Training 2: Public Narrative & Story of Self, Us, Now.

This is the second in a series of training sessions we’ve put together that provide a background for those interested in campaigning and community organising. The videos were filmed over a two-day training program involving workshops on community organising, strategy, building support for an issue, and using the platform.

Camp CommunityRun was designed based on ‘Camp Obama’, a training program that was originally used in the USA by the Obama 08 campaign, and was widely acclaimed as a crucial element in the success of their field campaigning. GetUp! has run similar camps before. Acknowledgements and restrictions for use of this material are found at the bottom of this post.

This module is made up of three sessions from the camp that together make up the Public Narrative. In the first video, Sara Haghdoosti introduces the Public Narrative and the Story of Self. She continues with the Story of Us in the second. Glen Berman brings everything together in the third video about the Story of Now. We recommend watching all three in order.

Filmed & produced by Change Media (

Introduction to Public Narrative and The Story of Self

Each of us has a compelling story to tell and each of us has a story that can move others to action. In this video, you will learn how to tell a compelling story about yourself, the community you organise with, and your strategy to encourage others to create change. Learning how to create an effective Public Narrative is a founding step in creating your campaign.

Why Use Public Narrative?

We tell stories to share, to learn new experiences, to inspire and to motivate. Telling stories links back to the two ‘ways of knowing’ by which humans learn: through our heads and through our hearts. We need to employ both ways in order to effectively mobilise others to act. Using public narrative when creating a campaign connects your issue with the emotional side of peoples brains and forms the ‘Why’ in the equation: Why should people care about the issue like you do, and why should they get involved?

Developing Your Own Personal Narrative

Public narrative combines three stories; a Story of Self, a Story of Us and a Story of Now.

  • Story of Self: Tells why you have been called to serve. We all have our own individual stories to tell and have all had differing life experiences which have shaped our core values and beliefs. The power in a Story of Self is to reveal something of yourself and your values – not your deepest darkest secrets, but the key shaping moments in your life. Consider when you first started to care about the issue you have chosen. Why is it important to you? Why do you feel you have to do something about it?
  • Story of Us: Communicates why your community in particular is called to act, and why you as a group have the capacity to lead . Just as in your story of Self, the key is to focus on telling a story about specific people and specific moments that have shaped your organising community and then invite others to join this community.
  • Story of Now: Communicates the urgent challenge we are called upon to face right now. The story includes a description of the path to take to achieve goals relative to the mission, that is the unique strategy or set of ideas that will help you to overcome any challenges and succeed. The story also invites your listeners to make a specific actionable commitment now to help build your campaign.

The Self-Us-Now Structure

The Three Key Elements of Public Narrative Structure: Challenge, Choice and Outcome

Like in any good story, a plot begins with an unexpected challenge that confronts the main character with an urgent need to pay attention and to make a choice. This choice then yields an outcome, and the outcome teaches a moral.

Let’s explain more clearly what these elements mean:

  • Challenge: This is the part of the story where you consider exactly what it is your campaign is trying to overcome. What is the problem to be solved and why must it happen now? Think about who you are serving in the community and the world by taking on this issue.
  • Choice: This is where you explain what is your strategy to address the issue. It is critical to highlight to your supporters what exactly they can do, in clear concrete terms, to take action today. Make it specific and make it achievable. Then, it is about connecting this individual action to the ultimate goal of your campaign, to make sure that people feel as if they are an integral part of the bigger picture.
  • Outcome: The outcome section represents ‘the dream’ – this is the inspiration behind your campaign. It is where you paint a picture of the future and what this will look like if people take action on the issue. It’s important to emphasise what potential change can be created by the campaign and keeping your supporters motivated to keep working towards this goal.

The task for you is to figure out how you can incorporate these three key elements of Challenge, Choice and Outcome in your own story.

Originally adapted from the works of Marshall Ganz, Harvard University and modified by the New Organising Institute and Oliver MacColl.

The Story of Us

The Story of Us

A Story of Self tells people who you are and why you are called to do the work that you are doing. On its own however, the Story of Self is insufficient to set the stage for collective action. Since organising is about collective action, your public narrative needs to make a connection to the “us” with whom you are engaged.

Telling a Story of Us requires learning how to put into narrative form the experiences that the “us” in the community share with each other and then motivating these people to take action with you, based upon the values that you share.

Originally adapted from the works of Marshall Ganz, Harvard University and modified by the New Organising Institute and Oliver MacColl.

The Story of Now

The Story of Now

“If I’m not for myself, who will be for me?
When I am only for myself what am I?
And if not now, when?” (Rabbi Hillel)

What is the Story of Now?

The Story of Now represents the final stage in the narrative of a campaign. Whereas the Story of Self and Story of Us are used to connect your supporters with the ‘heart’ of your campaign, the Story of Now is all about adding in the ‘head’. The purpose of your Story of Now is to explain your group strategy and ask your followers to join you in taking action in your campaign. It is where you set out in clear, concrete terms exactly what they can do to help you to reach your goal and it is about telling them why now is important, and not later.

Why it matters?

The Story of Now is the crucial point at which you can take the emotional connection you’ve created within your Stories of Self and Us and provide it with a strategic outlet, where this emotion can be enlivened through common action. A Story of Now is an urgent call to action that you can use to ask for commitments. But it becomes much more than an ‘ask’. It is a choice about whether somebody is going to stay on the sidelines of dive into the campaign. It’s a choice about whether they’ll take advantage of this historic opportunity, or let history pass them by.

Essential Elements of a Story of Now

  • The strategy – your plan to achieve your goal
  • A strategic ‘hopeful’ choice that each person in your audience can make
  • A specific ask for each person that involves a commitment of time and resources
  • A description of what collectively can be achieved

Writing Your Story of Now

Before you get started with writing your Story of Now, it’s important to think about the underlying morals and values you are trying to inspire in your listeners. What are the common value threads apparent in all three of your stories; Self, Us and Now?
Like the Story of Self and Story of Us outlined previously, your Story of Now should also be structured using the concepts of Challenge, Choice and Outcome.

Originally adapted from the works of Marshall Ganz, Harvard University and modified by the New Organising Institute and Oliver MacColl.

‘Leadership & the community organising model’, ‘public narrative & Story of Self’, ‘Story of Us’, and ‘Story of Now’ are all based on workshops adapted by GetUp staff (Oli MacColl and Sara Haghdoosti), from MoveOn’s “Power Up America Campaign Council Leadership Training” developed over many trainings by Liz Pallato, Joy Cushman, Jake Waxman, Devon Anderson, Rachel Anderson, Adam Yalowitz, Kate Hilton, Lenore Palladino, MoveOn Organisers and many others.
We welcome your suggestions for improving this guide further for future trainings. We also welcome you to use it and adapt it for your own trainings, subject to the restrictions below.

The following work [this workshop guide] is provided to you pursuant to the following terms and conditions. Your acceptance of the work constitutes your acceptance of these terms:
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If you have any questions about these terms, please contact or Marshall Ganz, Hauser Centre, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.