MLD 355M/A111P

Fall 2019 Syllabus

INSTRUCTOR:                                                 TIME AND LOCATION:

Marshall Ganz                                                                                 Tuesday and Thursday

124 Mt. Auburn - Suite 200N-224         2:45 – 4:00pm

617-495-3937        STARR Auditorium         



FACULTY ASSISTANT:                            OFFICE HOURS:

Heather Adelman         Mondays, 2:30 – 4:30pm

124 Mt. Auburn - Suite 200N-217B        (see sign up for any changes!)

617-384-9637        Sign up online          



Head Teaching Fellow:

Anita Krishnan


Dusan Stojicic


Section #2        

Eric Becerra



Section #3

Haneen Abdo


Section #4

Marya Wegman


Section #5

Toni Kokenis


Section #6

Vandinika Shukla


Section #7

124 Mt. Auburn, Ste. 160 S., rm. 105


Questions of what I am called to do, what is my community called to do, and what we are called to do now are at least as old as the three questions posed by the first century Jerusalem sage, Rabbi Hillel:

• If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

• When I am for myself alone, what am I?

• if not now, when?

This course offers students an opportunity to develop their capacity to lead by asking themselves these questions at a time in their lives when it really matters . . . and learning how to ask them of others.

Public narrative is a leadership practice.  To lead is to accept responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty.  Through narrative we can learn to access the moral – or emotional - resources to respond to the challenges of an uncertain world – as individuals, as communities and as nations.  Responding to urgent challenges mindfully – with agency - requires courage rooted in our ability to draw on hope over fear; empathy over alienation; and self-worth over self-doubt.

Public narrative is the art of translating values into the emotional resources for action. It is a discursive process through which individuals, communities, and nations learn to make choices, construct identity, and inspire action. Because it engages the “head” and the “heart,” narrative can instruct and inspire - teaching us not only why we should act, but moving us to act.  

We can use public narrative to link our own calling to that of our community to a call to action. Leaders can use public narrative to interpret their values to others, enable one’s community to experience values it shares, and enable others to respond effectively to challenges to those values.  It is learning how to tell a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.  Although both modules focus on the links among all three elements, the first module focuses more on the relationship of the self to the us, while the second module focuses more on the relationship of the us to the now.

In recent years, scholars have studied narrative in diverse disciplines including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, philosophy, legal studies, cultural studies, and theology.  Professions engaged in narrative practice include the military, the ministry, law, politics, business, and the arts.  We have introduced public narrative training to the Obama campaign (2007-8), Sierra Club, Episcopal Church, United We Dream Movement, the Ahel Organizing Initiative, (Jordan), Serbia on the Move (Belgrade), Avina (Bogata), National Health Service (UK), Peking University (Beijing), Tatua (Kenya), Community Organizing Japan (Tokyo) and elsewhere. In this course we link narrative analysis across the disciplines, narrative practice across the professions, and narrative discourse across cultures with the narrative we practice every day.

Our pedagogy is one of reflective practice.  We explain public narrative, model public narrative; students practice their public narrative, and debrief one another with peer coaching.  Students are evaluated on their practical and analytic understanding of narrative practice.  This is not a course in public speaking, in messaging, image making or spin.  It is a class in the craft of translating authentic values into action. It is about learning a process, not writing a script. As Jayanti Ravi, MPA/MC 07 put it, “in this course students learn how to bring out their ‘glow’ from within, not how to apply a ‘gloss’ from without.”


Class will meet fourteen times between September 5th and October 18th: twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday.  We discuss theory, reflect on readings, analyze videos, and coach students to develop their own public stories.  In addition to scheduled classes, other important dates include:

Students are evaluated on class participation (35%), a public narrative video of 5 minutes (25%), and a theoretical analysis (3 pages) (40%) evaluating what about their story worked and what did not work.  Class participation includes attending lecture and section, contributing to section activities, and submitting story drafts on time. Participation will be evaluated as a check (adequate), check plus (outstanding), check minus (below standard)  Anyone more than 20 minutes late to section will be counted as absent for that section meeting.

