4. Practicing Narrative Justice: Incorporation

Pursuing Narrative Justice in organizational communications means considering how you wish to position your work concerning historical and contemporary power dynamics, privilege and inequity within your space. Identifying your organizational positioning also implies thinking through how you want to educate audiences by framing overall messaging in a manner that advances justice and increases equitable outcomes. Communications directed by those values will elicit an affinity for your work among your audience, and move people to take action thereby contributing to systems change.

In this article, the fourth in our series, we address what it takes to Incorporate these learnings into your organizational processes.

#4 Incorporation | Incorporate findings from engagement with historically excluded communities as the driving elements that orient the stories you tell. Ethical engagement around differences based in culture, experience or positioning means elevating the elements of culture or identity highlighted by people themselves. In this way, by grounding the stories we tell in a Narrative Justice approach, we can contribute to resilience, pride and human flourishing through industry storytelling—no matter the arena where we work.

The goal of this stage is to identify the guiding themes that your communications will work to emphasize or achieve. For example, your organization may provide funding or network building to nonprofit organizations and governments working to provide family planning and reproductive justice tools to local communities, across countries on different continents. The following themes might emerge as you follow the Narrative Justice trajectory:

  • You gain an increased awareness of historical and recent events in Nigeria (one of the countries your organization serves) that reminds you of the power of colonial legacies, and their contemporary impact on relationships between US-based organizations and partners based in Nigeria.
  • Upon further research, you find that your vocabulary, framing and attention to donors and external topic experts prioritize their perspectives over those communicated by local practitioners, medical professionals and patients who are intimately involved in the day-to-day dynamics of family planning contexts.
  • On the ground partners share that current feedback mechanisms seem to gather their insight but with very little impact on the work. They perceive that their recommendations for change are not taken into consideration.

As we discussed in the previous article on embracing Confrontation of the reality of problematic communications and their impact, these insights can be uncomfortable to recognize. But, each of these pieces of information are data that can be used to inform your organization’s approach to improved messaging for social change. From these findings (and likely, many more), your communications team can adopt a new messaging framework with areas of emphasis such as:

  • Transparency around historic and contemporary imbalances of power, and the intention of your organization to work to balance them.
  • Guidance for your communications team on centering the perspectives, expertise, lived experience and value of insight of local actors.
  • Using asset-based vocabulary and framings when discussing local partners and groups of people your organization engages with.

Incorporating these insights may also require additional action that moves beyond the communications team. For example, your organization could create a more robust system for garnering and executing feedback from local partners. This would likely require executive team support, the involvement of team members working on measurement and evaluation, and perhaps working with HR. Although these activities involve other parts of the organization, the communications team and its commitment to Narrative Justice can help to bubble up these interrelated issues. Incorporation is about putting into practice and building the systems to apply the lessons you learn as an organization through adopting Narrative Justice.

In our final article, we will discuss the responsibility of Sharing findings and insights that come from your Narrative Justice journey, and how this contributes to a more equitable communications industry as a whole.

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