Narrative Facilitation

Sarah Cobb

Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What is narrative facilitation?

A: Something I made up.

Q: What does it mean?

A: It's facilitating from a narrative perspective using narrative theory as the base. It's a very different set of practice skills, very different orientation and different set of mandates.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what it looks like? What would somebody see from the outside looking in at a narrative facilitation?

A: Well, for instance, they wouldn't see disclaimers that would be based on neutrality and objectivity. They would see ground rules being set that would signal the facilitator's intention to understand and participate in the evolution of the way the problems are framed and discussed. And signaling the anticipation that that might be uncomfortable or unpleasant or difficult and folks should be both ready for that and also tuned in so they can protest if they need to. The ground rules are very different. In terms of the practice, the way I do it is by doing something called narrative mapping. Any conversation, which involves people in the initial phase of a dispute/conflict, is really about the map of the narrative and it's not about the problem. Rather it's about the way in which people are framing the problem more explicitly. We work with the participant to design the map. As it's designed, the problematic features of the story emerge and are challenged. People end up being able to suggest, invite, and otherwise allow for the evolution of the narratives that people are telling. It's a very different kind of practice.