Three books for this class are available at the Coop and on reserve in the Kennedy School Library:

  1. REQUIRED George Marcus, The Sentimental Citizen: Emotion in Democratic Politics, (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2002).  
  2. REQUIRED Jerome Bruner, Making Stories, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).
  3. RECOMMENDED Richard Kearney, On Stories: Thinking in Action, (New York: Routledge, 2006).

All course materials are available on the MLD 355M course website:

Collaboration: Discussion and the exchange of ideas are essential to academic work. However, you should ensure that any written work you submit for evaluation is the result of your own work. You must also adhere to standard citation practices in this discipline and properly cite any books, articles, websites, lectures, etc. that have helped you with your work. If you received any help with your writing (feedback on drafts, etc.), you must also acknowledge this assistance.

weekly readings & assignments


Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Welcome. Today we get acquainted, discuss course goals, our strategy to achieve them, and requirements. We ground our approach to learning in Thich Nhat Hanh’s parable and Carol Dweck’s wise counsel to bring a “growth mind set” to our work. Bruner grounds our work in the discipline of cultural psychology. My chapter on “Public Narrative” and the Sojourner talk (also on YouTube) explain the framework we will use to analyze James Croft’s public narrative. Recommended readings provide background useful throughout the course. In “Leading Change” I locate “public narrative” in a broader leadership framework. Arendt grounds narrative philosophically, Bruner grounds it psychologically, and Kearney in terms of literature.

Required Reading:

  1. Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Raft is Not the Shore" Thundering Silence: Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake, (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1994), p. 30-33.  [4 pages]
  2. Carol Dweck, “The Mindsets”, Chapter 1 in Mindset (New York: Ballentine Books, 2006), p.1-10 [10 pages]
  3. Jerome Bruner, “Two Modes of Thought”, Chapter 2 in Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), p.11 – 25.          [15 pages]
  4. Marshall Ganz, “Public Narrative, Collective Action, and Power,” Chapter 18 in Accountability Through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action, Edited by Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2011), p. 273-289. [17 pages]  
  5. Marshall Ganz, “Why Stories Matter: The Art and Craft of Social Change”, reprinted with permission from Sojourners, (March 2009), pp. 18-19. [2 pages]

Recommended Reading:

  1. Marshall Ganz, "Leading Change: Leadership, Organization and Social Movements", Chapter 19 in the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice, Edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana (Danvers: Harvard Business School Press, 2010), p. 509-550. This article contextualizes public narrative within a broader leadership framework.  [41 pages]  
  2. Hannah Arendt, “The Public and the Private Realm”, (p. 50 – 59), and “Action”, (p. 175-188), from The Human Condition, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958). [23 pages]
  3. Jerome Bruner, “The Narrative Construction of Reality”, in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 18, No.1 (Autumn, 1991f), p.1-21.  [22 pages]  
  4. Richard Kearney, “Narrative Matters”, Chapter 11 in On Stories: Thinking in Action (New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 125-156.  [16 pages]

Class Work:

  1. Introductions: Framing, Who’s Who and Norms
  2. Lecture Discussion: What is Public Narrative
  3. Debrief: James Croft, “Catch Them Before They Jump”, Cambridge, October 2010.


On Tuesday, September 11th, please e-mail your response to the Public Narrative Worksheet to Assignments should be sent as a MS WORD attachment. The subject line of the email should read Last Name, First Name: Public Narrative Worksheet. Focus on section one, story of self, identifying key choice points. In section three, the story of now, describe a purpose for which you might motivate others to act. In section two, story of us, try to define the values of a community you might inspire to join you in this action.  


Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 | HOW EMOTION MOVES: Values, Motivation and Action

Today we focus on the first part of the public narrative framework: the relationship among emotions, values, and capacity for mindful action, for agency. Marcus explains the neuroscience of anxiety: why we pay attention.  Nussbaum argues we experience our values through the language of emotion, information required for making choices. Fredrickson introduces us to the domain of “positive psychology” in particular, the psychology of hope, a response to fear. Smith argues the necessity of understanding the moral frameworks within which individuals, communities, and institutions act in order to understand why we do what we do and the role of narrative within it.

