Just posing the titular question makes it clear… there are really multiple roles. Anyway, I want to note a discussion over at the Wu Ming blog, here:

Wu Ming 1 has argued for a connection between movement narratives and strategies that I find really interesting, something I want to think more about. (And as I’ve said, go buy their books.)

I have to think more about the *strategy* part, that’s compelling but/and I want to unpack it further. I can definitely say that this point about narratives speaks to my experiences with *tactics*. A key tool that my closest comrades emphasize in organizing is the one on one meeting. Todd and I put it this way in this piece we did for Turbulence a few years back:

“An agitational conversation, one involving say the question ‘what is your job like?’, is less about extracting knowledge and more about a performative activity in which the person has an affective experience (becomes agitated), makes a decision (to take a small action toward changing the workplace and coming together with others), begins to develop a relationship with the conversation partner, and begins to acquire the confidence, skills, and analysis needed to successfully organise their workplace.”

Part of all this is using questions to get people to tell stories about their work, for two reasons. One, the telling of emotional stories builds relationships – if you ask me questions that get me talking about emotionally charged experiences and you respond in certain ways, I will feel a bond to you – and those relationships help us build other relationships and help us have the trust in each other that we need to develop the confidence to fight our bosses. Second, the questions and responses try to shape the particular telling, to get people to narrate their experiences in a certain way: the problem at work is not that some co-workers are lazy, the problem is the power relationship at work, other problems follow from that, and the solution is collective action. Saying this is one thing. Getting someone else to tell a story that *exemplifies* this is something else, and something more powerful.

One other thought: we use this tactic as part of an effort to get people engaged in collective action, to give them experiences; those in turn provide material for future narratives, and in follow up conversations we work on those narratives together to build long term commitment and vision, rather than building, say, hopelessness.