Narrative

Narrative Power Building Overview

Why Narrative?

Building narrative power with Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities is foundational to our work at Asian American Futures and Activate CA. We catalyze emerging leaders and organizations who are shaping a brighter future for AANHPI communities using a variety of strategies, from storytelling to policy change–and everything in-between. This future is rooted in the values of solidarity, pride and belonging; we envision a healthy democracy and society in which AANHPIs can thrive. We firmly believe nothing changes until narratives change. In fact, narratives often propel policy and other systemic changes to victory. 

Our communities are tired of being painted as a wedge on important social and racial justice issues. Despite public opinion polling indicating that the majority of Asian Americans support issues like inclusive school admissions and progressive stances on anti-Asian violence, regressive ideas dominate the conversation–and others’ perception of our community’s beliefs. And, we need to better amplify issues and narratives specific to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. 

Strengthening and amplifying narrative power will help AANHPI people and organizations advance a shared, compelling vision for our communities. We use many of the frameworks and tools of the Narrative Strategy field, which helps align all of the pieces of effective narrative interventions, including narratives, audiences, impact measurement and project form. We need all of our tactics, including journalism, arts and culture work, organizing, policy, strategic communications and more, to translate this vision into reality.

We take an ecosystem approach. Here is how we are supporting narrative power building in the AANHPI movement: 

Narrative Systems:

Developing a shared vision for AANHPI communities

We developed a narrative system–or framework–for the narratives that are crucial to advance. This framework serves as a response to the harmful narratives that have defined our community for generations, from “perpetual foreigner” to the false promises of assimilation or authenticity. We advance the following deep narratives in all of our work: 

Narrative Systems:

Developing a shared vision for AANHPI communities

We developed a narrative system–or framework–for the narratives that are crucial to advance. This framework serves as a response to the harmful narratives that have defined our community for generations, from “perpetual foreigner” to the false promises of assimilation or authenticity. We advance the following deep narratives in all of our work: 

Interdependence

AANHPIs look out for each other. We work to ensure people and the environment are safe, healthy and thriving.

 

Solidarity

AANHPIs can connect to the struggles and experiences of people within and outside our communities. We are stronger and more powerful when we act in solidarity with others.

Pride

AANHPIs are not a monolith. We can be proud of our diversity in language, culture, ethnicity and experience. How we unite and build strength in numbers may depend on the issue at hand.

Belonging

AANHPIs deserve to be included, with intersectionality in mind, in politics, pop culture, news, social justice & more.

Self-Determination

AANHPI communities deserve to govern and define themselves beyond war, imperialism & violence.

The Catalyst Lab

Equipping emerging leaders with the tools, skills and capacity to advance impactful narrative and policy work

The Catalyst Lab is a year-long lab for grassroots AANHPI organizations to shape public policy through strategic advocacy and storytelling. Our six organization partners–in Texas, Hawaii, Ohio and California–receive coaching in narrative strategy, strategic communications and advocacy as they launch policy campaigns. Ultimately, Lab participants strengthen their ability to use innovative narrative strategies to move policy campaigns, activate local communities to create change, learn from one another and amplify the long term power of the AANHPI progressive movement.  

Research:

Understanding key audiences within the AANHPI community

 

Building narrative power requires the AANHPI community to activate a broad majority for civic, community and political participation, some of whom are not yet with us on important issues. Millennials and GenZs are the largest demographic within the AANHPI community, but little previous research has specifically examined this population.

Our research closes an important knowledge gap in the movement. We have conducted groundbreaking qualitative research and developed six audience personas, or composite characters, to deeply understand Millennial and GenZ AANHPI audiences.

Our first phase of research, in 2022, was focused on Asian American audiences, but was inclusive of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander individuals. In 2023, we launched a research project specifically focused on NHPI communities.

If you would like to see a detailed version of our audience personas,  please reach out to Kana Hammon: [email protected]

Experimentation:

Testing cutting-edge narrative techniques in the field

We collaborated with Chinese for Affirmative Action and Xin Sheng Project to understand how to move Asian American audiences to support race-conscious policies ahead of the 2023 Supreme Court decision on Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. We conducted rigorous, randomized control trial message testing with Asian Americans across the US with support from Harmony Labs and Grow Progress. We created messaging and storytelling guides, launched social media campaigns, started a petition, and strategized on press coverage to increase support for educational equity and reclaim the narrative for Asian Americans.

To reduce the stigma that AAPIs face when accessing mental healthcare, we tested and recommended the best ways to talk about mental health with AAPI audiences. We then worked with Social Currant to source micro-influencers on Tiktok and Instagram who turned these recommendations into original social media content. Asian Mental Health Project, Asian Texans for Justice, OCAPICA, and SoCal PICRT were invaluable partners in recommending content directions, providing feedback and amplifying content.

Listening:

Supporting narrative infrastructure, scale and more

We are embarking on a narrative listening tour in the spring of 2023 to assess the needs, opportunities and challenges for emerging leaders and organizations to engage in narrative work. This will inform our programming and grantmaking beyond 2023.

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About Us

Asian American Futures (AAF) was founded in 2020 to ensure that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are an essential part of the American narrative. The mission of AAF is to ensure AAPI communities are SEEN, HEARD, EMPOWERED and UNITED. AAF is a dynamic organization that cultivates emerging leadership among AANHPI students, professionals, philanthropists, and other community members; and provides support and programming to small and emerging grassroots organizations focused on strengthening the AANHPI movement and building power in our communities.

Activate CA is a program of Asian American Futures that catalyzes power building efforts in California with a specific emphasis on incubating leadership in historically disenfranchised AANHPI communities, accelerating the growth and development of AANHPI organizing, and exploring strategies to advance a shared AANHPI narrative.

To learn more about our narrative work, reach out to

Reshma Shamasunder

our Executive Director ([email protected]) or

Kana Hammon

our Narrative Strategist ([email protected]