The Power Of “Story Of Us”: Building Community Through Narrative


The “Story of Us” is a storytelling approach developed by Marshall Ganz, a renowned community organizer and lecturer at Harvard University. It emphasizes the power of storytelling in building collective identity, fostering emotional connections, and inspiring people to take action for social change. The storytelling approach is particularly effective in mobilizing communities, fostering collective action, and developing leadership by emphasizing the power of collective experience and action.


The Story of Us approach is widely used in community organizing, social movements, political campaigns, and leadership development programs. It helps leaders and organizers connect with their audience on a deeper level, create a sense of shared purpose, and motivate people to join and sustain collective efforts:
  • Foster a sense of belonging and shared identity within a group
  • Elicit empathy and understanding around a cause
  • Motivate individuals to take action for positive change


The Story of Us approach is based on the idea that effective storytelling can create a shared narrative that binds people together and inspires them to work towards a common goal. It consists of three key elements:
  1. The Story of Self: This is a personal story that reveals the values, experiences, and motivations that led the storyteller to become involved in the cause or movement. It helps establish credibility, authenticity, and emotional connection with the audience.
  2. The Story of Us: This story highlights the shared values, struggles, and aspirations of the community or group. It creates a sense of collective identity and reinforces the idea that individuals are part of something larger than themselves.
  3. The Story of Now: This story connects the present moment to the broader narrative, emphasizing the urgency and importance of taking action. It provides a call to action and inspires people to join the cause or movement.
By weaving these three elements together, the Story of Us approach creates a powerful narrative that resonates with people on an emotional level, fostering a sense of belonging, purpose, and motivation to act.

Sample Activity

To facilitate the Story of Us approach, you can follow these steps:
  1. Introduce the concept: Explain the importance of storytelling in building collective identity and inspiring action (see links).
  2. Share examples: Provide examples of effective stories that illustrate the three elements - Story of Self, Story of Us, and Story of Now. See: 
  3. Guided practice: Ask participants to reflect on their personal experiences, shared values, and the current situation or challenge they face. Guide them in crafting their own stories using the three elements.
  4. Storytelling session: Create a safe and supportive environment for participants to share their stories with the group.
  5. Feedback and reflection: Encourage participants to provide constructive feedback and reflect on the emotional impact and effectiveness of the stories shared.
  6. Action planning: Facilitate a discussion on how the shared stories can inspire and guide collective action towards the desired change.

Target Audience:

  • Community organizers
  • Changemakers
  • Social Activists
  • Educators
  • Leaders

Got feedback or input? Please share!