Designing new narratives to guide emerging networks

In the world of networks, narratives provide guidance. They convey knowledge. They generate learning. They create coherence. They reflect and spread the positive mindset needed for transformation and resilience.

When confronting a complex regional transformation, we often focus first on the regional narrative: The stories people share with each other. This step involves seeking out positive stories that are often hidden in plain sight.

Changing this narrative is often a critical first step in regional strategy.  The default narrative is almost always negative. Creating new narratives is closely tied to Carol Dweck’s  notion of teaching a positive mindset. Dweck is a Stanford psychology professor who has focused her research on developing the concept of mindsets.  Her work has direct application in designing and guiding new networks.

Years ago, when we started working with millennials in Youngstown, we encouraged them to develop a new narrative. After a workshop, they attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting and asked the board to stop talking about the steel mills closing down. “We weren’t even born when that happened.”

This small group of young professionals then went about changing the story of Youngstown. You can see their success reflected in the work of the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Here’s a good example from Northern Michigan of a region intentionally building a new narrative for its regional economy.

A New Kind of Conversation on the Traverse City Economy