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N4 and Concordia College Launch Empathy Into Action Campaign on Immigration

April 5, 2017

NEW YORK, NY, USA– This week, Concordia College will launch a series of story exchanges designed to create open and profound dialogue amongst diverse communities in Minnesota, the two Dakotas and the 24 Tribal Nations. Host citizens, immigrants, students, artists, educators and administrators will participate in an exercise in empathy, facilitated by Narrative 4 (N4), whose mission is to foster empathy by breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes through the exchange of stories around the world. Co-founded by National Book Award-winning author Colum McCann, the organization is working to help develop the first generation of truly empathic leaders and citizens.

Concordia College Professor Dawn Duncan, one of N4’s most ambitious and visionary advisors, is spearheading the effort, which, under the auspices of the OSF grant, will continue through the end of this year.  The Open Society Foundations’ Communities Against Hate rapid-response initiative supports the many local and national leaders, community-based organizations and families who are rising to the challenge of resisting the spread of hate and reaffirming core American ideals. With support from the OSF, Narrative 4 and Concordia College will offer a variety of opportunities throughout the year to experience the “story exchange,” which is the core methodology behind the Narrative 4 mission and vision of “fearless hope through radical empathy.”  N4 co-founder and Executive Director, Lisa Consiglio stated, “Dawn is a warrior; her vision and energy know no bounds. She is the ideal person to run this program on behalf of N4, Concordia, the community at large and the Open Society Foundations.”

During the series, participants will pair off and share a story from their lives that, in some way, defines them. They will then gather as a group and tell their partners’ story, each taking on the persona of his or her partner and re-telling the story in the first person. The exercise is designed to shatter stereotypes by allowing participants to walk in each other’s shoes. “It’s about expanding the lungs of the world,” said N4 president and co-founder, Colum McCann.  “Our stories are our houses and the further we can carry them in the world, the more doors we can eventually open.”

Narrative 4 was founded by a group of like-minded individuals who came together to stir up a wave of ideas and dreams for how the world could be transformed through stories. The group, which today includes artists such as Sting, Terry Tempest Williams, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Salman Rushdie, Assaf Gavron, Tobias Wolff, Ishmael Beah and hundreds more, continues to explore the role that stories and story-based arts programs play in our global culture. In just three years, the organization has set-up operations in five countries, including ten states in the U.S.  As Professor Duncan says, “Humans are communal creatures. The distinguishing mark of our humanity is an ability to exercise empathic imagination for others who may have quite different lives from ours. From the beginning of human experience, stories have been the way in which we connect and enlarge our understanding of the world. Narrative 4 uses our earliest human art as a tool to connect us person to person across any divide, building the bridges of empathy that can heal our communities.”

Update: BBC World News covered the project here.