In practice, the use of narrative and framing are overlapping and can be challenging to distinguish. Narrative can provide a container in which framing comes to life. We can think of framing as something that determines the elements of the story, or even what parts of the story are told at all. Both framing and narrative are present in any communication effort and are used to reinforce worldviews and values. As a result, they can be more or less effective depending on the audience and the desired outcome.

Marshall (2014) describes narrative as, “The critical means by which we make sense of the issue… the way we talk about it – and in particular the stories we build around it…” All narrative involves “recognizable actors, motives, causes and effects” (p. 233). Marshall goes on to write that, “it is these socially constructed stories, not climate change itself, that people choose to accept, deny or ignore” (p 98). And, as a result, “We need a narrative of positive change, in which our adaptation to climate change does not just protect what is already here, but also creates a more just and equitable world” (p. 233) through “a narrative of cooperation that can bring people together around a common cause” (p. 234).

An example of narrative structure that Pike et al (2015) recommend follows the framework of “challenge, choice and opportunity.” This framework creatives narrative by articulating questions that include “What is the problem and what is at stake if we don’t resolve it?” followed by “What action must be taken [by whom] and why now?” and then close with “What are the benefits of action?”

A complementary narrative framework developed by Climate Outreach (Marshall, 2017) can also be used to affirm some of the core needs identified in Module two. It is structured in the following way: “This is who you are. [Engaging identity] This is what you care about. [Activating values] Other people like you agree with this. [Using trusted messengers] When you do this you belong more to your group. [Supporting the need for inclusion and connection] And the world becomes more how you want it to be.[Enabling a sense of efficacy].”


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Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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