In June of 2012, an unprecedented gathering of literary minds and social justice advocates convened for five days, stirring up a wave of ideas and dreams for how the world could be transformed through stories. They stepped outside of their daily lives and came together as friends, colleagues, and authors to explore the role that stories, storytellers and story-based arts programs play in our global culture. The group tackled questions such as: "What is the highest aim of storytelling, and how can we harness that energy to transform our society?" and "What capacity does literature have to articulate and sustain a vision of enlightened leadership?" The result was an innovative organization created by the same authors and advisors who gathered to contemplate new narratives of individual, social, and political meaning: Narrative 4.
Together, led by cofounders Lisa Consiglio and Colum McCann, they created a model for social change based on the belief that we can see the world, and ourselves, differently by exchanging personal narratives in a new and enlightened manner.
Our core methodology is called the “story exchange.” In a story exchange, individuals are randomly paired together and each participant shares a story that in some way defines them. Afterwards, each partner is responsible for telling the other person’s story, taking on the persona of their partner, and telling the story in the first person. Narrative 4 uses these story exchanges, in tandem with creative writing and the visual arts, to foster empathy among diverse populations and to turn that empathy into action.
Narrative 4 existed as a project of Tides Center, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, from 2013 to January 31, 2017. Narrative 4 received its 501c3 status in November 2016. As of February 1, 2017, the organization spun-off from Tides and began operating as its own independent entity.
Empathy. It's at the heart of what we do.
When Colum and Lisa founded Narrative 4, they knew that this new model for social change would be powered by empathy created through storytelling.
So, we asked our long-time advisors and ambassadors the simple question, "What is empathy?" Here are their answers.