Required Reading:

  1. George Marcus, The Sentimental Citizen: Emotion in Democratic Politics, (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2002). Introduction (p. 1-8), Chapter 4 (p. 49-78), and Chapter 8 (p.133-148)  [43 pages]  
  2. Martha Nussbaum, “Emotions and Judgments of Value”, Chapter 1 in Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 19-33.  [14 pages]  
  3. Barbara L. Fredrickson, “The Value of Positive Emotions” in American Scientist, Volume 91, 2003, p. 330 – 335. [6 pages]

Recommended Reading:

  1. Christian Smith, Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (Oxford: New York, 2003). Chapter Two, Human Culture(s) as Moral Order(s) (p. 7 – 43).

Class Work:

  1. Lecture Discussion: How Emotion Moves
  2. Debrief: Dr. Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream”, Washington DC, August 28, 1963


Turn in your response to the Public Narrative Worksheet. Save a copy for yourself.

Thursday, September 12, 2019 | ELEMENTS OF NARRATIVE: Plot, Character, and Moral

Today we focus on the second part of the public narrative framework: the role of plot, character, and moral in the structure of story. Why does our capacity for empathetic identification enable us to access emotional resources for mindful action? Robert McKee, a master of storytelling craft, trains screenwriters. Skim his manual for an introduction to the elements craft, elements we will work with.  Here Bruner teams up with Anthony Amsterdam, NYU professor of law, in a book on narrative and law, although this chapter is an account of Bruner’s theory of narrative more broadly. We compare Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton to highlight the elements of narrative.

Required Reading:

  1. Skim: Robert McKee, Chapter 2, “The Structure Spectrum”, (p. 31-42); Chapter 7, “The Substance of Story”, (p. 145 – 152); Chapter 8, “The Inciting Incident” (p. 189-197), and Chapter 13, “Crisis, Climax, Resolution” (p. 303 – 314), in Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (Harper Collins, 1997).  [37 pages]  
  2. Anthony Amsterdam and Jerome Bruner, “On Narrative”, Chapter 4 in Minding the Law: How Courts Rely on Storytelling, and How Their Stories Change the Ways We Understand the Law – and Ourselves. (Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 110 – 142.  [32 pages]
  3. Suzanne Keen, “A Theory of Narrative Empathy”, Narrative, Vol. 14, #3, October 2006, pp 207-236. [29 pages]

Class Work:

  1. Lecture Discussion: Elements of Narrative
  2. Debrief: Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, Democratic National Convention, July 2016

Saturday, September 14Th, 2019 – Required Public Narrative Workshop

In this all day workshop students develop a first draft of their public narrative by telling it. The day consists of four sessions, one each on story of self, story of us, story of now, and linking. Each component is explained, modeled, practiced, and debriefed. Practice is in small groups facilitated by experienced coaches. This way as you get started you’ll have an idea of where you’re expected to end up. You will also experience the kind of coaching you will learn to offer each other throughout the course of the module.


Tuesday, September 17th, 2019  | Telling Your “Self” Story

Today we focus on learning to tell a “story of self”: a story the purpose of which is to enable others to “get you” – to experience the values that call you to leadership on behalf of your cause, in this place, at this time. McAdams shows how “stories of self” are constructed – and reconstructed – growing out of choices we make to deal with challenges that confront us, what we learn from these moments, and how we remember them – something Bruner weighs in on as well. In the video, I coach a California School Employees Association member in articulating her story of self in a 2010 workshop. We analyze how J.K. Rowling used a “story of self” at the 2008 Harvard Graduation to communicate values that called her to her work. Shamir and Elam explain the role of self-narrative in articulating the values that shape the effectiveness with which we can exercise leadership.

Required Reading:

  1. Dan P. McAdams, “Chapter 3, Life Stories”, (p.73 – 99), in The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (Oxford, 2006).  [26 pages]
  2. Jerome Bruner, “The Narrative Creation of Self”, in Making Stories, (Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 63 – 87.  [24 pages]
  3. Boas Shamir and Galit Eilam, “What’s Your Story?” A life-stories approach to authentic leadership development”, in The Leadership Quarterly 16 (2005), p. 395 – 417. [22 pages]  
  4. Video Debriefing of Stories of Self, CAUSE Campaign, California School Employees Association, March 2010.   [21 minutes]

Class Work:

  1. Lecture Discussion: Story of Self
  2. Debrief: Graduation Speech, J.K. Rowling, Harvard Graduation, June 4, 2008.
  3. Debrief: Coaching Moment at Fresh Pond, July 2013.
  4. Debrief: Coaching Story of Self, Madonna Ramp. Ed.L.D. Workshop, August 2014.

Tuesday, September 17Th – Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Schedule 15-minute session with TF

Thursday, September 19th, 2019  | Telling Your “Self” Story

Today you begin building on Saturday’s workshop in section. Students are assigned to one of seven sections of 20 students whose work is facilitated by a member of our teaching team. Each section subdivides into 5 “coaching teams” of 4 people who work together coaching one another on their public narrative for the rest of the course. Please come to class prepared, using your “story of self” worksheet as a guide. Be certain to submit your 2 minute story draft by 11:59 PM September 19th!


Tuesday, September 24th, 2019  | Telling Your Story of “Us’s”

The goal of a “story of self” is to enable others to “get you.” The goal of a “story of us” is to enable others to “get each other”. We tell a “story of us” to move others to join with one in collective action based on values they share.  It is not a “categorical” us - people who fit into a particular category. It is an “experiential” us – people who may share certain values, rooted in common experience. This “us” is rooted in the experience of the “people in the room.” It works when people feel part of an “us.” And we have all felt part of multiple “us’s” – like at a sporting event, a community dinner, a cultural observance. New communities, organizations, movements, nations, learn to tell very well developed stories of us, based on shared struggles, moments of choice, historical points of reference, etc. But the effectiveness test of a “story of us” is always right there in the room.  The Rifkin video makes the point that our capacity of empathy is the foundation of our ability to experience “usness”. Brown shows how organizational “us’s” can be constructed. Cuoto and I show how new movements, based on newly salient values, develop new “stories of us” that link transformed individual “stories of self” to the broader change in the environment being pursued. We analyze how Shakespeare crafted a “story of us” told by young Henry V on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, turning despair into hope. And we examine the challenges faced by Senator Robert Kennedy, delivering news of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King to an African-American audience in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4th, 1968.

Required Reading:

  1. Video, The Empathic Civilisation, J. Rifkin, RSA Animate, UK  [10 minutes]
  2. S. Alexander Haslam, Stephen D. Reicher, and Michael J. Platow, “Crafting a Sense of Us: Leaders as entrepreneurs of identity” Chapter 6 in The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power (New York: Psychology Press, 2011), (pp 137-164). [27 pages]
  3. Brown, A.D. “A Narrative Approach to Collective Identities” Journal of Management Studies, 43:4, June 2006, p. 731 – 753. This development of an organizational identity narrative.  [22 pages]
  4. Richard A. Cuoto, “Narrative, Free Space, and Political Leadership in Social Movements”, The Journal of Politics, Vol.55. No.1 (February, 1993), p. 57-79.  Narrative in the civil rights movement.   [22 pages]

Recommended Reading:

  1. Marshall Ganz, “The Power of Story in Social Movements”, American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, 2001. Story of the emerging farm worker movement.  [16 pages]  
  2. Drew Westen, Chapter 7, “Writing An Emotional Constitution” (p. 145-169), The Political Brain: the Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (Public Affairs, 2007).  [29 pages]

Class Work:

  1. Lecture Discussion: Story of Us
  2. Debrief:   Henry V, “We Happy Few”; Senator Robert F. Kennedy, “On News of the assassination of Dr. M.L. King” April 4, 1968.

3. Debrief: Student Public Narrative: Jacquinette Brown

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 | Telling the Story of “Us”

Today we conduct our second section in storytelling. This time students focus on the “story of us” component of their public narrative. You are required to use the “story of us” worksheet to prepare for this class. Be certain to submit your 2 minute story draft by 11:59 PM September 26th!


