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Jenna Murphy

Dr. Kevin Brooks

Summary #3



Ganz, Marshall. Public Narrative, Collective Action, and Power. Accountability through
Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action, edited by Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee,
World Bank Group, 2011, pp. 269-286. Web.


In this article, Ganz suggests that public narrative is the leadership practice of translating values
into action: By engaging the heart through a narrative story telling of experience and the
head through strategy, or critical reflection on that experience, action is produced as hands
work together from a shared understanding (270). Ganz draws on the work of psychologists
and moral philosophers to support the value of narrative as a means to understanding the world
and why something matters, in addition to narratives ability to evoke emotion and motivate
individuals (271). Ganz explains that while a persons surveillance system can trigger an anxiety
response if something is amiss between expected and experienced reality, a persons
dispositional system can monitor emotions such as anxiety, and either thwart or motivate one to
action depending on that persons legacy of emotional lessons (272). Because of these
mechanisms and emotional dialogue, leadership that seeks change requires that action inhibitors
such as inertia, apathy, fear, isolation, and self-doubt are overcome by action motivators such as
urgency, anger, hope, solidarity, and Y.C.M.A.D. (You Can Make a Difference) through sources
such as spiritual beliefs, cultural beliefs, and relationships (273-5). Ganz suggests that
storytelling is the discursive form through which individuals translate values into the motivation
to act, including plot, which engages the mind and provides training in how to act (agency);
character, which invokes empathetic identification; and, moral, which teaches through
experience and emotion (275-6). Three forms of public narrative that create and mobilize identity
include the story of self, or a sharing of the values that define the self; the story of us, or a story
invoking community values; and a story of now, or the choices and challenges currently
requiring action (279-84). Ganz concludes by suggesting that storytelling in celebrations or other
settings can motivate participants by mobilizing sources of action, constructing new shared
individual and collective identities, and [helping them] find the courage to act (284).

I enjoyed this article from Ganz because I thought he did excellent work showing how emotional
components, such as a legacy of emotional lessons, may inhibit or motivate individuals to action.
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As he drew on the work of philosophers and psychologists, I thought he laid the foundation for
argument regarding the importance of public narrative as a motivator. I also thought that Ganzs
article was extremely accessible and logical in its presentation of concepts and practical models.
Overall, I found this article very helpful in preparing to write my public narrative.