fbpx Public Narrative | Harvard Kennedy School
Marshall Ganz Photo

Marshall Ganz

Rita E. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society

Questions of what I am called to do, what is my community called to do, and what we are called to do now are at least as old as the three questions posed by the first century Jerusalem sage, Rabbi Hillel:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

When I am for myself alone, what am I?

if not now, when?

This course offers students an opportunity to develop their capacity to lead by asking themselves these questions at a time in their lives when it really matters. . . and learning how to ask them of others. Public narrative is the leadership practice of translating values into action. To lead is to accept responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty. Public narrative is a discursive process through which individuals, communities, and nations learn to make choices, construct identity, and inspire action. Responding to challenges with agency requires courage that is grounded in our capacity to access hope over fear; empathy over alienation; and self-worth over self-doubt. We can use public narrative to link our own calling to that of our community to a call to action. It is learning how to tell a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now. Because it engages the "head" and the "heart".  narrative can instruct and inspire - teaching us not only why we should act, but moving us to act. Based on a pedagogy of reflective practice, this course offers students the opportunity to work in groups to learn to tell their own public narrative. The practice of public narrative may be especially useful in responding to particular moments of real leadership challenges – loss, power, inequality, difference and change. This course will also offer students an opportunity to diagnose and analyze and draw lessons from leadership challenges.  For this school year, MLD-355 and MLD-356 have been combined into one, semester-long course. 


Registration for this course has two required steps: 

1. Complete this Student Commitment Form as soon as possible: https://forms.gle/CoFDQftKTCDr4qFE8

2. Follow the regular steps for class registration on my.harvard. 


Also offered by the Graduate School of Education as A-111P. Please note, students wil