The Role Stories Play in Our Collective Future

We live in times "of deep uncertainty and change" and these changes are reflected in climate change, globalization, technology, the economy, and migration, as john a. powell wrote in a recent article in Nonprofit Quarterly.

powell, Haas Institute director, explains "we don’t always appreciate the interconnection of these forces; indeed, we often try to deal with them separately. This is not only a mistake but also means that many of our efforts are inadequate and ineffective."

He says,

The rate and intensity of the change threaten to outpace our ability to adapt. (...) These forces are happening in virtually all parts of the world. Even our language and ideas are often inadequate to understand and develop appropriate responses to these changes. The stories we collectively hold are an important part of how we respond, and will help determine whether our responses will be up to the task. Leaders play an oversized role in helping to give energy and meaning to the stories we tell ourselves and each other. This impacts not just how we see the world but also our actions in the world.

powell calls for an interrogation of "the stories we have and identify what might be the most productive and life-affirming story that we can inhabit. And we need to find some ways to get there."

What we need instead is a compelling story that shows how all these issues are related. Can we imagine a world where we all belong and can all participate? Or are we consigned to a world of small, warring wes? Those who share the vision of a world of belonging must focus on a new story. Our existing institutions and story will not carry us to the future we want. There may be more questions and there is a lot to learn and do. The pace of change will not slow down. Let’s get on with it.

Read john a. powell's full reflection here.

Image: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay