativity and the hard work. It's not magic, like the kind of magic we don't have access to. The magic is the combination of having people willing to do this work and letting it be loose.  In non-profit land, in the United States and NGOs globally there's not a lot of room for experimentation. And even in cultural production in Hollywood, for example, or in publishing,  people's ideas of what the market wants and what there's a market for and what there isn't a market for – those kinds of requirements for art do limit what kind of art gets made and what kind of art gets distributed. So finding free spaces to do narrative thinking and narrative work  can be a structural challenge.”

Plus, she shares several excellent examples of narrative change in action, highlighting successes, failures and ongoing challenges on issues like gender equity and racism. In particular, she describes the support her team provides through its Wordforce program and explores early work focused on shifting the model minority narrative about Asian-Americans.

To make the process more accessible, Rinku walks us through the powerful Four Baskets Framework she and her colleagues at the Narrative Initiative use to research, create, test and deploy narrative strategies that inform and inspire action.

Want to know more? Check out the Narrative Initiative and its fantastic resources. You might also want to explore the work of their colleagues at The Opportunity Agenda (listen to my interview with their President Ellen Buchman), the Center for Story-based Strategy, ReFrame and the Center for Cultural Power.

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