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Story of Now


We tell a Story of Now to communicate an urgent challenge faced by “us” that demands a choice to act: a compelling image of what will happen if we do not act, a hopeful vision of what could happen if we do act, and a call to commitment to the choice required. The “character” in a story of now is you, the people in the room with you are your us, and the response you make is the now. answering the question why does it matter? and why now?

Your Mission

Now we know why you’ve been called to your mission. We also know who the “us” is that you will call on to join you in that mission. A story of now articulates the urgent choice faced by that “us” that requires action: a challenging vision of what will happen if they do not act, a hopeful vision of what could be if they do act, and a call to choose commitment to the action required. The “character” in a story of now is you, the people in the room with you, and the broader community whom you hope to engage in action.

In Washington DC, August 23, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King told a story of what he called the “fierce urgency of now.” Although we all recall his vision of what America could be, his dream, we often forget that action was urgent because of the “nightmare” of racial oppression, the result of white America’s failure to make good on its “promissory note” to African Americans. This debt, he argued, could no longer be postponed. If we did not act now, we could never realize the dream.

In a story of now, story and strategy overlap because a key element in hope is a strategy – a credible vision of how to get from here to there. The “choice” we offer must be more than “we must all choose to be better people” or “we must all choose to do any one of this list of 53 things” (which makes each of them trivial). A meaningful choice requires action we can take now, action we can take together, and an outcome we can achieve.

Elements of a Story of Now

lightning bolt labeled A) Challenge zapping a dot labeled B) Choice, out of which an arrow labeled C) Outcome points in a different direction

The challenge

What is the urgent challenge that requires our commitment to act now?

The choice

What is the pathway to action: what will happen if we don’t act, what could happen if we do act, why we need to work together, the specific commitment each person must make now.

The hope in the outcome

What is the source of our sense of possibility that we could meet that challenge?

A story of now concludes with

Will you join me in ___________________?

Why It Matters

The choice we’re called on to make is a choice to take strategic action now. Leaders who only describe problems, but fail to identify a way to act and bring others together to address the problem, aren’t very good leaders. If you are called to address a real challenge, a challenge so urgent you have motivated us to face it as well, then you also have a responsibility to invite us to join you in action that has some chance of success. A “story of now” is not simply a call to make a choice to act – it is a call to “hopeful” action.

Why Act Now?

In this video Sarah Elraheb teaches us how to turn an important challenge into urgent by the craft into storytelling

Story of Now Example

We watch part of the film Gandhi as a model of the story of now to understand the power of the story moments in answering the question: what should we do? Why now? This part is so powerful as it builds on both hope and urgency to build a strategic and measurable ask.


Now it is your turn to practice crafting your story. What urgent challenge that you care deeply about do you hope to inspire others to join you in doing something about? What choice will you call on your classmates to make if they are to meet this challenge? How could they work together to achieve this outcome? How could they start now?

Test your knowledge

Which statement about the Story of Now is false?