The Center for Story-based Strategy (CSS) trains activists, whose disdain for the “system” often–and to their detriment–translates into a disregard for structure in general. But structure is a critical component of every effective catalyst. It’s also part of every well-told tale. So CSS arms the passionate and change-hungry with the tools and structure to combat what it calls the “mythologies that normalize an unjust status quo.” Mythologies are like fortresses. To bring them down you need what master organizer Marshall Ganz called “strategic capacity”–turning what you have into what you need to facilitate the change you want. And what does everyone have? Stories.
CSS works with groups trying to counteract racial injustice, climate insanity, corporate hegemony, gender bias, and other root causes of inequality and suffering. Suffering makes for powerful narratives, but even a heart-rending story needs broad distribution to have an effect. The CSS curriculum combines time-tested organizing principles (think Cesar Chavez), new technology (Tweet the revolution), and modern corporate advertising techniques (the meme, the brand) in service of the stories of progressive causes. The combination helps build communities–linking people with common interest through an adhesive narrative–and gives them the power to enter into public dialogue with the other side of that interest–the powerful, entrenched side. Characteristically open source, CSS makes its various tools and techniques easy to access on its website. Here is Co-director Patrick Reinsborough talking about how CSS works as a movement support organization, trying to break through the glass ceilings of culture.