Narrative Storytelling Initiative

The Narrative Storytelling Initiative is dedicated to expanding the population of knowledgeable narrators and enhancing the quality and scale of their public engagement.

This university-wide effort advocates for the power of narrative and the necessity of compelling writing in multiple forms. This includes coaching faculty and other leaders, developing original research-and-writing projects, building teams to advance knowledge, advising on compelling narratives and storytelling forms, and raising the level of public discourse. The intention is nothing less than cultivating and accelerating the people and projects that are transdisciplinary in scope, transformational in potential, and can produce maximum societal impact.

Connect with us

A Sampling of Projects

Writing Workshops

An opportunity for faculty, graduate students and external organizations to advance their ideas and hone their writing on specific projects geared for wide public audiences. This includes half-day, one-day and two-day workshops.


Transformations is an online magazine of narrative essays focused on life-changing experiences and events. These essays are typically deeply personal and situated in a larger societal context. This narrative project is a publishing channel within the Los Angeles Review of Books. Find submission guidelines at

Transformations Books

With a focus on narrative storytelling, the newly launching Transformations Books explores issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion as shaped by the lived experiences of authors and grounded in specific locations domestically and globally. Transformations book series was created in partnership with Temple University Press. Steven Beschloss, founding director of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative, and Pardis Mahdavi, provost and executive vice president at the University of Montana, will serve as series editors. Mi-Ai Parrish, managing director of ASU’s Media Enterprise, will serve as deputy editor.

Voices from the Future

Stories from dozens of survivors of extreme weather events crafted for multiple platforms, including print, digital, video and theater. Read from the collection of over 30 stories on the Global Futures Laboratory site or the digital package published by The New Republic.

Public Events

Periodic events bringing authors and other storytellers to campus or virtual spaces to share their insights about the creative process. Past events have included author interviews at Changing Hands Bookstore with Ayanna Thompson, Pardis Mahdavi and Lee Gutkind, as well as the recent Climate Narratives Prize event.

Apocalyptic Thinking and Climate Change

A two-year research-and-writing project meant to rethink how climate change stories are told and explore their potential to drive social and cultural change. The project was conducted through a multidisciplinary class titled “Climate Narratives, Apocalypse and Social Change,” developed with the support of a Luce Foundation/ACLS-funded grant and taught by ASU professors Steven Beschloss and Sarah Viren. Read more in Times Higher Education “Scholars Need to Act with Greater Urgency”.

Climate Narratives Prize

The Inaugural Climate Narratives Prize celebrated three master storytellers who were selected by graduate students enrolled in the “Climate Narratives, Apocalypse and Social Change” course at ASU. The awards event was hosted at ASU during Earth Week, 2022 in partnership with the Global Futures Laboratory and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. Read more in Times Higher Education: “Scholars Need to Act with Greater Urgency.”

Object Lessons

A short book series published by Bloomsbury for which the NSI identifies potential book projects and authors, then works with faculty to prepare pitches and drafts. Books published with support from the Narrative Storytelling Initiative include “Environment” by Rolf Halden, “Blackface” by Ayanna Thompson, and “Hyphen” by Pardis Mahdavi.

Story Contest

Read the winning entries from the “Envisioning the Future” story contest in a beautifully designed publication. Check out the ASU News story highlighting the process and the results.

Confronting Authoritarianism

This essay project is a collaboration between the NSI and the Center for the Study of Religion and ConflictThe Melikian Center and the Center for Jewish Studies. The faculty-led research and writing seeks to uncover and share lessons from the past and present, in which active and engaged citizens have challenged, resisted or reversed autocratic pursuits.

Planet Forward – Peril & Promise

Video series on PBS’ WNET in New York, featuring in-depth conversations about climate change issues and solutions with experts and innovators who are working to bring hope to the climate crisis.  Planet Forward is hosted by Emmy award-winning journalist Frank Sesno and made in partnership with the Narrative Storytelling Initiative and the ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.

Communities of Change

This early-stage project will tell stories in multiple forms about communities in various countries dedicated to climate and environmental action. The goal is to learn and shed light on best practices, as well as inspire more communities to work together toward positive solutions.

Sounds of Belonging

Sounds of Belonging invites individuals from Indigenous communities to record a soundscape and share their story about a beloved place that gives them a sense of belonging. The project is intended to open up the world of sound and insight from disparate locations. We believe that if each of us can listen to our world—and to each other—we can increase empathy and understanding. Our hope is that “Sounds of Belonging” can help make the vast landscape of our planet closer and more intimate. Click here to listen to the collection.

Climate Action Theater

This international event includes readings and performances of short plays about human-caused shifts in the environment. The upcoming event will feature Anthropocene – a live theater performance examining how human progress has led to a new and dangerous geological age – directed in partnership with Rachel Bowditch and scheduled for release at the Galvin theater in the Fall of 2023.

Weathering The Storm

A theater production created in collaboration with Sojourn Theatre and Michael Rohd based on the real-life experiences of individuals impacted by extreme weather events on five continents. This production – first performed digitally by professional actors during the pandemic – is meant to serve as an introduction to conversations about climate change and extreme weather events globally.


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Initial Partners


A sampling of books published or soon-to-publish with creative and editorial support from the Narrative Storytelling Initiative.

Dog Is Love
Clive Wynne

Rolf Halden

Future Rising
Andrew Maynard

Ayanna Thompson

Pardis Mahdavi

Initial Faculty Participants

The multi-year work of this burgeoning group ranges from essays and op-eds to books, film and television.

Athena Aktipis
Dept. of Psychology/Biodesign Institute

Pardis Mahdavi
School of Social Transformation

Gaymon Bennett
School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Andrew Maynard
School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Lindy Elkins-Tanton
School of Earth and Space Exploration

Chris Wharton
College of Health Solutions

Craig Calhoun
Social Sciences

Garth Paine
School of Social Transformation

Wanda Dalla Costa
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Ayanna Thompson
Dept. of English

George Justice
Dept. of English

Gary Dirks
LightWorks®/Global Futures Laboratory

Clive Wynne
Dept. of Psychology

Rolf Halden
Biodesign Institute

Lois Brown
Center for the Study of Race and Democracy / Dept. of English

Katina Michael
School for the Future of Innovation in Society


Steven Beschloss is the Director of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative. He holds a joint appointment as a Professor of Practice with The College of Global Futures, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He also leads Narratives for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. An award-winning writer, editor and filmmaker, his articles and essays from the U.S. and Europe have been published by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Smithsonian, The Economist/Economist Intelligence Unit, National Geographic and dozens of other print and online outlets. Beschloss also has authored two recent books, including “Adrift: Charting Our Course Back to a Great Nation” with co-author William Harris, and “The Gunman and His Mother: Lee Harvey Oswald, Marguerite Oswald, and The Making of an Assassin,” which is the basis for a television series currently in development.