What converts an interested bystander into an active citizen? The researcher Kate Krontiris recently led a fascinating research project for Google on this question. It focused on the nearly 50 percent of Americans who are aware of issues but who rarely voice their opinions or take concrete action. (This is in contrast to the 15 percent who are outright disengaged and the 35 percent who are more actively engaged.) These interested bystanders, Krontiris and her colleagues found, were most likely to get involved if they’d had prior personal experience on the issue, could get emotional fulfillment from engaging, or believed their own interests were at stake. Narrative—especially narrative with symbolic heft—is a way to weave together all three of those motivations and build coalitions that change society.
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