The Power of Storytelling and Public Narrative

Posted by: NHS Horizons - Posted on:

Originally published by Leigh Kendall – 19th October 2021

In health and care, we are likely to work with data and statistics everyday. Data is important of course – but it tells us only part of the story. 

We need to make stories part of our everyday work too. Stories create a narrative that gives us the picture behind the data: moving beyond the straightforward graph into the complex, multi-faceted staff and patients. 

This article describes how research by Harvard professor Marshall Ganz tells us that we respond differently when information is presented as narrative rather than a list of facts. The stories connect us to passion and purpose: what gets us up in the morning. Our why.

Stories are what connect us to others, bring us together. Stories can compel us to take positive action.

Telling a story is something that we can all do. Turning it into an effective public narrative, something that compels people to take action takes some practice. The article includes a useful framework (it’s best seen as details of useful things to include rather than a prescriptive list). 

The Self-Us-Now framework (see the graphic below), also created by Marshall Ganz is another useful tool.

  • Self means your own story of self – describing your own experiences, values, challenges
  • Us describes who you are calling to in order to work together to act and make the change happen
  • Now is about clearly articulating why you need to act together now.

You can find out much more about storytelling and public narrative in The School for Change Agents. In particular, module 4 explores how we can use stories to create change: it contains a wealth of up-to-date examples and case studies of how people like you have used their own stories to make positive change happen.  

School starts on 15 November, and is a rerun of the sessions from earlier this year. School is free to join, and to take part in. All you need is an internet connection.  The sessions are arranged into ‘bite-sized’ chunks so that you can complete them in your own time, and in your own way.  You can take part on a computer, tablet or mobile device.

Sign up now and become part of a global community.

We’d also love for you to continue the conversation with us online using hashtag #S4CA





As Marshall Ganz writes, “stories are how we learn to make choices. Stories are how we learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to face the uncertain, the unknown, and the unexpected mindfully.”…