Tuesday, October 1st, 2019 | Telling Stories of Now

We tell a “story of now” to move others to choose to join us in response to an urgent challenge to our shared values with purposeful action. This requires finding the courage to create tension, elicit sources of hope, and risk failure. The story of now grows out of the “story of self” and the “story of us” that create the ground for it. But it also shapes the “story of self” and “story of us” that precede it. We become “characters” in a story unfolding now: we face a challenge, we hope for an outcome, but it all depends on what we choose to do – now! Polichak and Gerrig help us understand how it is we it is we experience the content of a well told story, the source of its motivational force. Maddux explains the relationship between belief in our own capacity to make something happen, and, in fact, our capacity to make it happen. We’ll analyze a video of how Harvey Milk evokes both urgency and hope in a few short minutes. Ben Kingsley’s interpretation of one of Gandhi’s first “story of now” moments in South Africa, focuses on what it looks like to make a choice not only urgent, but real.

Required Reading:

  1. James W. Polichak and Richard J. Gerrig, “Get Up and Win!” Participatory Responses to Narrative” in Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations, by Melanie Green, Jeffrey Strange, and Timothy Brock (Erlbaum, New Jersey, 2002), p. 71 – 95. [24 pages]
  2. James E. Maddux, “Self-Efficacy: The Power of Believing You Can”, Chapter 20 in the Handbook of Positive Psychology, edited by C.R. Snyder and Shane J. Lopez (New York: Oxford, 2005), p. 277 – 287.  [10 pages]
  3. Marshall Ganz, “Speaking of Power”, Gettysburg Project, (2014), pp. 1-5.

Class Work:

  1. Lecture Discussion: Story of Now
  2. Debrief: “You Have to Give Them Hope”, Harvey Milk, 1978.
  3. Debrief: Student Public Narrative: Jordan Ward

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 | Telling Stories of Now

Today we conduct our third workshop in storytelling. This time students focus on the “story of now” component of their public narrative. You are required to use the “story of now” worksheet to prepare for this class. Be certain to submit your 2 minute story draft by 11:59 PM Wednesday October 2nd!


Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 | Telling Public Stories

Today we discuss how to link one’s story of self, story of us, and story of now. A story that links all the elements may begin with a “challenge” drawn from the story of now, end with the “choice” called for in the story of now, with the story of self and us in between. We’ll revisit James Croft’s public narrative to look at it with a different set of eyes, with a focus on lessons useful for preparation of your own story. Remember, public narrative usually ends with the words, “So join me in . . .”

Class Work:

  1. Lecture Discussion: Linking Self, Us and Now
  2. Debrief: James Croft, “Catch Them Before They Jump”, Cambridge, October 2010.
  3. Debrief: Student Public Narrative: Dillon Hauptfuhrer

Thursday, October 10th, 2019  | Telling Public Stories

In this workshop, we practice linking one’s story of self, story of us, and story of now. We also reflect on key learning during the module and evaluate our work together in section. Please use the “linking” worksheet to prepare. Be certain to submit your 5 minute story draft by 11:59 PM Wednesday October 9th!


Tuesday, October 15th, 2019 | Telling Public Stories 

Students present their 5 minute final public narrative to their classmates in section

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 | Telling Public Stories

Students present their 5 minute final public narrative to their classmates in section

Friday, October 18th, 2019  | New Stories for a New Era

In this final class of the module, we reflect on the ground we have covered since we began. What have we learned about public narrative? Have we learned how to tell our public story? What will be our narrative of the class? How can understanding public narrative equip us for challenges in our own lives – and in our own times? We conclude, as we began, with Bruner, in one of his more expansive reflections on the “uses of story” in life.

Required Reading:

  1. Jerome Bruner, “The Uses of Story” in Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life (New York: Ferrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), p. 3-36.  [34 pages]
  2. Chimamanda Adichie, "The Danger of the Single Story", TED, 7/09 found at:  [18 min.]

Class Work:

  1. Retrospective on the Semester
  2. Evaluation
  3. What’s the Next Chapter?

Tuesday, October 15Th and Thursday, October 17thVideo Tape in Sections of Final Personal Narrative

Friday, October 18Th: Final Class Meeting, Starr Auditorium, 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM

Wednesday, October 23rd: Final 3-page ANALYTIC PAPER due by 5PM EST. Submit by e-mail to your TF

Public Narrative: Self, Us, Now         Page  of         Fall 2018