You're More Powerful than You Think

You're More Powerful than You Think

A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen

Eric Liu

Ganz uses a method for organizing that centers on three nested narratives: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now. He teaches organizers entering into any setting to start not with policy proposals or high concepts like justice but with biographies—their own, and those of the people they hope to mobilize. What are the stories you tell about yourself? Why do you tell them that way? How can we find connections across our stories of origin that build trust and common cause? That work then flows into the story of us: the collective narratives of challenge, choice, and purpose that emerge from any community—that, in fact, help define it. This is how in a place like New Orleans after the flood or Detroit after the crash, residents can develop a shared identity of resilience and reinvention. It’s how anti–Common Core activists nationwide have been able to forge a cross-ideological crusade of parents and teachers tired of standardized-testing regimes that crush creativity and stifle liberty. Once that shared narrative is activated, the organizer can connect it to the fierce urgency of now—a story about why this is the “movement moment,” when individual and collective motivations converge, and when action is needed and possible. Why this and no other time is the time for change. This is how “Yes We Can” became more than a slogan in 2008, as “Morning in America” did in 1980. Or “Make America Great Again” in 2016. Of these three stories, the middle—about us—is crucial. Any effort to exercise citizen power depends on creating new answers to the question: Who is “us”?

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